“For me, Tunisia represents several opportunities to consolidate itself in the political debate. Not that May 68 in France changed me; it’s March of ’68, in a third world country. “This is how Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, described his time in Tunisia, a country that welcomed him and offered him the first academic teaching position at the University of Tunis.
Foucault, public figure and famous power and sexual theorist, owes Tunisia to his early transformative experiences. He was fascinated by the intensity of the intellectual debates in which he participated, and the radicalism of political activism against the dehumanizing behavior he witnessed during his time in Tunis. in the late 1960s.
At the same time, Foucault, a private character, was accused of sexually abusing Tunisian teenage children.
Tunisians were aware of the rumors of Foucault’s child molestation, but recently a new account of the famous French essayist Guy Sorman was added.
In an interview with French public television channel France 5 on March 5, Sorman confirmed that while visiting Foucault, he “witnessed what Foucault did with children in Tunisia … nonsense. Agree cannot be sought. These are morally extremely bad things. “
In a second interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times on March 28, he recounted that “they were eight, nine, ten years old, he threw money at them and would say“ let’s meet at 10. evening at the usual place, ”a local cemetery in the town of Sidi Bou Said, north of Tunis. “He’s going to make love there on the headstones with the young guys. The question of consent was not even raised. “
Foucault is the latest addition to the infamous long list of French writers, artists, intellectuals and politicians rumored to molest children in colonies: Paul Gauguin, André Gide, Gabriel Matzneff , Frédéric Mitterrand, Jack Lang, and others. Matzneff is currently facing prosecution, while Mitterrand and Lang deny all rumors and allegations. In Foucault’s case, however, the issue would likely have been brought to the mat without much debate.
It is worth noting that no major newspaper in France, like Le Monde and Libération, or even in Tunisia, reported Sorman’s accusation.
The absence of media claiming that Foucault alleged pedophilia in Tunisia may also be related to the distortions and silence that characterized Sorman’s claim was framed by The Sunday Times.
The British paper has undermined Foucault’s ability to miscalculate the alleged history of sexual abuse by framing its report as an attack on “an ideological beacon. “awakening” today “and” Paris confidants “. In doing so, it sheds light on the much-needed conversation surrounding Foucault’s allegations of sexual abuse by turning it into another biased critique of the French by a British right-wing newspaper.
Meanwhile, Matzneff, a prominent French writer, has been publicly disdained and is facing prosecution by French authorities for allegations of pedophilia against French and Filipino children. Although he has written in many novels about his experiences with the sexual abuse of boys and girls in the Philippines, he was rejected by the publisher and stripped of his literary award and columns only after publication. Damn Consent book, by Vanessa Springora, one of the writer’s white juvenile victims.
The unpleasant fact is that the difference in the backlash against Matzneff, in contrast to the tamed indictment against Foucault, is the result of a long history of the colonial subject (neo). can be used once.
What is often disproved in today’s global #metoo computing movement is a picture of a developing world child.
As Sorman notes, Foucault’s abuse of Tunisian boys is similar to the sexual abuse of Tahitian girls by French artist Paul Gauguin. Both are bound to the indigenous “other”, whom they consider primitive and exploitable; both have fled from the French metropolis to escape scrutiny and loosen their hunting selves; and both use their prestige and economic and cultural prowess to have complete control over the young victims’ bodies.
The only difference between these two French child abusers is the way they display sexual atrocities against children in developing countries in their works: Gauguin shows all of his intentions. ants about sexuality and race in his paintings and clearly express his prey desires.
Foucault, however, was much more strategic. Despite being the most influential theorist and critic on the relationship between sex, knowledge and power in the West, Foucault completely ignored the colonial theme in his writings on sex. Yet, I believe Foucault’s sexual abuse of Tunisian boys largely informs and shapes his criticism of notions of normal or natural sexuality and children’s sexuality. After all, the exploitation and exploitation of humanity in the (neo) colony has always been the focus of Western academia.
Foucault’s time in Tunisia continues to be inexplicably underreported. Most of the French theorist’s biography focuses either on his appointment as a university professor between 1966 and 1968 and his intellectual and political awakening, or the celebration of his bond. he with social and political issues in Tunisia after independence under the Habib Bourguiba regime.
It is not yet clear whether Bourguiba will require Foucault to be appointed at the University of Tunis and therefore offers a complete waiver for him. Claiming that Foucault’s decision to leave Tunisia for France after he was beaten up by the Tunisian police for his political activities is also questionable, as before that incident he had accepted a new position as Head of philosophy at the University of Vincennes. And most importantly, it is doubtful that there are no public police records of Foucault’s years in Tunisia. At the time, Beji Caid Essebsi, a native of Sidi Bou Said, who later became the president of Tunisia, was the interior minister and was known for his panoramic police policy. However, there appear to be no official records of Foucault’s predatory behavior in the country.
Even today, it is naive to expect Foucault to be held accountable for his monstrous actions. French intellectuals are very protective of their celebrities when their sexual abuse is aimed at victims from developing countries. Thus, these appeals for reconsideration of this terrible legacy will likely be reduced to the annotation element in academic and cultural works.
To be more specific, I am not calling for Foucault’s “repeal” or the reports of his child molestation used to attack his academic and academic work in general.
But it is important to admit that Foucault’s monstrosity has forever changed the lives of many anonymous and unknown Tunisian children, while also causing traumatic consequences in their lives. Determination to his sexual abuse in Tunisia means social justice can ultimately be given to his victims.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.