Interests and Current Work
My work is situated at the intersection of Queer Theory and Postcolonial Studies. Originally, I focused on representations of non-normative sexualities in Maghrebian literature, but increasingly not only has my work moved into other Francophone regions (Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Québec, Asia, Louisiana), but it has also become more comparative (including Anglophone African literatures and Southern U.S. cultures, for example).
My recently completed project, Queer Roots for the Diaspora, Ghosts in the Family Tree, represents this expansion of my interests. A comparative study in queer disaspora studies, this book takes as its central concern the persistence of a desire for rooted identity. My argument is that, in spite of these conceptual debates around the concept of roots, ultimately the desire for roots contains the “roots” of its own deconstruction. I carry out my own search for alternative roots that offer models of collective identity that are heterogeneous instead of homogeneous, acknowledge their own fictionality, and deploy family trees haunted by the queer others that patrilineal genealogy seems to marginalize. These roots narratives welcome sexual diversity, acknowledge that even a single collective identity can be rooted in multiple ways, and challenge the patrilineal lines of descent implied by roots, in part by disrupting the linear process of storytelling that constitutes identity.
I am also interested in questioning what it means to be American, particularly through the study of non-English cultures within the U.S. itself, which is why I have begun to study Louisiana as a way of queering American identity. My current project, Reading across the Color Line: Racialization in the French Americas, undertakes a comparative study of literary texts from the French Americas (Louisiana and the Caribbean), in which racial difference is less visible as skin color and whose resistance to Anglo-American definitions of race encourages us to understand these definitions as historically contingent. In these texts representations of race become legible only after readers relinquish Anglo-American assumptions about a racial binary based on the “one-drop rule.”
Recent and Selected Publications
Queer Nations: Marginal Sexualities in the Maghreb. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Comparatively Queer: Interrogating Identities across Time, Crossing Cultures. Ed. and intro. with Margaret Higonnet and William Spurlin. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
"Queer Roots in Africa." Topographies of Race and Gender: Mapping Cultural Representations.Ed. Patricia Penn Hilden, Shari M. Huhndorf, and Timothy J. Reiss. 2 vols. Spec. issue of Annals of Scholarship 17.3/126.96.36.199/3 (2009): vol. 2, 151-82.
"Approaches to Teaching the Maghrebian Novel: Allegory at the Crossroads." In Teaching the African Novel. Ed. Gaurav Desai. New York: MLA, 2009. 131-53.
“Idyllic Masculinity and National Allegory: Unbecoming Men and Anticolonial Resistance in Camara Laye’s L’enfant noir.” Entre hommes: French and Francophone Masculinities. Ed. Todd W. Reeser and Lewis C. Seifert. Newark: University of Delaware Press. 2008. 224–50.
“Circumcising Zionism, Queering Diaspora: Reviving Albert Memmi’s Penis.” Wasafiri 22.1 (2007): 6–11.
“Colonial Pedagogies of Passing: Literature and the Reproduction of Frenchness.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34.1 (2006): 153–72.
“Créolité’s Queer Mangrove.” Music, Writing and Cultural Unity in the Caribbean. Ed. Timothy J. Reiss. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2005. 307–32.
Recent graduate courses taught:
French 469/670: African/Caribbean Literature (“Hard Books Made Easy (or Almost): The French New Novel and Francophone Literature”).
French 469/670: African/Caribbean Literature (“African Sexualities”).
French 656: Twentieth-Century Literature (“Proustian Perversions: Reading and the Politics of Happiness in A la recherche du temps perdu”).
French 670: African/Caribbean Literature (“Approaching North African Studies in French”).
French 680: Studies in Literary Theory (“Reading (as) Theory, Theory (as) Reading”).
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
French 270: French and Francophone Literature and Culture (“France’s Orient”).
French 361: French American Studies (“Reading Race in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana”).
French 362: Québec/French Canadian Studies (“‘Je me souviens’: Memory and History in Québécois Literature, Culture, and Identity”).
French 363: Caribbean Studies (“Métissage, Gender, and Identity in the French Caribbean”).
French 364: African Studies/Maghreb (“Childhood Narratives as National Allegory in the Maghreb”).
French 365: African Studies/Subsaharan (“African Literature and Anthropology: Recasting the Ethnographic Gaze”)