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Reviewed by:
  • Transnational Spaces and Identities in the Francophone World
  • Leslie Barnes
Hafid Gafaïti, Patricia M. E. Lorcin, and David Troyansky , eds. Transnational Spaces and Identities in the Francophone World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. xxiv + 427 pp.

Transnational Spaces and Identities in the Francophone World, the second volume of interdisciplinary articles originating in a comparative literature symposium held at Texas Tech University in 2002, brings historians and literary scholars together to explore the interrelated questions of migration, identity, and Francophonie.

The first section, entitled "Colonialism and Immigration," situates concerns in contemporary France in relation to the twentieth-century colonial empire. Inquiry ranges from Philip Dine's analysis of the ideological construction of French Algeria to Keith David Watenpaugh's reading of the political ambiguity of collaboration in mandate Syria between 1920 and 1946 to Elisa Camiscioli's discussion of intersecting [End Page 111] organicist and assimilationist metaphors in interwar-year French immigration discourse.

The section on "Immigrant Spaces and Identities" opens with Neil MacMaster's discussion of the ways in which Maghrebian migrants reappropriated space in French and Algerian bidonvilles to recreate a "sense of internal cohesion and solidarity" (77) and the French state's attempt to destroy that order by imposing Eurocentric notions of domesticity and "normalcy" on migrant communities. Todd Shepard continues the interrogation of Algerian populations in France by documenting the plight of the harkis—Algerian collaborators with French colonial authorities—in the wake of independence and noting the series of legal maneuvers by which the French government made "refugees" out of "citizens," effectively "effacing law and harki rights" (98). The section ends with Alain Gabon's article, which situates Mathieu Kassovitz's cinematic representations of youth and multiculturalism in Métisse and La Haine in a global perspective.

In the third section the focus shifts to "Writing Algerian Identities" through the lens of gender and sexuality. Robert Aldrich's cogent discussion of Jean Sénac's political writings and tragic demise in post-independence Algeria illuminates the paradox of pied-noir support for Algerian nationalism. Trudy Agar-Mendousse reads Malika Mokeddem's novels as an example of "creative counterviolence" (188) with which the female Algerian author undermines colonial and patriarchal authority. Finally, Mary McCullough's article on Leïla Sebbar poses important questions about literary categorization and expectations placed on the "beur" author.

The articles in the fourth section provide socio-historical, literary, and philosophical interrogations of "Jewish Migrations and Identities" in France and North Africa. Sarah Sussman begins by documenting the linguistic and culinary customs of Algerian Jewish populations in France. Johann Sadock analyzes the complex and shifting perspectives of "anti-Other tendencies" (247) in post-1948 literary representations of Jews, Arabs, and French in "Oriental" Jewish Literature. Brigitte Weltman-Aron contributes the final article, which brings Memmi into dialogue with Derrida and Cixous on the persistent indeterminacy marking North African Jewish identity.

Opening the inquiry to a larger geographical field, the articles in the fifth section cover "Francophone Spaces and Identities" in the contexts [End Page 112] of Lebanon, Africa, the Caribbean, and Vietnam. Antony Johae's article explores Lebanese author Amin Maalouf's use of the traveler to express an identity as self and other, noting that for Maalouf, "every one of us has our origin in migration, and every one of us belongs to the diaspora of the world" (301). Joseph Militello's reading of the madwoman archetype in relation to the "postcolonial Third World nonwhite male authorities" (318) in Myriam Warner-Vieyra's Juletane and Mariama Bâ's Un Chant écarlante is a welcomed foray into Afro-Caribbean struggles with identity. In the last two articles, Georges Van Den Abbeele and Ali Yédes investigate the Vietnamese tradition. Van Den Abbeele, insisting on the multifaceted nature of the Vietnamese diaspora, reads contemporary Vietnamese literature in Vietnamese, English, and French as a practice where "exile and return, love and betrayal become complex faces of each other" (337). Through a close reading of the nineteenth-century Vietnamese epic, The Tale of Kiêu, Yédes locates the seeds of Vietnamese modernity not in the introduction of a French education model, as others have suggested, but in Vietnam's own literary...


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