Tributary Histories Flowing into National Waterways: European Rivers in sub-Saharan African Immigration Literature
Citation: “Tributary Histories Flowing into National Waterways: European Rivers in sub-Saharan African Immigration Literature.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 23 no. 2 (Spring 2016): 201-19.
Abstract: In this essay, I turn to colonial and postcolonial works that position Francophone immigration as a continuation of much larger transnational processes. Their protagonists’ seemingly “wasted lives,” are products of the violence colonialism inflicted on both African lands and their inhabitants. The texts selected for study here—Ousmane Socé’s Mirages de Paris [Mirages of Paris] (1937), Donato Ndongo- Bidyogo’s short story “El Sueño” (1973) [“The Dream”], and J. R. Essomba’s novel Le paradis du nord [The Northern Paradise] (1996)—remap imperial violence onto the hydrography of colonial and postcolonial immigration. Unlike the Francophone crossing narratives that came later in the twenty-first century, which privilege marine environments (particularly the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean), the earlier works studied in this essay give primacy to European riverine spaces–both those that serve as borders between nations, as well as the river running through the heart of France’s capital, the Seine. By connecting transnational marinescapes to European rivers, the texts reinscribe what are often considered “tributary histories” (Chambers) onto the former colonial power, ultimately suggesting that the “wasted lives”–both those that arrived in the colonial and early postcolonial periods, as well as those that continue to arrive in the 21st century, such as those affected by the 2013 Lampedusa disaster–that end up in the former métropoles are, in fact, a direct product of colonial violence.
Selling (out) on the Black Market: Black Bazar‘s Literary Sape
Citation: “Selling (out) on the Black Market: Black Bazar‘s Literary Sape.” Research in African Literatures 46 no. 2 (Summer 2015): 52−69.
Abstract: This article develops a framework drawing from Congolese sape fashion practices to read Alain Mabanckou’s 2009 novel Black bazar. In sape—an acronym for La Société des ambianceurs et des personnes élégantes (the Society of Ambiencers and Persons of Elegance)—sapeurs “sappers” perform danses des griffes “dances of designer labels” during which they brandish their clothing items’ designer brands. In my reading of Black bazar as an example of “literary sape,” I argue that the narrator-author’s references to cultural works from a variety of national and historical contexts can productively be read as a literary danse des griffes—a performance that interrogates the reading strategies to which the novel itself will be subjected. Ultimately, through its content and form, Black bazar contests the very notion of authenticity that undergirds how francophone cultural works and their authors are packaged and circulated within larger global cultural economies.
Rapping Postmemory, Sampling the Archive: Reimagining 17 October 1961
Citation: “Rapping Postmemory, Sampling the Archive: Reimagining October 17, 1961.” Modern & Contemporary France 22 no. 3 (2014): 381−97.
Abstract: Over 50 years have passed since the 17 October 1961 massacre and, though the event has gained wider recognition, it still occupies a tenuous place in French history. Scholars have turned to fictional literary and filmic representations of the massacre that have appeared since the 1980s, but have largely overlooked its commemoration in music. In this essay, the author analyses two works: French rapper Médine’s song ‘17 octobre’ (2006), which reimagines the massacre from the perspective of a witness who dies, and an Internet montage video (2008) which sets Médine’s song to archival and non-archival video clips. Both the song and montage highlight the limits of official historical discourse through a variety of practices, including manipulating perspective, sampling and putting 17 October into dialogue with other obscured histories. The historical and historiographical work these texts accomplish illustrates the potential of such media to construct a postmemorial archive that blurs boundaries between archive and fiction, creative works and history.
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