Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

French

Advisor

Maxime Blanchard

Committee Members

Wayne Koestenbaum

Francesca Canadé Sautman

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Feminist Philosophy | French and Francophone Literature | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Visual Studies | Women's Studies

Keywords

activism, feminism, queer, transnational, North Africa, race

Abstract

Focusing on the work of Virginie Despentes, Jean Genet, Guy Hocquenghem, and Abdellah Taïa, this dissertation challenges the antisocial turn taken in queer theory, by means of a parallel study of the authors’ geographical and intellectual itineraries. While critics like Leo Bersani and Lee Edelman have suggested that the revolutionary potential in queer identity lies in its opposition to romanticized forms of community, I argue, along with José Esteban Muñoz, that their praising of singularity and negativity is similarly extreme. Alternatively, my study shows how the geographical displacements both experienced and imagined by my primary authors can illuminate the passage from antisociality to political engagements. I consider sexual non-normativity as a catalyzer for mobility, which provides subjects with new tools to collaborate with other minority groups across cultures, races, and borders: Genet with the Black Panthers and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hocquenghem with feminists and immigrant workers, Despentes’ with anti-austerity movements, and Taïa with the Arab Spring.

Throughout my analysis, I reveal how sexual non-normativity does not constitute the central issue of these authors’ political struggle, but rather the position through which they participate in the elaboration of political alliances redefining social belonging. At once sexually marginalized and cultural producers, the authors exemplify what Pierre Bourdieu calls “the dominated agent among the dominant,” an ambivalent position that I question throughout this dissertation. However, the aim of my work is not whether such ambivalences can be overcome for subjects to engage fully with collective movements, but rather, if by providing a model for others to connect from and beyond their singularities they can construct a transnational collective sense of belonging.

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