Living in Arcadia
Homosexuality, Politics, and Morality in France from the Liberation to AIDS
In Paris in 1954, a young man named André Baudry founded Arcadie, an organization for “homophiles” that would become the largest of its kind that has ever existed in France, lasting nearly thirty years. In addition to acting as the only public voice for French gays prior to the explosion of radicalism of 1968, Arcadie—with its club and review—was a social and intellectual hub, attracting support from individuals as diverse as Jean Cocteau and Michel Foucault and offering support and solidarity to thousands of isolated individuals. Yet despite its huge importance, Arcadie has largely disappeared from the historical record.
The main cause of this neglect, Julian Jackson explains in Living in Arcadia, is that during the post-Stonewall era of queer activism, Baudry’s organization fell into disfavor, dismissed as conservative, conformist, and closeted. Through extensive archival research and numerous interviews with the reclusive Baudry, Jackson challenges this reductive view, uncovering Arcadie’s pioneering efforts to educate the European public about homosexuality in an era of renewed repression. In the course of relating this absorbing history, Jackson offers a startlingly original account of the history of homosexuality in modern France.
“Living in Arcadia is a work of exceptional erudition, originality, and insight. It not only restores the most important French homophile movement to history in all its complexity; it also uses that history to make a powerful revisionist argument for the intelligence, savvy, courage, and, indeed, dignity of the people who founded and guided it. Julian Jackson shows that they were more assertive, diverse, and radical on sexual matters than they are commonly made out to be. As one of the most important studies of the pre-Stonewall homophile movement we have, Living in Arcadia represents a major new contribution to both gay history and French history.”
“This is a vibrant, multifaceted history of one of the late twentieth-century Europe’s most important homosexual organizations. It uncovers how the French group Arcadie emerged, struggled, and flourished in a society that was taking new steps to punish and silence sexually marginal men and women. On this solid foundation, Jackson builds an innovative analysis of how homosexuality in the West was lived by individuals and debated in public from the 1950s through the 1980s. Wide-ranging research, beautiful writing, and astute insight reinvigorate our understanding of both gay liberation and post-1945 France.”
“This book is a major work of scholarship—well written and thoroughly researched—that throws light on a little understood period of gay history in France, while also adding to our knowledge of the international ‘homophile’ movement and contemporary France in general. By telling the story of Arcadie, Jackson presents a rich and ultimately sympathetic account of what it meant to be a homosexual Frenchman in the years after World War II and before the rise of gay liberation. In addition to elucidating Arcadie’s raison d’être, nature, achievements, and shortcomings, Jackson gives readers a vivid portrait of its founder, André Baudry, a man about whom little has been known until now.”