Talel Ben Jemia


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin


since 2013 Doctoral Candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies. Freie Universität Berlin
2011 - 2013 John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Master of Arts in North American Studies
2010 - 2011 Middlebury College, Vermont
Exchange of the Freie Universität and Middlebury College
2008 - 2011 John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Bachelor of Arts in North American Studies and History

Trades and Hustlers - The Queer Aesthetics of Disorientation in American Cinema (1965-2010)

In my dissertation project, I examine the figure of the male prostitute in American culture and his significance for narrativizing and negotiating gay identity. Since the 1940s this figure has been frequently employed in gay literature to portray subcultures of sexual deviance and transgression before becoming a recurring protagonist in LGBT-themed American cinema. Most commonly read as a trope which designates the social liminality of the homosexual male, the hustler has been characterized, more recently, as self-determined and sexually liberated. I want to complicate this reductionist binary by scrutinizing the narratives and aesthetics yielded by this figure. The central theme most of these narratives share is one of displacement and a search for identity outside the confined lines of social acceptance - a theme I conceptualize as both spatial and existential disorientation. This concept of disorientation will be explored by employing a phenomenological approach that accounts for the depictions of individual experience of queerness and the ability and strategies of the medium of film to make these experiences feasible to its viewers. A "Queer Film Phenomenology" could be instrumental to understand how queerness cannot merely be represented, but is actually represented queerly. My historical framework extends from the 1960s, an era of increasing visibility of gay communities, to the 1990s, with the HIV-crisis and its profound impact on the LGBT movement. Finally, I want to investigate contemporary US Queer cinema, where the hustler continues to appear prominently. Films I will analyze include Midnight Cowboy (1969), My Own Private Idaho (1991), and Strapped (2010). The aim of my project is to contextualize the hustler as a figure that is central to the gay imaginary of American culture and has been formative for its aesthetics.


Conferences and Talks

“Gilmore Girls – Millennial Values in American Television”
Talk given at the Annual Students and Graduate Conference HU Berlin
“Playing House: Shifting Paradigms of Family and Kinship”

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft