Private Affairs

Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations

200 pages

25 illustrations

June, 1999

ISBN: 9780814735947



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Phillip Brian Harper is Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Literature at New York University, where he teaches in the Departments of Social and Cultural Analysis and of English. He is the author of the books Private Affairs (NYU Press, 1999), Are We Not Men? and Framing the Margins.

All books by Phillip Brian Harper

In Private Affairs, Phillip Brian Harper explores the social and cultural significance of the private, proposing that, far from a universal right, privacy is limited by one's racial-and sexual-minority status. Ranging across cinema, literature, sculpture, and lived encounters-from Rodin's The Kiss to Jenny Livingston's Paris is Burning-Private Affairs demonstrates how the very concept of privacy creates personal and sociopolitical hierarchies in contemporary America.


  • "What Phillip Brian Harper makes of his personal encounters-whether with a hustler, a homeless man, a panicky straight guy at the gym, or with the racism of Andrew Sullivan's forecast of the end of AIDS-is of utmost public significance. His Private Affairs teaches us how thoroughly complex is the negotiation of privacy and publicity when we attend to gender and sexuality, race and class."

    —Douglas Crimp

  • "Full of valuable new insights, Private Affairs is a necessary addition to contemporary debates about citizenship and identity. Harper challenges our tendency to see racial identity as public and sexuality as private. Instead he argues that in both cases the public demands of civic duty collide with private knowledges, and that each is necessary to realize the other."

    —Cindy Patton, author of Inventing AIDS