Disturbing Attachments

Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: October 2017

Author: Kadji Amin

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Jean Genet (1910–1986) resonates, perhaps more than any other canonical queer figure from the pre-Stonewall past, with contemporary queer sensibilities attuned to a defiant non-normativity. Not only sexually queer, Genet was also a criminal and a social pariah, a bitter opponent of the police state, and an ally of revolutionary anticolonial movements. In Disturbing Attachments, Kadji Amin challenges the idealization of Genet as a paradigmatic figure within queer studies to illuminate the methodological dilemmas at the heart of queer theory. Pederasty, which was central to Genet's sexuality and to his passionate cross-racial and transnational political activism late in life, is among a series of problematic and outmoded queer attachments that Amin uses to deidealize and historicize queer theory. He brings the genealogy of Genet's imaginaries of attachment to bear on pressing issues within contemporary queer politics and scholarship, including prison abolition, homonationalism, and pinkwashing. Disturbing Attachments productively and provocatively unsettles queer studies by excavating the history of its affective tendencies to reveal and ultimately expand the contexts that inform the use and connotations of the term queer.


"Amin's commitment to re-evaluating the unsettling practices of Genet's life represents a serious attempt to contend with the colonial, racist, and hierarchical legacies present in queer social forms. . . . Disturbing Attachments, by investigating the traction queer theory can have in contending with the compromises and failures hidden within its own field, demonstrates the potential for critical self-inquiry." — Rajat D. Singh, Gay & Lesbian Review

"An interesting and thought-provoking book on the relationship between modern pederasty and queer history. . . . The book’s most useful insight is at a theoretical level: recognizing that a non-normative sexuality can be complicit with oppressive power structures in other respects, it places a welcome emphasis on the existence of an irreducible tension between the erotic and the political." — Mairéad Hanrahan, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"There is no doubt that Disturbing Attachments is, ?rst and foremost, a work of and about queer studies, a fearless and scholarly probing of its disciplinary norms, its discursive limits, and its most embarrassing relations. It should be read by all those who care about the discipline’s future . . . and, most importantly, by those who care about its past." — Andrew Counter, French Studies

"Amin’s book offers a dizzying number of theoretical interventions, in an elegant style that makes up for the uncompromising density of the text. With refreshing currency, Disturbing Attachments displaces queer studies outside its presentist US context." — Mehammed Amadeus Mack, Journal of Middle East Women's Studies

"Disturbing Attachments is a formidable read. It is theoretically mobile, stylistically gratifying, and conceptually probing." — Helmut Puff, American Historical Review

“Kadji Amin has written a crucial book, one that no one invested in queer thought or queer history can ignore. Elaborated through a reading of Jean Genet’s pederastic and cross-racial desires, Disturbing Attachments reflects on the permanent dissonance between politics and erotic and psychic life. Amin explores the contradictions of queer studies, which pairs its commitment to radical anti-normativity with a commitment to world-building, and argues that the field must deidealize without abandoning its attachments to queer coalition.” — Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

“Kadji Amin upends foundational presumptions in queer theory by grappling with the passionate attachments that tether queer studies to the radical French writer Jean Genet. The resulting discomfort allows us to think differently about theory, politics, and queer relationships.” — Todd Shepard, author of The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France

"Queer studies desperately needs this book. Cogent, timely, and pathbreaking, Kadji Amin's work disrupts the genealogies of queer attachments while simultaneously interrogating, and at times relentlessly, the shape of the political in queer theory and the idealization of the queer erotic." — Sharon Patricia Holland, author of The Erotic Life of Racism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kadji Amin is Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
1. Attachment Genealogies of Pederastic Modernity  19
2. Light of a Dead Star: The Nostalgic Modernity of Prison Pederasty  45
3. Racial Fetishism, Gay Liberation, and the Temporalities of the Erotic  76
4. Pederastic Kinship  109
5. Enemies of the State: Terrorism, Violence, and the Affective Politics of Transnational Coalition  141
Epilogue. Haunted by the 1990s: Queer Theory's Affective Histories  176
Notes  191
Bibliography  235
Index  249
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Honorable Mention, Alan Bray Book Memorial Book Prize, presented by the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6917-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6889-2
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