Francophone Culture and the Postcolonial Fascination with Ethnic Crimes and Colonial Aura

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This study examines the frequently overlooked problem of how colonial-era memories often become haunting, obsessive points of reference for contemporary culture. Examining the widespread use of haunting as a theoretical mode of recovery of occulted colonial history as part of its larger study of colonial memories circulating between France and the Maghreb, this book demonstrates the postcolonial imperative of moving beyond the categories of victim and torturer that frequently characterize the recovery of colonial history. The work demonstrates how in both postcolonial France and the Maghreb cultural identity and memory are structured in large part through a dialogue with colonial history that impedes a confrontation with contemporary issues important to the present and future of those geographical territories. Through a study of how popular postcolonial figures such as Zinedine Zidane, Assia Djebar, Lei1a Sebbar, Azouz Begag, and Tahar Ben Jelloun point to the necessity of transgressing the mutually shared history of colonial defeat, victimization, and culpabilty uniting France and the Maghreb, this work suggests the emergence of a nuaced form of postcolonial memory. The necessity of reconsidering the unique place that colonial history holds in these cultures as a mythical and haunting point of identification is borne out through analyses of how these postcolonial subjects confront contemporary and potential future forms of cultural identity. The work contributes a unique perspective to postcolonial studies in that it demonstrates how the colonial era continues to structure cultural memory. In this regard, this work offers a fresh perspective to debates on revisionist history and demonstrates how formerly colonized subjects and their children contribute actively to dialogue on the relevance of the colonial past in contemporary contexts where postcolonial identity is being forged.


“This work represents a comprehensive and cohesive collection of scholarly chapters owing to the breadth and depth of knowledge regarding not only colonial and postcolonial vestiges and on-going relations between France and the Maghreb, but rather all aspects of the Francophone world, as well as mainstream, French contemporary literary studies and theory and the "New Europe." Furthermore, this work is an important and refreshing contribution to the field of postcolonial Francophone studies as they relate to contemporary French society and popular culture. Readers will be equally impressed by the cogency and perspicacity of the author's many insightful observations and arguments which will be of great interest to both specialists of French and Francophone cultural and literary studies. The reader will quickly and acutely become aware that this work was written by a top-notch researcher and communicator who knows how to adeptly get his point across both clearly and effectively. The author is equally adept at drawing upon and incorporating into his research a body of critical and theoretical works to make his arguments that much more convincing and well grounded. As this study shows, the author has an excellent grasp of the crucial, cultural, historical, socio-political and literary themes and issues confronting both French and Francophone studies with respect to postcolonial discourse affecting cultural memories of the colonizer/colonized in both space and time. To the author's credit, this study poses some crucial questions and offers some possible, new theoretical and practical avenues to explore or investigate with regard to the dialectic of the Other, such as how the colonized can come to grasp with and fully define his or her own individual identity through the distorted mirror or prism of the collective and necessarily painful colonial experience. The author develops a comprehensive, theoretical framework to better grasp the complexities and problematics, the historical and cultural underpinnings, associated with the notion of occulted memories and, more importantly, the evolutive process or mechanism of forging identities … Possibly one of the most important contributions this book makes is its lucid and illuminating discussion of the pervasive use of haunting as a theoretical metaphor. Examining the works of major theorists of the postcolonial such as Homi Bhabha, Ian Chambers, Anne McClintock, and Robert Young, Michael O'Riley points to how these theorists' work can be read as a haunting identification with French colonial history. This unique interpretation of Anglophone postcolonial theory provides a highly original and important contribution to Francophone postcolonial studies, but it also demonstrates how theories of postcolonial intervention are frequently formulated through the idea of an affective, haunting colonial aura … Michael O'Riley's identification of the role that French colonial history places within these dynamics of postcolonial theory is significant and will be of great interest to scholars of the postcolonial.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Jean-Luc Desalvo, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies, San Jose State University and author of Le tapas du mundus inversus dans l'oeuvre d'Antonine Maillet (San Francisco: International Scholars Publications, 1999), and of numerous articles on Francophone literature.

“This work offers powerful and insightful readings of recent Franco-Maghrebian literary production in French. Narratives associated with figures such as Assia Djebar, Zinedine Zidane, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Sylvie Germain, Leïla Sebbar and Azouz Begag constitute the corpus chosen by the author to unravel the blurred nuances of national identity in the postcolonial period. O’Riley remarks that a fascination with colonial history shapes cultural memory in such a way that postcolonial interpretations of this lived experience keep them in a dangerous time warp, dangerous because they risk promoting a repetition of errors of the past. The author reveals the lingering ghosts of France’s historical colonial deeds and misdeeds that inexorably inhabit postcolonial texts while proposing a forward looking “retrospective gaze” that could “approach … (postcolonial) relations from the perspective of the present”. Drawing mainly upon Pierre Nora’s lieux de mémoire to distinguish between symbolic sites of commemoration and colonial history, O’Riley leads his readers towards the discovery of “a dynamic form of postcolonial memory capable of confronting the contemporary period without a sense of culpability or victimization”. The author effectively pulls together the common narrative threads pointing towards fossilized cultural memories that pervade the interpretations of the colonial experience and hinder the development of a less traumatic, forward looking, postcolonial identity. This seminal work identifies in these postcolonial Franco-Maghrebian narratives, the carving of a way to embody autrement the ghosts of past and present, so that it can lead to healthier transnational relationships, where the memories of a painful past can no longer be fodder for further oppression.” – Dr. Eva Tsuquiashi-Daddesio, Professor of French and Spanish, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Introduction: Haunting and Colonial Lieux de Memoire
1. Colonial Traces, Native Informants, and the New Europe in the Silent Images of Zinedine Zidane and Sylvie Germain's Opera Muet
2. Overlapping Memories of Imperialism: Postcolonial Community and the Legacies of World War II and the Algerian War in Tahar Ben Jelloun'sLes Raisins de la galere and Leila Sebbar's La Seine etait rouge
3. Postcolonial Haunting in Assia Djebar's Les Nuits de Strasbourg and La Femme sans sepulture
4. Beyond Franco-Algerian Colonial History: The Place of Colonial-Era Orientalism and Victimization in the Work of Azouz Begag and Leila Sebbar
Works Cited

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