Queering Transcultural Encounters in Latin American and Francophone Contexts: Space, Identity, and Frenchness
ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION
Queering Transcultural Encounters
in Latin American and Francophone Contexts:
Space, Identity and Frenchness
Doctor of Philosophy in French and Francophone Studies
University of California, Los Angeles, 2012
Professor Françoise Lionnet, Chair
My dissertation proposes a new queer transcultural perspective of "Frenchness" as it is conceived in Latin America and North Africa. This concept plays a noteworthy role in the formation of queer identities from both of these so-called "marginal" geographic areas, whether it is represented as a cultural influence or personified by characters who travel abroad. Using the framework of Queer Studies, Semiotics, and Transculturalism, I analyze queer subjects who navigate transcultural spaces and experience cross-cultural encounters in seven works: José González Castillo's Los Invertidos (Argentina), Alfonso Hernández-Catá's El ángel de Sodoma (Cuba/Spain), André Gide's L'immoraliste (France), Mohamed Choukri's Le pain nu (Morocco), and Rachid O.'s narratives Chocolat chaud, Ce qui reste, and L'enfant ébloui (Morocco).
In the Latin American context, the trope of exclusion is associated with "Frenchness" as sexually deviant and thus undesirable. Yuri Lotman's semiosphere reveals the ways in which national culture organizes boundaries to exclude or include un/wanted individuals--and, more specifically, queer subjects. In the North African context, the predominantly masculine public space facilitates cross-cultural encounters with French men, allowing a controversial bond to form between the privileged European tourist and local impoverished boys. My project uses Homi Bhabha's cultures of survival and mimicry, as well as Marcel Mauss's gift exchange relationships, to show how social conditions prevent or allow the younger participants in these exchanges to develop sexual agency and sites of resistance to global economic power structures. Finally, my project explores the homosexual agency and subject formation of a young protagonist thanks to French media in Morocco. It analyzes the affective attachment and sensorial connection to French television broadcasts developed by an adolescent who manages to turn public space into a realm of intimacy. Ultimately, the character transforms his attraction for racial difference into a source of postcolonial subversion and forges a new transcultural identity.