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  • Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History by Kadji Amin
  • Loic Bourdeau
Kadji Amin, Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History Durham: Duke University Press, 2017, 255 pp.

Is there a better queer example than that of Jean Genet (sa vie, son œuvre / his life, his work)? For many scholars he indeed represents an idealized (and polarized) figure for Queer Studies. For Kadji Amin, however, Genet has become both a disturbing figure and a tool to think about queer scholarship today. In his well-articulated introduction, Amin demonstrates a thorough engagement with historical and current developments in the field, while bringing forth strategies to ensure that Queer Studies maintain its efficacy and resist institutionalization. Using the (in)famous figure of Genet allows him to contribute to the conversation at a micro (literary studies on Genet) and macro level (Queer Studies). Further, at a time when utopian narratives and foci on egalitarian futurities proliferate, Amin proposes to excavate the past, investigate Genet's relations with pederasty, racial fetishism, and revolt, and find new queer potentialities. Amin—who refuses to adopt a scandalized posture—proposes that we look at Genet both "despite" and "because of" what he represents. Drawing from developments in affect theory and Foucault's genealogical methodology, Disturbing Attachments is grounded in "attachment genealogy" (explicated in chapter 1) in an attempt to deidealize the (political) potential of queer culture, as well as understand the attachment to specific historical examples, and the ways in which contemporary queer theory, to some extent, erases certain historical forms and practices to remain effective in the present. [End Page 410]

Each chapter investigates a specific, uneasy aspect of Genet's work. In chapter 1, Amin centers his approach on modern pederasty by first questioning Queer Studies' selective attachment to Foucault's "Friendship as a Way of Life"—selective insofar as the field embraces "the potential of both BDSM and uninstitutionalized relations" (23), yet leaves aside pederasty. Although the author's argument that this omission testifies to a turn toward political futurity (rid of abuse and inegalitarianism) is compelling and valid, his reading of Foucault's piece might also show signs of omission. As much as Foucault does focus on youth, young men, and age, and finds potential in "new alliances" such as pederastic ones (as Amin argues), he also sees, first and foremost, the potential of love ("voilà, le problème" / "there's the problem") in contrast to the expected image of two promiscuous, gay men. Beyond this minor criticism, this chapter successfully underlines historical shifts (vis-à-vis pederasty) and the effects of Queer Studies' indebtedness toward an egalitarian and liberal tradition (25) on deciding what is retrograde or what is acceptable and promising. Overall, if pederasty is embarrassing and problematic to most, its study, Amin remarks, serves as a reminder that inegalitarianism and power dynamics might not be as evident as they seem. But more importantly, modern pederasty (in contrast to Ancient Greece for instance) with its inextricable connection to power might offer a new tool "for a politicized scholarship eager to think disability, a critique of the prison industrial complex, commercial sex, and sexual justice together" (44). In Chapter 2, Amin relies on and provides a new and interesting reading of Genet's Miracle of the Rose to understand how the writer's nostalgic idealization of prison pederasty (coercion, abuse, inequality) and his "theorization of queer sexuality as a perverse product of modern carceral institutions, rather than as something repressed and victimized by them" (73), trouble contemporary queer conceptions. In doing so, Amin's contextualized engagement with Miracle serves as a reminder that our certainties, including queer ones, ought to be reassessed and unsettled. As such, and as is the case with Disturbing Attachments as a whole, the goal is never to look back and find fault in Genet's writings; rather it seeks to identify alternative modes of queerness that do not necessarily comply with current attachments. Chapter 3 addresses the questions of racial fetishism in Genet's works and in two censored journal issues from the French gay liberation group (FHAR). As Amin delves into erotic coalition as a way to explore (and perhaps bridge) the gap...


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pp. 410-412
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