Le Moment Politique De L'homosexualité. Mouvements, Identités et Communautés En France/Homosexuality's Political Moment in France: Movements, Identities and Communities

By Thibeaut, Matthias | Population, July 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Le Moment Politique De L'homosexualité. Mouvements, Identités et Communautés En France/Homosexuality's Political Moment in France: Movements, Identities and Communities


Thibeaut, Matthias, Population


Prearo Massimo, 2014, Le moment politique de l'homosexualité. Mouvements, identités et communautés en France [Homosexuality's political moment in France: movements, identities and communities], Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, SXS Sexualités, 336 p.

In this book derived from the doctoral thesis he defended in 2011, Massimo Prearo studies the history of the politicization of homosexuality in France from the mid-nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. The author is opposed to the notion of a great narrative of gay activism that would trace "a linear trajectory of gradual liberation, emancipation, resistance or normalization", showing instead that the history of the "homosexual movement" in France is made up of breaks in continuity, ruptures, each marking a historical sequence or moment in a series of different activist configurations. His theory and method are Foucauldian, and he has taken a "detour through history" in order to situate current types of interassociation LGBT activism in a long-term perspective. He sets out to conduct an "archaeological political analysis" of activist knowledge, drawing on a corpus of journals, newspapers, political tracts, manifestoes, etc. As he sees it, discursive production of this sort offers an excellent observation point for apprehending the different historical sequences that constitute the process by which homosexuality became politicized.

In the second chapter he takes up the "emergence of the homosexual question" (p. 47) in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Citing Foucault's hypothesis that homosexuality originated as a category of discourse,® he sets out to show that the first activist knowledge, which he terms scientia militantis in opposition to physicians' scientia sexualis, was in fact based on scientific knowledge. At the end of a quite technical line of argument, he considers the writings of the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), which made possible "a shift from a scientific to a social semantics of homosexuality", opening the way for the first types of collective mobilization.

He then pursues this analysis of the historical and political prerequisites for the birth of a homosexual movement in France, studying the production of the journal Arcadie (1954-1982) and the Front homosexual d'action révolutionnaire or FHAR (1970-1974). Citing studies by Julian Jackson(2) and Michael Sibalis(3), he expresses reservations about the long-accepted idea that there was a radical break between these two organizations, showing instead that they both further, and critically, developed existentialist philosophy. As he sees it, they belonged to the same "existential moment", though Arcadie was more homophile and FHAR more revolutionary. Despite radically different action strategies, they both helped to free homosexual knowledge from the science referential. When the FHAR dissolved in 1974, a new historical sequence opened, marked by the development of new groups, among them the Groupes de libération homosexuels (GLH; homosexual liberation groups). When revolution ceased to be the political objective in a context marked by postmodern thinking, the GLH chose to adopt a new concept of political action as action resolutely engaged in the present. This produced what the author calls the "'75 moment", particularly significant in this connection. Rejection of the GLH application to participate in the May Day procession and the ceremonies commemorating the deportations of WWII led those activist organizations to assert their political autonomy, manifested by the use of a new word in their rhetoric: "homophobia". According to the author, 1975 was a key moment in the "political instituting of homosexuality as a movement". That "institution", then, should be understood as a strategy of the activist groups to unify their actions and free themselves from traditional political and unionist frameworks.

This means that the activist referential changed significantly during the 1970s. …

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Le Moment Politique De L'homosexualité. Mouvements, Identités et Communautés En France/Homosexuality's Political Moment in France: Movements, Identities and Communities
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