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The Impossible Consent. Josephine Hugues’ Case (L’impossible consentement: L’Affaire Joséphine Hugues)



Original Language: French | 192 pp. | March 2018

2 Seas Represents: World Excl French.


A real historical journey that allows one to understand how “producing” consent (or refusal) is not a free and isolated decision within one person, but a clustered result of power dynamics among many.

1865, South France, in Guiols, village in Var’s interior.

Timothee Castellan is a young ex-worker in the cork industry. Young and seductive, yet club-footed and wounded by his old job, he pretends he can’t speak. In July 1865, he is convicted to 12 years of prison for having raped Joséphine Hugues, a 26-year-old single laborer, under “magnetism”.

At the time, the existence of magnetism (an old name for hypnosis) was not acknowledged by medical authorities, so hypnosis didn’t officially exist. At the time, very few sexual aggressors were condemned, and their victims systematically had to prove their innocence. But none of this happened in Josephine’s case. Josephine has been declared innocent because she could not have consented under hypnosis, leaving Timothee Castellan severely condemned.

Edelman studies relationships of domination around the couple in political, medical, and social fields, presenting the way everyone around Joséphine and Timothée had interests in her innocence. This book is the brilliant demonstration that consent isn’t an individual decision but the result of a tight power environment.

Edelman transcribes the archives, testimonies of the case, and the numerous medical experts on hypnosis. (among them Tourette, Charcot etc.). She studies the explosive political situation of this anti-Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte region newly integrated in France, examines the social situation of these cork workers in South France (the new proletariat beginning to get organized), as well as local power issues. Throughout everything, this book gives us Josephine’s version, until now untold.

Nicole Edelman is an honorary lecturer in contemporary history at Paris-Ouest – Nanterre University, France. Her work focuses on fields ostracized by political, scientific or religious power. Her publications include:

Histoire de la voyance et du paranormal, Albin Michel, 2014.

Voyantes, guérisseuses et visionnaires en France, 1785-1914, Albin Michel, 2013.