David M. Halperin

David M. Halperin (born April 2, 1952) is an American theorist in the fields of gender studies, queer theory, critical theory, material culture and visual culture. Openly gay, he is the co-founder of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Halperin graduated from Oberlin College and went on to receive his PhD in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He used the method of genealogy to study the history of homosexuality. He is currently W. H. Auden Collegiate Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan.


Halperin, David M. (1995). Saint Foucault : Towards a Gay Hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press.

FYI: Hagiography = biography of saints or venerated persons

From Reed Business Information, Inc. (1995):
That French philosopher Foucault, who died from AIDS-related illness in 1984, continues to influence gay activism and theory without ever having explicitly endorsed such activism or given sustained attention to homosexuality is the paradox that Halperin, a professor of literature at MIT, confronts in this demanding, eloquent and caustic book. Halperin offers close readings of Foucault's thought, forging a link between its characterization of political resistance as a creative process and gay politics. The goal of activism, then, is not reform but resistance; the retrieval of the word "queer" and its empowering use by gays and lesbians is one such example. Halperin closes the book with analyses of Foucault's biographers, singling out for blistering attack James Miller, whose Passion of Michel Foucault (1993), Halperin argues, epitomizes the disingenuous ways in which "mainstream" accounts of gay culture play upon the very homophobia they purportedly wish to illuminate.

From eNotes:
In SAINT FOUCAULT, it is not David Halperin’s intention to write yet another in the string of recent biographies about the French poststructuralist. His allusion to Jean-Paul Sartre’s SAINT GENET, an homage to another gay author, and his work’s subtitle, TOWARDS A GAY HAGIOGRAPHY, hit closer to the mark, indicating Halperin’s “worship” of Foucault and his writings for enshrining an expansive notion of queer activism. The shorter and less consequential of the two essays reworks an earlier commentary on three major Foucault biographies—those written by Didier Erbon, David Macey, and James Miller. In the essay, Halperin theorizes about the authority that the biographer assumes over the dead subject, and then he addresses the degree to which these works successfully resist the tendency to pathologize their subject and reduce him to the single marking of his homosexuality. In the more substantive longer essay, Halperin discusses Foucault’s agenda of empowering the previously disempowered by reducing heterosexuality from the subject of discourse to an object of critique. Whereas homosexuality has been delegitimized as transgressive, Foucault reverses the subject-object position, turning queer sexual practice—which he understands as encompassing all sexual activity that is in any way marginalized—into a technique of political resistance. Homosexuality, regarded as an “aesthetic” of existence that requires self- regulation and transforming oneself, can help devise new ways of relating to others. In this context, sadomasochism is a performative strategy that remaps the body to discover new, often degenitalized possibilities of pleasure, rather than a way of dominating or exercising power over another. Through beautifully precise expository prose, Halperin renders a difficult subject accessible even to those not initiated into poststructuralist thought.