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Working Sex(uality) for Transnational Liberal Capital- Undoing Black Haitian Life in Dany Laferrière’s Vers le Sud

Legba, from Vers le Sud, stands between Ellen and Brenda, caught in an economic arrangement that exploits his body.
Weatherford, Alan-Michael. "Working Sex(uality) for Transnational Liberal Capital- Undoing Black Haitian Life in Dany Laferrière’s Vers le Sud," American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), UCLA, March 29-April 1, 2018. 

This essay joins together Transnational Studies and Queer of Color Critique in order to intervene in Francophone Postcolonial Studies. In particular, it seeks to critically assess the "liberatory" potential of romance tourism, which, I argue, serves as a technology that works for neocolonialism. I, therefore, close read Lauren Cantet & Haitian-Canadian Dany Laferrière’s 2004 film, Vers le sud based on his 1997 novella, La chair du maître. Set in 1970s Haiti, the story centers around three North-American, middle-aged women who explore the limits of their sexuality away from a sexist culture back home. Once included into an economic realm granting mobility, these women narrate their liberation at the expense of the Haitian males. I read Vers le Sud, however,as an epistemological intervention by centering another character’s body: the black male prostitute, Legba, who functions as—what Gayatri Gopinath has called—an “historical archive for both individuals and communities.” Ultimately, I argue that the liberation these white women seek is built over and against the lives of Haitian men whose futures frequently result in very real death or the forced assimilation into racialized heteronormativity. My work, thus, accompanies the call for a renewed queer studies, one that reframes and regrounds it in not only the more material and state power-contesting aspects of identity, but also an intersectional and transnational analysis. How, then, does transnational liberal capital’s promise of inclusion hide biopower’s mechanisms? How can sexualized life hold itself accountable to its racializing logics? Without a transnational reading of systems of power, liberal sexuality both does neocolonialism as well as undoes black Haitian life.

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