Organization: Université Lyon 3
Beyond Borders: Mapping Sexualities and the Sexualisation of Spaces
International Conference - May 6 and 7, 2021
Institut d’Études Transtextuelles et Transculturelles (IETT)
Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
This conference will examine the relationship between the notions of boundaries and sexuality from an interdisciplinary, transnational and transcultural perspective. In particular, it aims to map the ways in which space determines sexualities and sexual practices, and to understand, in turn, how sex structures and limits the spaces in which we live, and how we relate to them.
At a time when walls and barriers are being erected around the globe with the stated goal of containing and separating populations, it seems urgent to question how these boundaries, whether physical or symbolic, political or social, condition sexual practices and shape representations of sexuality. Conversely, the crossing of these limits, while often allowing people to free themselves from certain limitations (discrimination, persecution, surveillance, etc.) by finding shelter elsewhere, is also sometimes motivated by the desire to break laws prohibiting the commodification of bodies and sexual exploitation, at a time when an ever-increasing number of people, whether tourists, migrants, loiterers, or workers cross the borders and frontiers that delimit public places and international space every day. Whether opened or closed, crossed or respected, borders define not only a geographical space or a cultural community, but also the laws and norms that regulate practices and gender identities that are considered legal or legitimate on a given territory.
Borders and boundaries define otherness, distinguishing between the “We” and the “Non-We” (Clifford Geertz, The Anthropologist as Author, 1988). Thus, they identify the foreigner, i.e. the migrant, the non-citizen. They also define the barbarian, the one who penetrates, with their difference, and all the dangers and stigmas associated with such a status (diseases, perversions, etc.). Borders determine our practices; they distinguish between “here” and “there” and limit the domain of the possible. Yet, it is often this dichotomy between what is “impossible here” and what is “possible elsewhere” (abortion, prostitution, medically assisted reproduction, etc.) that leads people to cross borders for sex-related motives.
For Michel Foucault, sexuality is particularly conducive to the creation of “heterotopias”, those spaces devoted to particular functions, those “nowhere” places that structure urban territories: brothels, red-light districts and strip bars map out an urban geography traditionally associated with debauchery and vice, opposed to middle-class residential suburbs or bourgeois town centers where moral order, family ideology and procreative sexuality are supposed to be norm. Conversely, peripheries are often stigmatized as places where homophobia prevails as opposed to progressive urban centers where sexuality can be freely expressed (e.g. gay neighborhoods in large cities). This raises the question of public policies on the matter: equating with intimacy and privacy leads to the erasure of the porous boundary between public and private space. The private sphere, like the public sphere, is governed by laws and injunctions that erase the boundary between the two, just as the development of the Internet has somewhat contributed to abolishing the boundary between what is hidden and what is seen or shown (dating websites, pornographic websites, online prostitution, etc.).
Art history, literary analysis, sociological investigation, historical archives, gender studies, philosophy, anthropology, migration history and urban planning are all disciplines and methodologies that will help us answer the following questions: what happens when sexuality moves, when sexual practices take place across borders? What happens to sexual norms and practices in the context of the globalization of trade, the development of the Internet, and sometimes disputed international law? How are sexuality and its representations affected by the increasing mobility of individuals, whether forced or recreational? Does crossing a border necessarily imply transgression or transformation? What are the reasons why individuals cross a border, go elsewhere, because of their sexuality?
Among the possible avenues for reflection, we will consider papers that fall under the following themes:
1/ Sexuality, globalization and transnational migration
- When sexual issues push people to cross a border: fleeing sexual repression in one’s country of origin; sex trafficking and sex used as currency to pay for migration; crossing the border to obtain an abortion, reproductive assistance, contraception or sexual reassignment;
- Weakening borders and sexuality: globalization and the standardization of sexual behaviors; STD epidemics linked to migratory phenomena, public health discourse and investigations into import pathologies; pornography in the age of the Internet;
- Attractiveness of sexuality from elsewhere: Sexual and matrimonial tourism; binational couples; sham marriages; sexual abuse from foreign workers assisting local populations (humanitarians, missionaries, etc.); occasional return to the country of origin in the case of genital mutilation.
2/ Sexualities, regional spaces and national migration
- Changing space to fully embrace one’s sexual identity: moving from a rural to an urban space, from a small town to a big city, from the provinces to the capital for LGBTQI+ people for instance;
- Borders and prohibitions: “prohibited” relationships in specific regions of a given country for racial, religious, cultural reasons (anti-miscegenation laws in the South of the US, etc.); sexual practices accepted only within a prescribed group but condemned from the outside (polygamy among Mormons, etc.).
3/ Sexualities, local migration and urban space
- Urban organization and spaces assigned to sexuality: gay neighborhoods, red-light districts, mapping of prostitution in each city; spaces reserved for marginality (SM or swingers’ clubs, brothels, woods reserved for prostitution; bourgeois neighborhoods as a framework for acceptable, normative, reproductive sexuality; spaces reserved for infidelity (Michel Foucault and American motels as heterotopias for example).
4/ Mental frontiers: here and elsewhere, exoticism, orientalism, idealization, stereotypes and projections
- The figure of the foreigner as an object of fascination and attraction; representation of the foreigner as importing diseases, threatening integrity and embodying sexual danger (rapist, pedophile, etc.);
- Remaining within one’s group for an acceptable sexuality: meeting spaces set up within a given social, cultural, or religious group, such as fraternities, ballrooms and voguing, etc.
- National identity and the “exoticisation” of homophobia: strategic opposition between sexual progressivism in Western nations and urban centers, and “barbaric archaism” on the matter in Southern nations and suburban areas (Jasbir K. Puar, Homonationalism in Queer Times, 2007)
Papers may be written in English or French. Proposals (around 300 words) accompanied by a short biography should be sent before November 2, 2020 to the two organizers: Pierre-Antoine Pellerin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Marie Moreau (email@example.com)
Sophie Coavoux (Lyon 3), Sibylle Goepper (Lyon 3), Georges-Claude Guilbert (Le Havre), Gregory Lee (Lyon 3), Hélène Quanquin (Lille 3), Corrado Neri (Lyon 3), Christabelle Sethna (Ottawa)