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  • Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture by Mehammed Amadeus Mack
  • Priscilla Charrat Nelson
Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture. By Mehammed Amadeus Mack. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017. 329pp., ill.

Blending cultural studies with literary and film analysis, this first book by Mehammed Amadeus Mack focuses on the interaction between North African immigration, Muslim religious background, gender, and sexuality in contemporary French culture. Mack’s research provides a necessary complement to pathologizing ethno-sociological discourses on the Arabic diaspora in the French suburbs. Mack demonstrates that, beyond clichés such as the ‘heterosexist virility’ (p. 7) of Franco-Arab male youth posited to threaten both women and LGBTQ rights, gender fluidity and queer identities already inhabit Arab and Muslim identity spaces in France. This book is an extension of Mack’s doctoral dissertation, but also showcases his background as a journalist, which is reflected in his indepth knowledge of political and media discourses in France. At the core of the book lies a deconstruction of the binary that putatively opposes European sexual modernity and an Arabic conservatism that is accused of threatening the former. The five chapters of his book enable Mack to present his argument across disciplinary methods and representational supports. The first chapter shows how the suburbs offer queering potentials far from the conservative gender binaries ascribed to them by the French media, and offers a particularly productive discussion of female virility beyond the imitation of its patriarchal pendant. Chapter 2 traces the historical legacy of the colonial-era Algiers school of psychoanalysis, and offers more up-to-date points of view, including those of Didier Fassin and Tahar Ben Jelloun, on the pathologization of North African immigrant sexualities. Chapter 3 brings literary works by Rachid O., Abdellah Taïa, and Nina Bouraoui into dialogue with older texts by Bernard-Marie Koltès and Frédéric Mitterrand in an analysis of an ‘erotics of poverty’ targeting young Arab males. Chapter 4 offers cinematic analyses of sexuality in the French suburbs, based on André Téchiné’s Les Témoins (2007), Jacques Audiard’s Un prophète (2009), and Jean-François Richet’s Ma 6-T va crack-er (1997). Chapter 5 focuses on an ethnic turn in French pornography that capitalizes on ‘tensions and fears related to the immigration debate and the place of Arabs in France’ (p. 222), and questions the potential for Franco-Arabs to eroticize themselves beyond the Eurocentric gaze. Mack’s book has already raised interest in the field of French and francophone studies, and has been at the centre of a discussion organized by the CNRS in summer 2017 in Paris. In hand with Todd Shepard’s most recent book, Mâle décolonisation: l’‘homme arabe’ et la France, de l’indépendance algérienne à la révolution iranienne (1962–1979) (Paris: Payot, 2017), Mack’s book is set to bring a new perspective to research on immigration, religious background, and masculinity in contemporary Europe. [End Page 146]

Priscilla Charrat Nelson
Bradley University