Scott Gunther, The Elastic Closet:  A History of Homosexualitiy in France (Palgrave, January 2009)


Book coverLike any good closet, the French Republic has served both to protect and to restrain its gay citizens, keeping expressions of both pro-homosexual and anti-homosexual sentiment within a narrower range than has been the case in places like the United States – where both 'gay pride' and homophobia tend to be expressed more aggressively. The Elastic Closet examines the interconnected realms of law (from legal discrimination under Vichy to anti-hate speech legislation in 2004), politics (from the homophiles of the 1950s to distinctly French articulations of queer radicalism now) and the media (from postwar journals like Arcadie to Têtu and PinkTV today), with a focus on the relationship between French republican values and the possibilities they have offered for change in each of these three spheres. It is a reminder that in foreign places, other logics produce different, yet equally legitimate, strategies adapted to the constraints of their particular environments.

Remarkably, Scott Gunther's history of homosexuality in France since World War Two is not informed by the classic narrative of “liberation.” On the contrary, his book shows that the closet is still at work today (even in gay media), though it is forever being redefined. Indeed, this constant redefinition is what queer politics in France is all about.

– Eric Fassin, Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris)
    author of L'inversion de la question homosexuelle

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Last Updated: 01/11/2009