Queer Alliance Practices

Lyannaj is an ongoing photographic project on queer alliance practices in postcolonial France[1]. It aimes to constitute an archive, from traces of the violence suffered by bodies whose sexuality is rejected as “deviant” by dominant system, to the multiple strategies of caring and self-affirmation inside queer communities.

In these terms, the question of the minor body and its performativity as a producer of denormative narratives is central. Michel Foucault shows us the way, reflecting on the body as the materiality, starting point of the experience and, at the same time, the physical place where regulations or exclusions are applied. The body is thought of as a place of assignments and utopian body, or possibility of resistance, action and subversion of social rules and exclusions.

There is no question here of reducing the queer experience to a fixed identity. On the contrary, Lyannaj wish to show how the queer experience may be situated at the intersection of the multiple experiences of class, race and gender. In this respect, the homo-transphobia of which one can be a victim as a queer person, may be entangled with other forms of oppression, such as discrimination on the basis of origin and class (migrants), or because we are a woman or a racialized person.

Queer can also refer to a posture aiming to go beyond these categories of power. One example is many allies within queer communities. It is precisely from this intersectional prism that I propose to think about the queer experience and the practices of resistance that flow from it.

Every year, a multitude of queer people from the former French colonies but also from other regions of the world (mainly the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, but also the Maghreb, the Middle East and India) settle in Paris and Paris region to live their sexual or gender identity more freely, and to flee the stigmatization, even the persecutions of which they may be victims in their territories of origin.

Here, new spaces for sociability and self-affirmation are emerging,  driven by associations and activists or by groups of artists, such as those of the culture of the «ballroom» and «houses» or the activities carried out by the Lgbtq+ Center of Paris and the Pride des Banlieus. In these care spaces, we focus on taking care of each other, through practices of alliance, or, as we would say in Creole, of lyannaj.

This term means “to link, combine and rally” and it refers here to the notion of alliance that crosses and organizes these spaces. Developed by the philosopher Dénétem Touam Bona with regard to fugitive Maroon communities, the notion of lyannaj allows us to think of these reconstruction practices in their political dimension of aid, friendship and allegiance. Their resonance with Maroon communities is all the stronger because, more often than not, these practices produce a counter-discourse on the margins of the system, the queer experience unfolding mainly out of sight, in a regime of invisibility.

These care spaces are no stranger to me. I experience and photograph them, at different times, since my arrival in Paris from Italy in 2006.

In this respect, the photographs presented here, broken down in time and space, (produced in part within the framework of the Radioscopie de France program, of the BNF) not only constitute a personal memory but they are also intended to implement a queer archive, which still largely remains to be built, to fill part of the “void”, to repair the trauma of a dispossession: to reconstruct a memory of the queer body in which one can also recognize oneself.

Nicola Lo Calzo

[1]  As defined by Achille Mbembe, the space-time that highlights the permanence of colonial imaginary.