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Reviewed by:
  • Francophone Cultures and Geographies of Identity ed. by H. Adlai Murdoch and Zsuzsanna Fagyal
  • Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François
Francophone Cultures and Geographies of Identity. Edited by H. Adlai Murdoch and Zsuzsanna Fagyal. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. xvi + 393 pp.

Despite the acknowledged fact that French and francophone studies engage with a wide range of subjects, it is still traditionally believed that French language and, somehow, French (colonial) history are what bind together francophone cultures and geographies. Indeed, the mainstream universalist French approach has long refused to engage with the fragmentation of Frenchness, as well as with the multiplicity of identities that characterize francophone regions, nations, and cultures. Imperial dynamics — subtending the conceptualization of diverse francophone geographies and cultural productions as converging towards a unique French centre — were therefore ignored. From postcolonial and comparative perspectives this collection of articles, edited by H. Adlai Murdoch and Zsuzanna Fagyal, exposes this situation and challenges French-centred definitions of francophonie. Rather than approaching the diversity of francophone contexts in ways that confirm the unifying nature of French language and nation, it argues that the ‘main performative sites for francophonie’ (p. 2) are outside France. Exploring the interrelated and transnational features of these sites, the book’s main argument thus underlines the rhizomatic possibilities of relating francophone expressive cultures. The latter are not defined as mere derivatives of French counterparts, but as productions of specific contexts, histories, and conditions that are yet to be compared. Engaging with what [End Page 274] Kamal Salhi calls ‘reconstructive fragmentation, both geographical and ideological-cultural in nature’ (p. xi), the book’s five parts unveil silenced or new patterns of cultural expression through the re-appropriation of concepts related to cultural theory, geography, and identity. In ‘Hybrid Spaces, Hybrid Identities’, Françoise Lionnet, Roxanna Curto, and Evelyne Leffondre-Matthews challenge the way we conceive of francophone geographies in a French-centred imaginary, and engage with alternative definitions of world literature. In ‘Performing Francophonie: Text, Music, and the Arts’, Brian McLoughlin, Alison Rice, Chong J. Bretillon, and Siobhán Shilton explore the fluid and cross-cultural identities expressed in literature and performing arts from diverse francophone contexts. In ‘Francophone African Identities between Novelty and Tradition’, Yasser Elhariry, Jeanne Garane, Awa Sarr, Jim House, and John Nimis question the boundaries traditionally imposed on African contexts in francophone studies. In ‘Écriture, féminité, créolité’, Robert Miller, Véronique Maisier, Gloria Nne Onyeoziri, and Luc Fotsing Fondjo explore, from a gendered perspective, emerging cultural and social changes expressed in works of female writers. Finally, in ‘Postcolonial Francophonie’, Thomas A. Hale, Salhi, Servanne Woodward, Lia Brozgal, and Dominique Combe ultimately conclude with a discussion of francophonie as concept, re-evaluating its evolution, paradoxes, and challenges. ‘[Bringing] together insights and methods taken from cultural studies, colonial history, language policy, literary criticism and theory, film studies, music, the visual arts, and discourse analysis’ (p. 7), the contributors engage in a paradigm shift that redirects the focus from the vertical link to France to more horizontal forms of interrelation between francophone regions. Their articles thus ingeniously reveal the ongoing discussions surrounding the heterogeneity of francophone studies, which blur the boundaries between fields, genres, and the so-called elite and popular cultures.

Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François
Pennsylvania State University


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pp. 274-275
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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