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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Gregorio Rodríguez-Arbolay Jr., Humanities

Distinctions of Difference: Race, Queerness, & Homonationalism in Québec Cinema

Date & time
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room H-1271

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This dissertation examines the distinct intertwining of race, queerness, and homo/nationalism in Québec cinema from 1960 to 2003. It traces important historical shifts in Québec and its cinema industries to frame the symbolic and material conditions of sexual and racial representation. Through the conceptual frameworks of queer of colour critique (Muñoz 1999) and homonationalism (Puar 2007), this dissertation questions how cinema has been used as a homo/nationalist tool to promote the notion of a modern and progressive Québec. It argues that Québec’s narrative of LGBTQ+ inclusion regulates visibility and representation in a manner that obscures queers of colour from its cultural imagination.

Chapter 1 examines how the legacies of slavery and colonialism map upon the cultural homophobia of the emergent Québec nationalist project in Claude Jutra’s landmark film, À tout prendre (1963). Chapter 2 traces how the neoliberal collapse of Québec’s nationalist project gave way to new multicultural and sexual politics in Denys Arcand’s celebrated films, Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986) and Les Invasions barbares (2003). Chapter 3 examines the convergence of sexual and multicultural pluralism in Hunt Hoe’s independent film, Seducing Maarya (2000), the first Québec film to spotlight a queer character of colour.

These films collectively chart the historical conditions of homonationalism by elucidating significant shifts in the cultural representation of queer(ed) and racialized subjects in late-twentieth-century Québécois cinema. Through illustrating the rise of LGBTQ+ politics in Québec, I frame how sexual nationalism came to converge with cultural imperialism in Québec cinema; and how it centres white homonormative subjects as symbols of Québec’s modernity. The dissertation contends that this progressive framework limits the possibilities for the representation of diverse racialized sexualities. Through films and historical materials, I challenge how Québécois queer people of colour have been rendered largely absent, silent, or tokenized within our cultural imagination. Overall, the dissertation challenges the notion of visibility and representation as a universal strategy for queers of colour to claim political agency and cultural citizenship.

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