Gender Cultural Performances and the Politics of Transvestism The Politics of Performance and Play. Feminist Matters

Intervenants : Anne Castaing, Fanny Lignon, Mehdi Derfoufi, Tiziana Leucci

Institute for Philosophy, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands
Lipsius Building
Cleveringplaats 1 2311 BD Leiden

Using the notion of ‘performativity’ developed by John L. Austin, the “Performance Studies” problematize the visual and textual analysis of gender representations by relocating in the bodies in action the agency of both individuals and social groups. The four-voice panel that we are proposing follows the lines of the program and the seminar “Gender Cultural Performances”, that we have been conducting in Paris for the last two years. Our intention is both to present some of the major debates of this seminar, which were led by various scholars with various perspectives, and to propose some new discussions of this topic.

In this seminar, our purpose was to focus and ponder on the way feminist movements and queer theories enabled to question the modern conceptions of artistic creation (Bourcier). Consequently, their fertile articulation offered us the remarkable epistemological frame of an intersectional approach of the politics of “transvestism”, a notion that was used as a “fil rouge”, a common thread in our seminar this year. Furthermore, the notion of “transvestism” is interesting to us as it significantly displays the social transformation produced by minorities (Butler, de Lauretis). These debates and thoughts led us to develop an interdisciplinary approach of creation, performance, and entertainment, from our respective disciplines and research fields (dance, videogames, cinema, literature).

Paper proposals within the panel :

Tiziana Leucci will deal with the notion of “transvestism” as found in Indian mythology and performing arts (especially dance and martial arts). She will focus her analysis on the gender based cultural representations of two London produced contemporary musicals, dealing with dance, boxing and football. Both those musicals play with the notion of “transvestism” and the shifting of sexual identities, as well as with the expected “proper behavior” imposed by strict sex based codes within a specific social group.

Exploring the characters of North-African transvestites, Mehdi Derfoufi will question the politics of gender and race as represented in French cinema. Among others, he will focus on the characters of Sami (Roschdy Zem) in "Change-moi ma vie" (Liria Begeja, 2001) and Chouchou (Gad Elmaleh) in the eponymous movie directed by Merzak Allouache (2003).

Fanny Lignon will focus on Video Games. She will explore the Mii, these small characters representing men and women that can be created on the Wii game console. She will question the way Mii maker application conceived by Nintendo allows (or not) the gamers to perform and subvert gender codes.

With a corpus of North Indian modern fictions, Anne Castaing will show the way literature, as both a creative process and a speech act, and thus as a show, allows to deconstruct gender identities. Whereas such approach remains alternative and rarely requested, Anne Castaing will show how hybrid characters, which are common in South Asian modern literatures, allow to rethink the literary field as a space of performance, where to transform and to claim for subversive gender identities.

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