CSGS Visiting Scholar: Sylvie Tissot

CSGS Visiting Scholar: fall 2011

Sylvie Tissot

Sylvie Tissot is a Professor of Sociology and Political Science at University of Paris 8. Her main field is urban sociology, with a more recent interest for the study of gender and sexuality. After completing her PhD on underprivileged areas in France (banlieues), she conducted fieldwork in the South End, formerly a disadvantaged, inner-city neighborhood, now a sought-after address in Boston. In her forthcoming book (2011), she investigates the restructuring of race, class, and sexual orientation boundaries in upper middle class American culture. She especially examines to what extent the endorsement of “diversity” by those living in economically and racially mixed neighborhoods is indicative of a new combination of exclusion and inclusion. Her article “On Dogs and Men: The Making of Spatial Boundaries in a Gentrifying Neighborhood” will come out in City and Community in September 2011. As a feminist, she also wrote on French political issues, such as the ban on headscarves and burqas (Public Culture 2011).

Current research:

Assessing gay-friendly attitudes in urban environments: A comparison between Park Slope (New York City) and Le Marais (Paris)

In the last decades, many Western societies have witnessed a growing acceptance of sexual minorities. Does this mean that discrimination and exclusion have faded away? My research aims to fill in some of the gaps in empirical knowledge about behaviors toward homosexuality, whether they be accepting, tolerating or rejecting.

I intend to investigate this question by conducting fieldwork in two gentrified neighborhoods: first, Park Slope in New York City, and then Le Marais in Paris. The abundant existing literature on gentrification has shed light on the differences, conflicts and occasional links between newcomers and old-timers. In keeping with this literature, I will focus on gentrified neighborhoods in order to examine the relationship between two groups: homosexual and heterosexual residents.

In addition to the demographic significance of gay residents in gentrified areas, I am also interested in studying gentrified areas for what we might learn about straight residents. As quantitative research has shown, acceptance of homosexuality varies across the population; women, youth and the educated tend to express a higher level of tolerance. I intend to analyze how class and gender intersect by inspecting levels of tolerance in upper middle class culture. To what extent is gay-friendliness widely shared? On what presupposition about gay people does it rely? What kinds of boundaries (between tolerated, sought-after and intolerable gays) does this attitude draw? How does gay-friendliness vary according to sex, age and marital status?