Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella, Carmen, which inspired Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen, has subsequently been rendered in numerous film versions. The Senegalese film Karmen Geï, directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka (2001), adheres to the basic plotline, but adds various innovations, such as transporting the setting to contemporary Senegal and depicting Karmen as having same- and different-gender attractions and relationships. This article begins by giving an overview of critical responses to the film, then moves on to contextualizing the representation of variant sexualities in Senegal. It then examines the treatment of Ramaka’s character Karmen, who is one of the boldest and most radical reincarnations of the original Carmen character. The queer bisexual reading employed here highlights the possibility, and the fatal hazards, of free female sexual expression outside socially mandated limits and also reveals lacunae in queer readings that ignore the concept of bisexuality. Karmen Geï depicts bisexuality as a complex, queer site that destabilizes stereotyped gender roles and monosexuality and calls into question the mechanisms by which desire and appetite are regulated. Karmen’s mesmerizing, seductive dancing proves irresistible to female and male characters, and the representation of her bisexual behavior implicitly criticizes narrow conceptions of sexuality, including homophobia, monosexism, and possessive monogamy. I examine crucial scenes and techniques through the lens of critical bisexual theorization, revealing that this is a queer African Carmen with brio, sexual assurance, and political purpose.


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pp. 84-103
Launched on MUSE
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