April 14, 2023, 9:00 am - 7:00 pm

East Pyne 010



7th Annual Graduate Conference

Princeton University Department of French and Italian


What is taboo? This question shapes our relationship to language, in turn shaping the boundaries of communities, cultures, and literary canons. A term borrowed from Tongan, a Polynesian language. a "taboo" is primarily a religious imperative. A taboo might be a person, animal, or object that cannot be approached or touched because it is sacred. At the same time, a taboo also functions as a prohibition-as a rule that cannot be transgressed.

Recently, a variety of contemporary francophone authors and activists have begun to question certain subjects considered taboo. Christine Angot, Vanessa Springora, and Camille Kouchner have shed light on what Freud calls the greatest of all taboos: incest. In 2018, meanwhile, the removal of the word "race" from the French Constitution was intended to erase any discrimination based on skin color and origin. However, might such a decision create a taboo around racial issues? Does language itself maintain certain prohibitions?

Considering what is forbidden and permitted, we wish to investigate the unspeakable and the unexplored in French and francophone literature. Our conference aims to study taboos from a variety of perspectives and across time periods. What connections can be drawn between taboos and oppression, between taboos and the sacred? What constitutes a taboo, and who dictates what remains taboo? How have taboos been weaponized? How has the taboo concept been employed toward hegemonic ends? How can we, as teachers, rethink the unapproachable and the unspeakable in our classrooms?


Please send a 250-word abstract and title with your name and academic affiliation, as well as a short bio (150 words) to [email protected] by Wednesday, March 1st, 2023. The conference's 15-minute presentations can be given in English or French. We welcome interdisciplinary approaches and invite graduate students from other fields to send us abstracts. See suggested themes and fields of study below.

Possible lines of investigation:

  • Taboo and ethics
  • Translating the inexpressible
  • Taboo and gender identities
  • Taboo and sexuality
  • Race and taboo
  • The prohibition of taboo
  • Space and prohibition
  • Taboo and power
  • Sociology of taboo
  • Desecration and blasphemy
  • History, language of taboo
  • Vulgarity/waste
  • Taboo in the French canon
  • Social norms/deviation
  • Naming and taboo
  • Taboo and censorship
  • Taboo and francophonie

Interdisciplinary connections:

  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Cinema and Media Studies
  • Classics Colonial/Postcolonial Studies
  • Comparative Literature
  • Disability Studies
  • Ecocriticism
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • History
  • Medieval and Renaissance studies
  • Migration Studies
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology
  • Translation Studies

Guest Speakers


Annabel Kim

Annabel L. Kim
(Harvard University)

Rokhaya Diallo

Rokhaya Diallo 
(Georgetown University)


  • The Humanities Council
  • The University Center for Human Values
  • The Program in Gender & Sexuality Studies
  • The Department of Comparative Literature
  • The Lewis Center
  • The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities


Friday, April 14, 2023

Conference proceedings to take place at East Pyne 010.

9:00 AM - Registration and Breakfast

9:45 AM - Opening Remarks by Conference Organizers

10:00 AM - Opening Keynote Address

  • Annabel L. Kim (Harvard University): “Domestic Shit, Wild Shit: Gender and Excrementality” followed by Q&A

11:00 AM - Panel One | Taboo on Screen (Moderated by Lynda Musilwa)

  • Camille Readman Prud’homme (New York University): “Ambiguïser le visage, relocaliser le sujet
  • Louise Cain (University of Melbourne): “‘You aren’t like the others’: Taboo and the Queer Child in the Films of Céline Sciamma”
  • Sandrine Rajaonarivony (University of Pennsylvania): “Modern Figures of Medea: Unspoken Dimensions of Race and Infanticide in Saint Omer and Chanson Douce


1:30 PM - Panel Two | Taboo on the Page (Moderated by Yassine Ait Ali)

  • Fenian Kenney (University of Notre Dame): “Silent Sepulcher: Voice and Language in Zahia Rahmani’s Moze
  • Alyssa Ollivier-Tabukashvili (University of Oxford): “‘Qui ci qui la France t’a fi ?’ Taboo, vulgarity and violence in Azouz Begag’s Les chiens aussi
  • Camille Roche (Johns Hopkins University ): “Tabou dans l’arbre généalogique : Sexe, bâtardise et reconfiguration du genre dans l’œuvre d’Irène Némirovsky


3:00 PM - Panel Three | Taboos of Race and Gender (Moderated by Bill Hamlett)

  • Ryan Evelyn (Lehigh University): “Disease, Degradation, and Depravity: The Concept of the Witch as Imagined by Agrippa d’Aubigné, Charles-Timoléon de Beauxoncles, and Mathurin Régnier”
  • Corina Chutaux (Sorbonne Université): “The Taboo Dichotomy between Male and Female Genitalia”
  • Erica Dugué (New York University): “Articulating Everyday Acts of Resistance: A Story of Surviving Racial-Gender Violence While Giving Birth in COVID-Era France (A Micro-Ethnography)”


4:30 PM - Screening | La Parisienne démystifiée

5:00 PM - Closing Keynote Address

  • Rokhaya Diallo (Georgetown University): “Effortless chic? Le tabou d’une fabrication commerciale” followed by Q&A