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Whores and Niqabées

The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism

Julie Billaud and Julie Castro

Keywords: FRANCE; PROSTITUTION; PUBLIC SPHERE; SEXUAL NATIONALISM; VEILING

This essay seeks to analyze the recent reconfigurations of French nationalism, taking as an entry point the legal treatment of veiled Muslim women and prostitutes over the past two decades. We argue that the bodies of prostitutes and veiled Muslim women, both of which have been targeted by successive legal interventions in order to exclude them from the public space, have become central political sites for the state to assert its sovereign power and trigger nationalist feelings. This comparative analysis of gendered “lawfare“ (which John Comaroff has defined as the judicialization of politics and the resort to legal instruments to commit acts of political coercion) provides insights into a new form of nationalism that strives to foster “sexual liberalism“ as a core value of citizenship in order to enforce a virile nationalism, prescribe new sexual normativities, and criminalize immigrants and those living at the social margins.

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