Journal of Romance Studies

Francocentrism and the acquisition of cultural capital

Journal of Romance Studies (2005), 5, (3), 51–63.

Abstract

The return to the colonial era in order to measure the importance of Paris as a signifier in French-African relations seems a necessary gesture. Such an approach offers the opportunity to delineate carefully the advantages of a transcolonial approach but, more importantly, to relocate the origins of immigration discourse and migratory flows according to a specific set of economic, political and social coordinates that are indissociable from a colonial, postcolonial and global geometry. Discussions of the notion of ethnic ‘blackness’ in France have tended to locate this phenomenon as a postindependence practice associated with the politics of decolonization, when in fact population flows were central to the colonial project as sub-Saharan Africans migrated to the métropole to pursue educational training, serve in the French military or enter global labour markets. The voluntary or forced displacement of African subjects has a long history that we can only begin to address by extending our analysis to a consideration of texts produced in the colonial era that enact a mediation between fiction and the evidential component of a given sociopolitical time frame. In this article, I examine the colonial origins of ‘francocentrism’ and subsequently explore the manner in which the concept is deconstructed and demystified in Bernard Dadié’s 1959 novel Un nègre à Paris in order to assess the symbiotic network of constitutive historical trajectories.

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Dadié, Bernard (1971) Climbié, trans. Karen C. Chapman (London: Heinemann). Climbié Google Scholar

Dadié, Bernard (1994) An African in Paris, trans. Karen C. Hatch (Chicago: University of Illinois Press). An African in Paris Google Scholar

Derive, Jean (1992) ‘Un nègre à Paris: contexte littéraire et idéologique’, in Bernard Dadié: hommages et études (Ivry-sur-seine: Nouvelles du Sud), 189–209. Un nègre à Paris: contexte littéraire et idéologique Bernard Dadié: hommages et études 189 209 Google Scholar

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Julien, Ch.-André (ed.) (1947) Colonies et Empires: études coloniales 1 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France). Colonies et Empires: études coloniales Google Scholar

Kane, Cheikh Hamidou (1961) L’Aventure ambiguë (Paris: Julliard). L’Aventure ambiguë Google Scholar

Kane, Cheikh Hamidou (1982) Ambiguous Adventure, trans. Katherine Woods (London: Heinemann). Ambiguous Adventure Google Scholar

Lionnet, Françoise (1995) Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press). Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity Google Scholar

Lüsebrink, Hans-Jürgen (1995) ‘Acculturation coloniale et pédagogie interculturelle – l’œuvre de Georges Hardy’, Sénégal-Forum: littérature et histoire, ed. Papa Samba Diop (Frankfurt: IKO Verlag), 113–22. Acculturation coloniale et pédagogie interculturelle – l’œuvre de Georges Hardy Sénégal-Forum: littérature et histoire 113 22 Google Scholar

Makouta-Mboukou, Jean-Pierre (1980) Introduction à l’étude du roman négro-africain de langue française: problèmes culturels et littéraires (Abidjan: Les Nouvelles Éditions Africaines). Introduction à l’étude du roman négro-africain de langue française: problèmes culturels et littéraires Google Scholar

Mbembe, Achille (2001) On the Postcolony (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press). On the Postcolony Google Scholar

Memmi, Albert (1957) Portrait du colonisé, précédé du portrait du colonisateur (Paris: Éditions Corréa). Portrait du colonisé, précédé du portrait du colonisateur Google Scholar

Memmi, Albert (1991) The Colonizer and the Colonized, trans. Howard Greenfield (Boston: Beacon Press). The Colonizer and the Colonized Google Scholar

Miller, Christopher L. (1990) Theories of Africans: Francophone African Literature and Anthropology (Chicago: Chicago University Press). Theories of Africans: Francophone African Literature and Anthropology Google Scholar

Miller, Christopher L. (1998) Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African literature and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African literature and Culture Google Scholar

Mortimer, Mildred (1990) Journeys Through the French African Novel (Portsmouth: Heinemann). Journeys Through the French African Novel Google Scholar

Mouralis, Bernard (1999) République et colonies: entre histoire et mémoire: la République française et l’Afrique (Paris: Présence Africaine). République et colonies: entre histoire et mémoire: la République française et l’Afrique Google Scholar

Mudimbe, V. Y. (1994) The Idea of Africa (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press). The Idea of Africa Google Scholar

Mudimbe-Boyi, Elisabeth (1992) ‘Travel representation and difference, or how can one be a Parisian?’, Research in African Literatures 23.3, 25–39. Travel representation and difference, or how can one be a Parisian? Research in African Literatures 23.3 25 39 Google Scholar

Oyono, Ferdinand (1956) Une vie de boy (Paris: Julliard). Une vie de boy Google Scholar

Oyono, Ferdinand (1960) Chemin d’Europe (Paris: Julliard). Chemin d’Europe Google Scholar

Oyono, Ferdinand (1966) Houseboy, trans. John Reed (London: Heinemann). Houseboy Google Scholar

Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism (New York: Pantheon). Orientalism Google Scholar

Socé, Ousmane (1937) Mirages de Paris (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Latines). Mirages de Paris Google Scholar

Terray, Emmanuel (2004) ‘Headscarf hysteria’, New Left Review 26 (March-April), 118–27. Headscarf hysteria New Left Review 26 118 27 Google Scholar

Thomas, Dominic (2003) ‘Fashion matters: La Sape and vestimentary codes in transnational contexts and urban diasporas’, Modern Language Notes 118.4, 947–73. Fashion matters: La Sape and vestimentary codes in transnational contexts and urban diasporas Modern Language Notes 118.4 947 73 Google Scholar

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Thomas, Dominic