HomePartout et en tous temps ? Les lieux propices au harcèlement sexuel avant #metoo

HomePartout et en tous temps ? Les lieux propices au harcèlement sexuel avant #metoo

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Published on Thursday, April 18, 2024


Le projet AVISA, démarré en 2020, a pour objet d’écrire l’histoire du harcèlement sexuel en Occident sur la longue période. Ses membres se sont, dans un premier temps, interrogé sur les termes utilisés pour rendre compte de cet impensé du droit jusque dans les années 1980. Après l’interrogation de la figure du harceleur au début de l’année 2024, et donc du « qui » harcèle, ce colloque se posera donc la question du « où » et du « quand ». Poursuivant les travaux précédents, les communications sont invitées à envisager l’ensemble des lieux propices à ce type de comportements et à en dresser une cartographie sur la base de dénonciations et témoignages privés (archives, correspondances…) et publics (livres de conduite, presse) mais également à travers l’analyse d’œuvres littéraires, artistiques et médiatiques.



The AVISA project, launched in 2020, aims at writing the history of sexual harassment over a long period of time. It began by examining the terms used to refer to a reality that did not exist in the eyes of the law prior to the 1980s. The first stage of this research, that focused on semantics, has shown that, when it was eventually defined in law, it was initially limited to the professional sphere. In fact, in the 1980s and 1990s, it entered the judicial arena and the media as “power abuse in the workplace about sexual matters” particularly in the US with the case Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas as well as in France.

Yet, the definition which is internationally accepted today, as evinced by its adoption by UN women, does not limit this form of sexual violence to the workplace. In these broader terms,  “Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. While typically involving a pattern of behaviour, it can take the form of a single incident. Sexual harassment may occur between persons of the opposite or same sex. Both males and females can be either the victims or the offenders”.

Since the beginning of the project, this definition has also been ours and, as a result, we have focused on the acts themselves without paying much attention to the space and time in which they take place. In early 2024, we looked at the figure of the “harasser” and therefore examined the “who”. The forthcoming conference wishes to turn to the “where” and the “when”.

Following on previous research carried out as part of the AVISA project, we welcome papers that will consider places conducive to this type of behaviour and help map them out on the basis of denunciations and private testimonies (archives, correspondence, etc…) as well as public ones (conduct books, the press, etc…) but also through the analysis of literary, artistic or media art work.

Were there in the past, recent and distant, spaces and times where and when sexual harassment was customary or did it happen everywhere and at all times? Can we see changes in those high-risk spaces and times over the years or centuries? In literature, are those spaces different according to the genres of the works, the nationalities of the authors, the periods of production? How can the seasons, the calendar, the weather or the time of day transform a shelter into a place of real or perceived danger?

The artistic and literary work around the context of harassment also deserves to be scrutinized. How have the arts represented these time-spaces and with what devices? Do films, for instance, place harassment scenes at particular key moments in the plot and if so what are they? What part does the literary description play in the perception of harassment? Does it veil or unveil it? Does it do so with realism or drama? 

This conference will therefore begin by exploring the professional sphere through new sources that reveal how dangerous for women some workplaces were: private and royal households, workshops, factories, businesses, schools, universities, hospitals, cinema sets, artist studios etc… The list has yet to be drawn up and will probably never be exhaustive. Within the various organizations considered, it will be interesting to discuss whether certain activity sectors or physical areas are represented as higher-risk zones.

The conference will also look at other spaces of gender mix from country wakes to public baths via noble and royal estates, courts, salons, inns, playhouses, churches and cinemas… but also places that are violent by nature such as war zones. Of course, the streets and public transport will also be examined, all the more so as they have been granted a specific legal status for “sexist or sexual abuse” in the French legal system since 2023. How does sexual harassment manifest itself in public spaces under the eyes sometimes of many witnesses? And how do the accounts of such incidents consider the gender mix in such spaces and the interactions that take place there? 

We also invite papers that will examine private spaces, where we know most sexual assaults occur today. How should we deal with the private sphere? How is it depicted in literature, painting and films? Should the bedroom be a particular area of interest?

Finally, the question of architecture and of the design of places and buildings can also be raised. How does the transformation of private or public spaces and of their infrastructures change in turn the way sexual harassment manifests itself and the feeling of safety or insecurity? How is that story being told? In this respect, we invite papers examining the role of light and gaze involved in sexual harassment but also its perception as well as the emotions it arouses. 

We suggest exploring all these questions along the following lines:

-       The material and cultural factors that make women vulnerable in those spaces.

-       The de-consecration of safe havens (churches, hospitals, etc…)

-       The systems put in place to prevent sexual harassment in these spaces.

-       The aesthetic treatment of the spaces in literature and the arts.

-       The media treatment of these spaces and times.

From the outset, the Avisa project has sought to adopt a transdisciplinary approach that crosses periods, disciplines, perspectives and methodologies. The project therefore welcomes papers in literature, philosophy, sociology, film and audiovisual media studies, art history, the history of ideas, geography and of course history etc… We look forward to proposals that will adopt this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective.

Submission guidelines

If you would like to contribute a paper, please send a short title and an abstract of up to 250 words to armel.dubois-nayt@uvsq.fr, anneclaire.marpeau@gmail.com, rejane.vallee@univ-evry.fr

by 15 May 2024.

The conference will be held on 17-18 October 2024 at ENS Paris-Saclay, 4 avenue des sciences, 91190 Gif sur Yvettes.

Scientific Committee

  • Jean-Christophe Abramovici ( Professor of French Literature, Sorbonne University)
  • Mathilde Bombart (Professor of French Literature, Lumière University Lyon 2),
  • Olivier Caïra (Associate Professor, Évry University-Paris-Saclay),
  • Line Cottegnies (Professor if Early Modern British Literature, Sorbonne University),
  • Didier Lett, (Professor of Medieval History, Paris-Cité University),
  • Hélène Marquié (Professor of Performing Arts and Gender Studies, Paris 8 University-Vincennes-Saint Denis)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Wednesday, May 15, 2024


  • harcèlement sexuel, espace, temps, genre, violence


  • Anne-Claire Marpeau
    courriel : acmarpeau [at] unistra [dot] fr

Information source

  • Anne-Claire Marpeau
    courriel : acmarpeau [at] unistra [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Partout et en tous temps ? Les lieux propices au harcèlement sexuel avant #metoo », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, April 18, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/w8d4

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