The Sex and Race of Satire: Charlie Hebdo and the Politics of Representation in Contemporary France
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This essay argues that we cannot fully grasp what has been at stake in discussions following the January 2015 attacks in Paris, nor the symbolic place Charlie Hebdo has subsequently come to hold in French society, unless we pay attention to the ways in which gender, sex, and race have shaped both Charlie Hebdo’s visual register and contemporary representations of Frenchness and difference. Within the French context, difference has historically been assigned to bodies that are imagined to disrupt the proper gendered and sexual ordering of the nation, focusing recently on “Arab” and “Muslim” gendered bodies, just as Jewish bodies had been caricatured earlier in the twentieth century. This essay therefore argues that understanding Charlie Hebdo’s satire requires examining how the sexualization of race in representations of those deemed different, especially Muslims, has become incredibly banal in contemporary France. The magazine participated in rather than exposed what came to be seen as commonsense beliefs that both Left and Right relied on and that marginalized Muslims from the republican order.
KeywordsGender and sexuality Virility Race and racism Antisemitism Satire Political discourse
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