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F I V E Afro-Parisianism and African Feminisms I thought I’d found another way of making a bridge between here-andthere , between my two othernesses, my double unbelonging. Salman Rushdie1 As I embark upon this chapter, in which I propose to deal with complex feminist issues in writings by selected African women, but more specifically with the controversial issue of female excision, I am further reminded of the importance of Adrienne Rich’s 1984 essay “Notes toward a Politics of Location.”2 As a European critic working in the United States, I have always been acutely aware of my so-called “location” and have never allowed myself—or, for that matter, been allowed—to take it for granted. I addressed this issue in the introduction to my book Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa: “it is my sincere hope that the book’s commitment to incorporate a more inclusive range of narratives through the treatment of a multiplicity of voices will yield a more accurate version of the history of decolonization, which even if ventriloquized through the words of a European scholar will nevertheless constitute a step in the right direction.”3 The focus shifts in the next chapter to the phenomenon of La sape; this provides us with the occasion to explore a different facet of gender given its masculinist quality. However, as we shall see, both the underexplored homosocial and homoerotic components of the practice and the broader sociocultural context of shifting colonial and postcolonial gender relations provide the opportunity to reconsider its (counter-)hegemonic dimension while also further underscoring what we have to learn from examining multiple aspects of gender relations in the African and diasporic context, and accordingly in the bilateral flows of external and internal critiques that are, as Obioma Nnaemeka and Joy Ngozi Ezeilo have argued,“complex and rife with obstacles.”4 In this chapter, though, my argument has less to do with one’s positionality with regard to excision—I for one am opposed to all forms of oppression and both embrace and insist upon, in my teaching and scholarly practices, the importance of an ethical humanities. External demands requiring one to situate oneself in one of the various “camps”—universalist , relativist, oppositionalist—to my mind oversimplify and obfuscate the problematic components of an ethnocentrist history and the responses it has generated. Instead, what I am endeavoring to do here is to document and analyze the emergence of what I consider to be both valid and important testimonial narratives by African women who have experienced discrimination both in Africa and in the French Diaspora, while also highlighting another dimension of the disturbing practice I discussed in the previous chapter, namely the fostering of “sensationalist” discourse by the French authorities in the service of a recuperative culturalist agenda that further relegates African immigrants to the margins of French society. These texts share numerous points of commonality with those explored by Alec G. Hargreaves in his essay “Testimony, Co-authorship, and Dispossession among the Maghrebi Minority in France,” in which he demonstrates how the textual coauthorship of several recent Maghrebi texts has served to reascribe a paternalistic role to France while simultaneously “reaffirming their unassimilability,” as exemplified in such titles as Mariée de force (A Forced Bride), La Fatiha: Née en France, mariée de force en Alg érie (Promised: Born in France, Married by Force in Algeria), Dans l’enfer des tournantes (Inside the Hell of Gang Rape), and Brûlée vive (Burnt Alive).5 Some scholars have adopted the label “Francophone Studies” in order to designate the study of those literatures and cultures outside of France or within France’s postcolonial communities that share French-language usage, and this designation has been practical in rethinking French Studies and fostering interdisciplinarity. The adversarial component of the term concerns the role of France itself in this category, since many have argued that Francophonie itself, as a governmental and institutional phenomenon , transfers and relocates France’s colonial centrality in the era of decolonization and postcoloniality. Acknowledging the polemics of this debate and in turn expressing my own positionality alongside those who have questioned Francophonie’s hegemonic potential, I want to take the opportunity to return and consider how globalization is not exclusively “homogenizing/hegemonic” or “heterogenetic/interpenetrating,” but rather a process in which individuals and groups are “transformed by diasporas and intercommunication.”6 Indeed, as the editor of a recent special issue of Afrique contemporaine on...


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