Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

Seduction and French National Character: a Critical Analysis

11. Oktober 2011


Prof. Joan W. Scott (Institute for Advanced Study Princeton)

As the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair unfolded, his French supporters rushed to his defense by citing ‘seduction’ as the explanation. Seduction was an accepted aspect of French national character they insisted; it was something prudish Americans just didn’t understand.

My talk, written before the events of last spring, analyzes what I call “French seduction theory,” the way in which—at least since 1989—republican ideologues have insisted that seduction is an integral aspect of French national character. Drawing on long-standing ideas about French sexyness (as compared to American puritanism), they elaborated a notion of Frenchness said to contrast sharply with Muslim culture. The “uncovered” customs of France were offered as the more natural way of conducting gender relations; Islam was depicted as an unnatural denial of human sexuality.

The talk analyzes the contradictions of this theory, arguing that it is, in the end, not about gender equality or women's emancipation, but rather about justifying the continued subordination of women to men and, by extension, of differences of race, religion and ethnicity, to hegemonic French culture.

Professor Joan W. Scott is the Harold F. Linder Professor at the School of Social Science in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. An historian specialised in the history of France and women's history, Professor Scott is an internationally acclaimed scholar whose work has been translated into several languages. Broadly, the object of her work is the question of difference in history: its uses, enunciations, implementations, justifications, and transformations in the construction of social and political life. Scott’s recent books have focused on the vexed relationship of the particularity of gender to the universalizing force of democratic politics.

It would be appreciated if you could indicate your intention to attend the lecture by sending an email to the address below by the 4th of October.

Tue, 11 October 2011, 19 Uhr c.t.
University of Konstanz, Room V 1001 (Senatssaal)


Dr. Sara R. Farris
e-mail sara.farris[at]uni-konstanz.de
phone +49 (0)7531 36304-18

in cooperation with Referat für Gleichstellung und Familienförderung