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  • The “I” in the Deconstruction of Frontiers through Memory:Postcolonial Diasporas
  • Benaouda Lebdai

Human beings have always migrated either willingly or by force to conquer new worlds for sociological, economical or political reasons. This paper will focus on migratory flows from South to North in relation to the question of the deconstruction of frontiers and the role played by memory in African and Indian migrant novelists’ writings which reflect colonial and postcolonial ideologies. Interestingly, these literatures have had an undeniable psychological, cultural and political impact on entire populations, insofar as the long “colonial night,” as qualified by Ferhat Abbas, has generated among colonisers and colonised reciprocal perceptions expressed through such writings, which have become a significant part of postcolonial literature. The colonial and postcolonial historical process is expressed through literature, giving migrants the possibility of telling their side of the story. It is from such a perspective that this paper will analyse the various migratory themes in order to show how migrant writers from the colonies and ex-colonies succeeded in imposing their interpretation and their vision of a deconstructed world. This imposition is often undertaken through the recollection of their childhood and family memories, real or imagined, creating in this way new geographical world maps. At the heart of this essay lies an analysis concerning how migrant writers have constructed links between their land of exile, Western countries, and their various mother countries. These literary constructions succeeded in breaking up frontiers, thus mapping our postcolonial global world. [End Page 57]

Whatever the motivations behind early European migratory flows, the fact is that colonial history is a story of migrations, first North/South, then South/North. Jacques Lacarrière defines migrations as being often “forced civil travels” undertaken by “the exiled, the displaced and the deported” (105-06).

The colonial fact had an impressive impact on the movement of people throughout the world, as Homi Bhabha argues: “the demography of the new internationalism is the history of postcolonial migration, the narratives of cultural and political diaspora” (6-7).

The South/North migrations started with the tragedy of the slave trade, a displacement of millions of men and women from Africa to Europe and the Americas. The second major migratory flow took place in the 20th century when France and England enrolled Africans and Indians to fight for them during the World Wars.1 In the 1950s, British and French colonial governments encouraged another type of South/North migration, as they needed manual workers for the reconstruction of a devastated Western Europe. A decade later, decolonisation started with a political paradox: the independence of colonised countries did not stop the migration of Africans or Asians who left their newly independent countries towards Europe for economic or political reasons. The new African states were repressive and the oligarchies in place were selfish and greedy. The freed wealth was not shared and corrupt and despotic leaders refused any criticism from intellectuals and protesters. Such a tragic beginning was denounced by novelists such as Ayi Kwei Armah from Ghana, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka from Nigeria, Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya, or Rachid Boudjedra and Rachid Mimouni from Algeria. In terms of migratory flows, a relative stability was reached by the end of the 20th century. Nevertheless, at the dawn of the 21st century, a new type of migratory flow developed with young Africans and Asians who started to cross the deserts and the seas to reach Gibraltar or Lampedusa,2 with the hope of a better life in Europe. These new desperate economic migrants were joined by political and war migrants asking for political asylum. These postmodern migrants, described as refugees, are referred to as “Harragas,” which means “those who burn the frontiers,” a term coined by the Algerian Boualem Sansal, who used it as a title for one of his novels. Indeed, the tragic lives of such a migration inspired postcolonial novelists such as Malika Mokeddem, Boualem Sansal, Fatou Diome or Calixthe Beyala, who were concerned by such a phenomenon. They felt the need to tell such dramatic stories over the frontiers. The necessity to write about these postmodern life experiences is at the origin of a significant postcolonial migrant literary...


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