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Policing the French Empire

Colonial Law Enforcement and the Search for Racial-Territorial Hegemony

Samuel Kalman

Commenting on the colonial setting in its twilight during the Algerian War of Independence, Frantz Fanon famously observed: “Le travail du colon est de rendre impossible jusqu'aux rêves de liberté du colonisé. Le travail du colonisé est d'imaginer toutes les combinaisons éventuelles pour anéantir le colon (the task of the colonizer is to make impossible even the dreams of liberty of the colonized. The task of the colonized is to conceive of every possible strategy to wipe out the colonizer).”

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“Purely Artistic”

Police Power and Popular Culture in Colonial Algerian Theater

Danielle Beaujon

Abstract

Following World War II, French police surveillance in Algeria increasingly focused on the threat of Algerian nationalism and policing theater proved no exception. The police assiduously investigated the contents of plays and the background of performers, seeking to determine whether a performance could be considered “purely artistic.” In cracking down on theater, the police attempted to produce “pro-French” art that could influence Algerian loyalties, a cultural civilizing mission carried out by the unlikely figure of the beat cop. Ultimately, their mission failed. Live performances presented an opportunity for spontaneity and improvisation that revealed the weakness of colonial policing. In this article, I argue that in trying to separate art from politics, the police created an impossibly capacious idea of the political, giving officers justification for inserting themselves into intimate moments of daily life. The personal, the interpersonal, and the artistic became a realm of police intervention.

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The Return of N'Guyen Van Binh

Exile and Injustice in the French Empire, 1866–1876

Geoff Read

Abstract

This article explores the case of N'Guyen Van Binh, a South Vietnamese political prisoner exiled for his alleged role in “Poukhombo's Rebellion” in Cambodia in 1866. Although Van Binh's original sentence of exile was reduced to one year in prison he was nonetheless deported and disappeared into the maw of the colonial systems of indentured servitude and forced labor; he likely did not survive the experience. He was thus the victim of injustice and his case reveals the at best haphazard workings of the French colonial bureaucracy during the period of transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic. While the documentary record is entirely from the perspective of the colonizers, reading between the lines we can also learn something about Van Binh himself including his fierce will to resist his colonial oppressors.

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Cross-Generational Abuse

Priests, Parishioners, and the Catholic Church in New Spain

Zeb Tortorici

Abstract

This article analyzes the influence of confessional manuals on Catholic priests who solicited sexual favors from parishioners during confession throughout colonial New Spain. It proposes that we think about centuries of sexual encounters between priests and parishioners through the concept of cross-generational abuse, which describes intersecting forms of priestly exploitation based on chronological age differentials, allegorical power relations based on the rhetoric of spiritual kinship, and priests’ own abilities to profess redemption years after conviction and thereby regain positions of authority over parishioners. The plurality of these forms of abuse move beyond the usual associations of cross-generational sex solely with the question of age. It opens up the category of cross-generational sex and enlarges its potential to be a topic for historical reflection.

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Nicholas L. Syrett

Abstract

The introduction situates the historiography on queer intergenerational sex in the realm of scholarship on queer history, the history of childhood, and the literature on the significance of chronological age. It lays out three broad schemas that have organized queer intergenerational sex—looking at it as a phallic economy where boys submitted to older men in ways that were akin to women; as a function of pederastic or pedophilic desires; and as abuse—and also explores the overlap and permutations among these categories. It then introduces the six articles in this forum, elucidating their central arguments and the contributions that they make to this dynamic field.

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The Problem of Modern Pederasty in Queer History

A Case Study of Norman Douglas

Rachel Hope Cleves

Abstract

Intergenerational sex between children or youth and adults was historically common, but it is understudied within the historiography of sexuality. There are three reasons that historians of sexuality should pay greater attention to intergenerational sex. First, it was common; second, discourse around intergenerational sex has been a critical site for the production of power; and third, studying intergenerational sex illuminates how sexuality is historically constructed. However, studying intergenerational sex also raises thorny methodological problems around definitions of childhood and consent, the treatment of children's agency, and how to contextualize a practice that was once considered ordinary but is now taboo. Using examples from my research on the writer and notorious pederast Norman Douglas, I address each of these methodological concerns and suggest productive approaches.

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Amanda H. Littauer

Abstract

Drawing on letters and writings by teenage girls and oral history interviews, this article aims to open a scholarly conversation about the existence and significance of intergenerational sexual relationships between minor girls and adult women in the years leading up to and encompassing the lesbian feminist movement of the 1970s. Lesbian history and culture say very little about sexual connections between youth and adults, sweeping them under the rug in gender-inflected ways that differ from the suppression of speech in gay male history and culture about intergenerational sex between boys and men. Nonetheless, my research suggests that, despite lesbian feminists’ caution and even negativity toward teen girls, erotic and sexual relationships with adult women provided girls access to support, pleasure, mentorship, and community.

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Solicitor Brown and His Boy

Love, Sex, and Scandal in Twentieth-Century Ireland

Averill Earls

Abstract

In 1941, State Solicitor for Kildare Ronald Brown was charged with fourteen counts of gross indecency. The court records and his unusual life before and after the trial suggest that there is a story worth examining. In independent Ireland, the state was particularly concerned with adult same-sex desiring men corrupting teen boys. Brown's government position, his lover's age, and their intergenerational relationship all shaped the outcomes of this case. Although gross indecency cases ruined the lives of the implicated, including Solicitor Brown and his alleged lover Leslie Price, a close reading of the case material reveals a deep affection between a late adolescent boy and an adult man that would otherwise be invisible in a forcibly closeted mid-century Ireland.

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Tuğçe Kayaal

Abstract

This article explores the condemnation of male–male cross-generational sexual practices in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (1914–1918) through a sexual harassment case that took place in an orphanage in Konya. Relying on the police registers and incorporating individual testimonies of orphan boys who were sexually abused by the headmaster, Münir Bey, I explore the wartime political and sexological discourses on cross-generational homoerotic sexual practices against the backdrop of the institutionalization of heterosexual sex. I argue that, rather than the act of sexual abuse itself, in the wartime ideological climate it was the sexual interaction between same-sex individuals that alarmed Ottoman state and society and forced them to take action against it. Male–male cross-generational sex and homoeroticism itself became bigger crimes than the act of sexually abusing underage individuals.

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“What They Had between Their Legs Was a Form of Cash”

Homosexuality, Male Prostitution, and Intergenerational Sex in 1950s Italy

Alessio Ponzio

Abstract

This article, showing how ubiquitous male youth prostitution was in 1950s Italy, exposes the pederastic and (homo)sexual vivacity of this decade. Moreover, this article also suggests that even if police, the media, and medical institutions were trying to crystallize a rigid chasm between homo- and heterosexuality, there were still forces in Italian society that resisted such strict categorization. The young hustlers described by contemporary observers bear witness to the sexual flexibility of the 1950s in Italy. These youths inhabited queer spaces lacking a clear-cut hetero–homo divide, spaces where “modern” sexological categories and identities had not yet entered. Prior to the mass circulation of rigid sexual labels, it was still possible for many Italian boys, youths, and young men to dwell in liminal queer spaces. The exchange of money purified their acts, guaranteed their maleness, and effaced potential stigmatization.