Theses Doctoral

Immigration and Sexual Citizenship: Gender, Sexuality and Ethnicity in Contemporary France

Mack, Mehammed Amadeus

This dissertation considers discourses bearing on the social dynamics of immigration and postcolonial diversity in contemporary France in light of their interconnections with issues of sexuality and assimilation. Synthesizing and building on recent work by anthropologists, sociologists and cultural theorists it explores the current debate over French identity--a debate that has to a considerable extent revolved around the impact of recent postwar immigration to France and the "integration" of immigrants on the cultural level, and of which a recent symptom has been the Sarkozy government's launch of a public national debate about "l'identité nationale" (national identity). Overall, my project focuses on the intermingling of the cultural and the political in cultural representations of immigrants and their descendants.

Specifically, I consider the highly charged terrain of the representation of sexuality. In the discourse on laïcité (secularism) and integration, gender norms and tolerance of homosexuality have emerged as key components and are now often employed to highlight immigrants' "un-French" attitudes. I argue that, as French and immigrant identities have been called into question, sexuality has constituted a favored prism through which to establish the existence of difference. Through the study of cultural representations of immigration, I will explain how the potential of immigrants and their descendants to assimilate is often judged according to the "fitness" of their attitudes about sexuality. I will further argue that the successful assimilation of immigrants often follows a "required" phase of sexualization, in which the sexuality of the immigrant becomes his or her main marker, the primary factor through which the immigrant is intelligible, beyond other possibly relevant criteria.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Thesis Advisors
Dobie, Madeleine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 11, 2012