Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France - In Conversation with Kathryn A. Kleppinger and Laura Reeck

Posted on November 13, 2018 by Heather Gallagher

The most recent addition to the Francophone Postcolonial Studies series Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France is now available! We caught up with editors Kathryn A. Kleppinger and Laura Reeck to discuss their recent publication.

Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France

What prompted the volume?

Given the span of time – twenty years – and important demographic changes in France, our original idea was to provide an update to Alec Hargreaves’s and Mark McKinney’s very important volume, Post-Colonial Cultures in France (1997).  Their volume transposed postcoloniality, which had primarily been used as a critical lens to study France’s former colonies, to metropolitan France and looked specifically at the case of post-colonial minorities for whom France became a contact zone.  But these postcolonial minorities were not necessarily French citizens.  Our volume, for which Hargreaves and McKinney have written the Afterword, focuses on activists, artists, and cultural producers who are French citizens and who have lived in France for all their lives (or virtually so).  Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France explores this proximity with the attendant opportunities and challenges that it brings for people who are too often marginalized or at once highly visible and invisible.  We suggest that the post-migratory is an important conceptual category that stands to help rearticulate and update relationships between the local and global, national and transnational, all the while holding postcoloniality as relevant.  Also, part of our motivation stemmed from our sense that it was time to cross over resolutely to the 21st century and hone in on 21st century cultural production, which is exclusively featured in the volume.  All too often, the most contemporary cultural production gets treated insufficiently in edited volumes.  We wanted to ensure that Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France was timely and spoke to the current social and cultural moment in France, and all the contributors harnessed this perspective.

 

Can you summarise some of the common themes and findings in the diversity of topics covered in the volume?

 Although the volume explores many cultural forms -- literature, rap, hip hop dance, visual art, bandes déssinées, film, new media -- there is a cohesiveness and consensus that emerges.  Examining such topics as institutions/institutional memory, laïcité, Blackness, and Islamophobia, the volume explores vacuums created by French republicanism and faux colorblindness, and advocates for an adjustment to indifference to social differences.  It seems as though the artistic and cultural forms that best account for this adjustment themselves collapse boundaries and differentials – for example, rapper-writers, or El Seed’s street art as it grows onto institutional walls.  Filling in the void of silence and activating post-memory also recur across the volume, whether in the case of the children of harkis or second-generation Vietnamese French, both cases in which trauma resulting from war and displacement figures prominently.  Another interesting consideration is the level of access to various stages.  The volume suggests there is unequal opportunity and access depending on the stage in question: while the dance, music, and street art stages seem somewhat favorable and open, the literary and mediatic establishments’ gates remain largely shut to post-migratory postcolonial minorities.  Meanwhile, these artists and cultural producers have appropriated their own spaces (whether on Twitter or on the walls of buildings) and are demonstrating that they, too, deserve to be recognized as innovators: they produce works with their own distinctive voices and refuse to relegate their art to the margins of French high culture. By revealing the social and political nature of canonization and consecration in France, they make us more aware of our own expectations and blindspots when we “consume culture.”

 

How do you think this book will pave the way for further research into cultural production in relation to new social identities?

 We are excited to contribute to this conversation! Each of the fields of study presented here (media, film, literature, visual arts, dance, etc) merits attention in its own right, so we hope to see new monographs in these areas as well as additional collections that seek to synthesize new material as we have done here. While we chose to focus on how these artists and cultural producers reconsider Frenchness and their place in French society, further research could look at the ways in which contemporary post-migratory producers engage with concepts such as neoliberal economic policies and the future of Europe in a transnational world. Each of these themes requires sensitivity to the relationship between the local and the global and the role of historical events and precedents in the contemporary era, which are tensions we address in our volume. We also think the volume points toward the importance of intersectionality in new social identities in France, an area of research that is key and imminent in our view. We hope our vocabulary, centered around the concept of the post-migratory, provides researchers with a theoretically useful foundation upon which to build future investigations.

For more information on Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France please visit our website.
 
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Women in Translation Month

Posted on August 15, 2018 by Heather Gallagher
August marks Women in Translation month, the time to celebrate and read works in translation by women authors. Liverpool University Press supports Women in Translation all year round, publishing important works by both female authors and female translators.
 
Next month sees the publication of the second edition of Montserrat Lunati’s Rainy Days, a collection of short stories by contemporary Spanish women writers translated into English. This volume re-edits and expands the previous edition and features a critical introduction, notes, and bio-bibliographical information on each author, making it a useful tool for students of the Spanish language and culture at all levels.
Rainy Days / Dias de Lluvia cover image
In January we published Valerie Hegstrom and Catherine Larson's edition of El muerto disimulado/Presumed Dead by Ângela de Azevedo. This is the first English translation of the comedy and features a comprehensive introduction that describes Spanish theatre in its Golden Age, what is known of the author’s life and times, contemporary stagings, and an extensive analysis of the text.
 El muerto disimulado / Presumed Dead cover image
Both of these volumes appear in our Aris & Phillips Hispanic Classics series which publishes modern editions of Classic Hispanic texts, with substantial introductions and commentaries as well as the original text with facing-page English translation. We are currently accepting book proposals of such translations.

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Guyane, Frenchness and Macron’s mistake

Posted on August 01, 2018 by Heather Gallagher

To celebrate the release of Locating Guyane, we caught up with editors Sarah Wood and Catriona MacLeod to discuss how changing perspectives of Guyane are reconceptualising its association with 'Frenchness'. 

 

 

Locating Guyane explores geographical, literary and cultural ‘locations’ of Guyane, past and present. What did you find by examining Guyane from multiple perspectives?

Guyane is in some senses marginal to France, to Europe, to Latin America and to the Caribbean region, and consequently, it is usually overlooked, whether in the media, in political and economic life or in scholarship. This belies how its being part of all of these places actually makes it an incredibly interesting place.

Before describing our conclusions, we’d first point to the broader contemporary relevance of our endeavour to ‘locate’ Guyane. The intention was always to confront stereotypes, clichés and misunderstandings of the place, and to redress the general ignorance in which it is often held due to a lack of political and media attention in ‘metropolitan’ France and beyond. More often than not, Guyane is treated as a perennial afterthought in French imagination and indeed in political life. Anecdotally speaking, we have found that if one hears reference to Guyane at all in the ‘Hexagon’, it is often to wonder why ‘the French’ (usually cast as ‘us’) continue to ‘subsidize’ Guyane (usually cast as ‘them’). We found that, by offering a deeper, historically and culturally informed perspective on Guyanais relationships both with France and with its regional neighbours, we were able to both understand, to an extent, where such stereotypes have come from, and then to reframe the discourse in such a way as to allow for greater complexity.  The pertinence of this approach became very clear when in 2017 after we had written and compiled the book, there were large protests and strikes in Guyane followed by an ‘emergency plan’ announced by the French government for 3 billion euros’ worth of investment in its infrastructure.

By examining Guyane from multiple perspectives this book shows how much the region has changed and is continuing to change, reconceptualizing the boundaries of ‘Frenchness’ with it. Contrary to the popular understanding of the region as a stagnant and even ‘backwards’ place, we make clear how it is, in fact, a particularly dynamic place, and one that is in constant flux.

Second, we’d indicate the originality of the book and the scholarly contribution that it makes. In the process of putting it together, we realized that although an increasing amount of rich scholarly work is addressing this French South American region, it is often done in disparate departments, disciplines and languages and that researchers are not always in dialogue with one another. We found that by asking historians, literary scholars, anthropologists, linguists and sociologists to explore the question of Guyane's conceptual location, these could be put in dialogue to draw out quite cohesive thematic insights. Hence the three thematic sections of the book which address, respectively, Guyane’s place in literary imagination, imperialism and the production of place, and the complex, contemporary positionings of language, art and identity.

Finally, we were able to bring to light more specific points of conjunction between scholarly approaches to Guyane which may indicate fruitful avenues for future research. For instance, although they address quite different historical circumstances, Silvia Espelt Bombín's historical emphasis on Amerindian agency aligns with Antonia Cristinoi and François Nemo's contemporary sociolinguistic perspective on the Palikur, whilst for both Kathleen Gyssels and Bill Marshall, theoretical ‘queering’ proved to be a particularly illuminating lens through which to view Guyanais literary and cultural relationships.

Could you explain a little about the perceived location of Guyane and how this has changed in literary and cultural tradition?

Several contributors to the book trace the 19th and early-20th-century locations of Guyane in French imagination, where it was commonly understood as a 'green hell’, but in often vague and changing geographical terms. Kari Evanson's piece on ‘grands reportages’ contributes to our understanding of why Guyane is still synonymous, even today, with the bagne (the notorious penal colony which inspired Papillon but which closed shortly after the Second World War). Jonna Yarrington, addressing economic history, argues that the colony was valued for different things at different times: accessible enough initially to be valued for its potential as a cane sugar colony, but later valued for its geographical distance from the Metropole when the penal colony was proposed.

As the book progresses, we move from historicizing the association of Guyane with marginality and ignorance towards exploring specific transnational interactions which occur within and at the edges of Guyane, emphasizing the historical, contemporary and conceptual importance of borders and crossing-points. The increasing importance of Maroon communities and the growth of eastern Guyane, for instance, is made clear in chapters by Richard Price, Edenz Maurice and Sally Price. A chapter by Sarah Wood, meanwhile, addresses how changing commemorations of the Second World War hero Félix Éboué attest to reinforced political and economic links between Paris and Cayenne whilst at the same time, Guyane’s on-the-ground social and cultural diversity exposes the contrivance of this formal connection. This diversity is in turn addressed by Catriona MacLeod, who examines the performance of identities during Guyane’s carnival, and what we can learn about Guyanais cultures by looking at ways in which this ‘tradition’ has changed over time.

 

Prior to the 2017 French elections, Emmanuel Macron accidentally referred to Guyane as an ‘island’, apparently betraying a lack of knowledge of its actual geographical ‘location’. What was the effect of this?

First, the fact that anybody outside of Guyane even noticed Macron’s verbal slip-up is quite interesting. Some years ago, few people batted an eyelid when Christiane Taubira (the deputy for Guyane who became Minister for Justice during Francois Hollande’s presidency) was several times referred to - certainly in UK newspapers and on news websites - as being from 'French Guinea'. That Macron’s gaffe was picked up on by social media users is in itself perhaps indicative of an increased awareness of and interest in this part of the world on the part of those external to it, as well as demonstrating the (often-unreciprocated) engagement of many Guyanais in French national affairs, in this case via social media.

As for the effect of Macron’s mistake: it was understood in Guyane as an indicator of the lack of knowledge – and perhaps the lack of legitimacy – had by national politicians when talking about the place. This was compounded by the rather awkward way in which Macron and his team tried to save face by claiming that he had not made a mistake but had been talking about the ‘Ile de Cayenne’ (as though it was a term frequently used as ‘l’Ile de France’ is, or as though it constitutes an actual island).

The Parisian media, finally, although they rushed to report on the story, have often been no less culpable of ignorance than politicians: TF1, for instance, has been known to use a map of the Republic of Guyana when referring to French Guyane. (http://www.franceguyane.mobi/actualite/politique/pourquoi-tf1-confond-aussi-souvent-la-guyane-et-le-guyana-270931.php.)

How far do you think this collection outlines possible future directions for and challenges to the conceptual location of Guyane?

What we think we've managed to do well is to demonstrate the richness of Guyane as a field of enquiry in its own right, as well as the important but overlooked roles that it plays as part of modern Latin America, Amazonia and France.

As we’ve noted in our conclusion to the book, Guyane is entering into some interesting new phases of existence. This is true firstly in terms of its relation to other territories: the bridge over the river Oyapock between France and Brazil has recently been opened, for example, and this looks set to impact upon Guyane itself, its regional role in South America and on the conception of Guyane as ‘France’. Secondly, it seems that some Guyanais are increasingly keen to promote or defend its specific identity. There is a campaign, for instance, to have Guyane’s carnival recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s ‘intangible heritage’, whilst the University of Guyane recently declared its ‘independence’ from the University of the Antilles. Even more recently, the sociologist Isabelle Hidair argued convincingly (see https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2017/03/30/la-guyane-sous-tension_5103341_3232.html) that political protest and engagement arising in 2017 in response to insecurity and inequality suggested that people from across Guyane’s many communities were acting collectively for the first time to stake claims on behalf of their territory. We hope that the work presented in our book on the historical and current existences of Guyane will facilitate study into these interesting changes.

 

 

Dr Catriona MacLeod is Lecturer in French Studies at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). Dr Sarah Wood is Visiting Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Connecticut.


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Federico García Lorca, his life and selected Suites. Five minutes with Roberta Ann Quance

Posted on June 04, 2018 by Heather Gallagher

To celebrate the release of Federico García Lorca, Selected Suites, translator Roberta Ann Quance discusses Lorca's youth, early works and the various versions of the Suites.

 

 

 

 

The suites are a body of work of over 200 poems that Lorca wrote between 1920 and 1923. To understand exactly where they come from we need to go back to Lorca’s first years in Madrid. As a young poet from Granada on his own for the first time in the city, Lorca had the support of a master in poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. But he was also drawn to Madrid’s cafés, where the conversation among young writers and artists turned to the avant-garde. Convinced that his Book of Poems (1921) did not really represent him, Lorca soaked up new influences. He responded almost immediately to a new intellectual interest in folksong and ‘primitive’ poetry.  But he was also challenged to create a new kind of lyric that privileged the visual image and avoided telling stories about the self. He had to “make himself over”, he told his family.  By 1921 he thought he had found his way. He reported that he was writing suites: poetic sequences, series of lyrical fragments grouped loosely around a single theme, by analogy, no doubt, with what his favourite musical composers had done. Some suites tended toward a broken or interrupted narrative with an I as a tentative protagonist—a hero feeling his way--, while others came closer to the ideal of haiku. They were brief poems that captured moments of experience without an I coming between author and reader. 

Lorca sometimes felt exhilarated as he charted his own path between the old school and the new--‘this is my best work yet!’, he said--, but his correspondence also shows that he was anguished over the prospect of publishing. His attempts to bring out a collection of suites fell through. By 1926 he thought of releasing three interrelated works as a set to counter the idea that he was an oral poet. But friends advised him to space his works out.  He eventually published Songs (1927) and Poem of the Deep Song (1931), holding back on the suites. But by 1936 he would refer to the suites –wistfully, defensively? --as a book of old themes that he had worked on lovingly.

What would a book of suites have looked like? Lorca’s unforgiving eye, coupled with his fear of putting too much of himself on display --of betraying any hint that he was gay-- could be what made him hang back from publication. Christopher Maurer (2002) reckons that no definitive version of the suites can be reconstructed, while Melissa Dinverno (2004) argues that one can only speak of different versions at different points in time.

If we look at the suites as a collection we can see that all throughout there are recurrent images, or codes, suggesting different points of entry for the reader.  The theme of mirrors and reflections is everywhere, as Candelas Gala (2011) has noted. So is the idea of poetry as another world, a blue world, where the poet might live according to different rules for romance and sexuality.  (We see this in the early suite Blue River.) An important strand has to do with the idea of seeds and flowers.  Behind the looking glass what did not blossom in the real world might materialize, and so spectral lovers are called up as if to hear each other out.  Almost as significant as the idea of seeds is the key word of ‘paths’ to take in life. There are so many of these that they can form a ‘rose’ around the poetic hero’s feet (“El Jardín”, In the Garden of Lunar Grapefruits).   This imagery offsets a mise-en-scène that does not allow the poet to deviate from the path where an encounter with the female other is looming (In the Forest of Clocks) or where going back to the plenitude of beginnings is impossible (The Return). The suites are where Lorca first sets the stage, almost as a director might do, for much of his later lyric as well as his drama, insofar as the latter turns on the question of desire and its ‘proper’ channels. But, distinctively, in the suites, where the last line in the last poem is a plea for silence about what the hero has found out about himself on his nighttime journey, there is a code of secrecy that has almost been whisked away from Songs or Poem of the Deep Song

In an excerpt from Moments of Song I see an allegory about the poet as he looks into the mirror of his text:

 

What's real

is the reflection.

Nothing here but one heart

and one wind.

Don't cry! It's all the same

to be up close or

far away.

Nature is

the eternal Narcissus. 

 

Although it is hard to say where exactly Lorca heard the main idea here (attributed to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus’s lapidary phrase, ‘As above, so below’), it is a fact that as a young man he dabbled in theosophy and the occult (certain books in his library suggest this). The poet consoles himself – a ‘Saint Sebastian’ of love--with a view of the universe that sees mirroring everywhere, between what lies above and what is on earth, what is inside ourselves and what is without.

The poetic subject of the suites has a very particular reason to find comfort in the idea that the real and the reflection are interchangeable.  In context, he is offering counsel to his heart. ‘You cannot reach the object of your desire, no matter whether you are near to it or far. It is as if you were seeking it in a mirror.’ After that there remains only to say,’ Seek inside the looking glass (as   his narrator will do in In the Garden of the Lunar Grapefruits).  

The suites will lead the reader to the point in Lorca’s career, where literature (coded as the unreal) is to compensate for the losses and the frustration of the real heart that Lorca has evoked elsewhere as it ‘sails over / the girls at the fair’ (‘Cry”, Fairs).  

 

RAQ

 

Roberta Quance was awarded a PhD in Spanish in 1982 from Cornell University. She has written for both scholarly and general audiences in Europe and the United States. She has lectured at the University of Utrecht, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Queen’s University Belfast and currently resides in Madrid.


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