Virtuous Vulgarity: Material Cultures of Porn and Pedagogy in Dakar, Sengal

Colloquium | March 13 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Juliana Friend, PhD Candidate, Dept of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

 Center for African Studies

In sex education circles, young Dakarois often affirmed: “There is no pornography ‘made in Senegal.’” Senegal, they explained, is a country of sutura. This claim invokes the Wolof value of discretion or modesty. In historically persistent yet contingent ways, the ethics of sutura have predicated a person’s honor and, co-constitutively, their legible gender identity on proper management of public/private boundaries (Mills 2011). When the Senegalese press reported a cybersecurity team’s search for the founder of a porn website boasting porn “made in Senegal,” this invited explicit discussion of sutura and technology. My presentation explores how various kinds of sexually explicit images - sometimes but not always taxonomized as le porno -- transgress, push on, or renegotiate the boundaries around “private life” policed in the name of sutura. Through a working concept of “virtuous vulgarity,” I explore sites within erotic economies where images considered to violate sutura - and thus make one’s femininity illegible - enter normatively feminine repertoires of erotic seduction, and in turn, bolster practices of ethical self-making. I seek to understand how subjects differently positioned in relation to gendered norms of sutura rework their ethical relationship to sex, technology, and femininity when faced with unexpected “leaks” in projected boundaries between concealment and revelation, ethics and sin.

Juliana Friend is a PhD candidate in anthropology at University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on sexuality, media, and public health in West Africa. Co-founder of the experimental ethnographic archive, she explores collaborative modes of producing and circulating ethnographic knowledge. She is also a contributing editor for the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s Visual and New Media Review. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, a Fulbright fellowship, and Berkeley’s Center for African Studies.