Befriending the Other: Community and Male Camaraderie in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting

  • Ángela Rivera Izquierdo University of Granada
Keywords: inoperative community, alterity, masculinity, homosociality, camaraderie


Set in post-Thatcherite Scotland, critics generally agree that Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993) mirrors the emergence of rampant individualism and the disintegration of working-class communities in the UK. To support this view, they consider the lack of a sense of fraternity in the group and the characters’ fear of intimacy as indicative of individualism. However, it is possible to see Welsh’s ‘trainspotters’ not as atomised individuals, but as members of an alternative communitarian assemblage, as theorised in continental, post-phenomenological philosophy. Using a masculinities approach, this paper proves that the characters’ emotional detachment is representative of homosocial interactions among men trying to adhere to idealised types of masculinity and that, therefore, cannot be restricted to their alleged individualistic character. Contrarily, the kind of male friendship that Welsh describes can be considered as a paradigmatic example of Jean-Luc Nancy’s conception of the inoperative community, characterized by transcendence and exposure to alterity.


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Trainspotting, 1996. Dir. Danny Boyle. [DVD] Universal, 1997.