Université de Strasbourg

Joint Fellows seminar - Isabelle Marc & Todd Reeser

June 9, 2022
From 15:00 until 17:00
MISHA, Strasbourg

By Isabelle Marc and Todd Reeser

These two 2021 Fellows work in the area of gender studies. They will present their respective research during a joint seminar, with two separate talks.

Todd Reeser - Transgender France: Universalism and Sexual Subjectivity

In France, the omnipresent principle of universalism means that legally a citizen is defined as a citizen first and only secondly as a member of a “particular” identitarian or communitarian category (e.g. Muslim, woman, homosexual). As a major element of national identity, French universalism has been widely studied and cited, often with respect to specific categories. Extending the question of the relation between universalism and identity into uncharted territory, my research project “Transgender France: universalism and sexual subjectivity makes two historically-based arguments about the French context: that universalism has defined the representation of transgender subjects since the inception of the category “transsexualité” in the 1950s until today; that trans representation has mediated but also critiqued French universalism more broadly, revealing an otherwise unstated assumption of universalism, namely its biopolitical foundation in the idea of an inviolable and stably gendered body. Taking a cultural studies approach, I examine a wide variety of texts as revelatory case studies (e.g., television, film, documentary, news, tabloids, literature, theatre, autobiography, graphic novel).

In this overview for a general audience, I discuss the broad contours of my book in process, including specific and concrete examples taken from popular sources (with a film clip to get started).

Isabelle Marc - French pop music, gender and genre: the case of Mylène Farmer

Popular Music Studies have long included a feminist and gender studies approach, including the analysis of gender representations in media and public reception, the revision of popular music histories based on masculinist and heteropatriarchal values and the denunciation of sexism in the music industry. In France, however, where the traditional hierarchy between ‘legitimate’ arts and popular/mass culture has remained particularly strong, and where feminist and gender approaches have traditionally been marginalized, academic interest in pop music has been scarce in general and, in particular, in the case of female artist. As a result of this aesthetic and gender bias, female pop stars in France have been largely either ignored or despised by ‘serious’ media and academia.

Silhouette of woman singing on green backgroundThis presentation will provide a general overview of my research project "Pop divas: popular music, representation and gender in the digital era in France" on gender representations in contemporary French popular music. More specifically, it will reflect on the double exclusion of women in French pop from critical discourses despite their commercial and public success. Namely, I will present a work-in-progress for a book on Mylène Farmer, who is at the same time one of France's best-selling and most looked down upon pop artists. From a cultural and gender studies perspective, the book will deconstruct this elitist and sexist bias and will situate Mylène Farmer within French popular music history and cultural history in a broader sense. Indeed, analysing Farmer's career is not only interesting because of her success, her longevity, and the diversity of her work, but it is also fascinating in what it tells us about France’s media and culture from the 1980s to the present day. The book will also reflect more broadly on the aesthetic value and situation of pop music and on gender politics in contemporary France.

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