I have chosen to focus on contemporary texts written by authors who live at the crossroads of Europe and the Maghreb. The texts that make up my study material address transnational, transcultural and even transdiasporic subjectivity in a manner that is distinct from previous bodies of work. While the authors who write these novels come out of a specific context, they speak to questions of global importance.
Transforming Family: North Africa, the Francophone Diaspora and Kinship in the 21st Century
My first book-length monograph takes up a philosophical question: what is family? I answer the question using literature as my primary source material. Through my analysis, I invigorate our attention to the roles of affect, support, obligation and individual choice in the creation of family. Specifically, I dedicate my attention to a set of novels curated for this study to center questions related to family in current social and political debates, such as those surrounding migration. In other words, I examine how our concept of what family is informs contemporary policies regulating migration and how migration allows a new understanding of family to emerge. The texts I have chosen politicize the family unit and root theories of kinship in a variety of alternate discourses. My book reveals the need to re-examine our understanding of family altogether.
The research I have conducted on this topic has led to the publication of a handful of scholarly articles. The first, “Surrogacy: Temporary Familial Bonds and the Bondage of Origins in Fouad Laroui’s Une année chez les Français“ was selected for the 2017 Mark Tessler AIMs Graduate Student Paper Prize and published in The Journal of North African Studies. A second article related to my book project, “Chosen Brotherhood in Abdellah Taïa’s Celui qui est digne d’être aimé,” is currently forthcoming with Contemporary French & Francophone Studies.
North Africa is a complex region with various ethnic groups, languages, religions, etc. and a layered history of cross-cultural connections. Recent trends in North African studies have, justifiably, pushed for research that accounts for this multiplicity and I, myself, have written about North African cultural products in a variety of languages. For example, “Feminist Theories of Development Farida Benlyazid’s Double-Bildungstory, La vida perra de Juanita Narboni (2005)” is part of a special issue dedicated to an analysis of contemporary iterations of the Bildungsroman genre. In this article, I examine feminist narratives of development as they appear in Benlyazid’s film and in the film’s novel portrayal of the city of Tangier.
A second example of my research that attends to the multiplicity of North African is currently under consideration at The Journal of the African Literature Association. “Dear Dad: Laila Lalami and the Moroccan-American Dream” will contribute to a special issue related to North African cultural products that are not in French. It takes up two of Laila Lalami’s novels to argue for the emergence of a Moroccan-American Dream that is marked by generational differences.
In addition to writing peer-reviewed articles, I also enjoy engaging a public audience in dialogue about my research interests. For example, I recently interviewed Moroccan-American author Laila Lalami for World Literature Today. The interview, titled “Cultivating Empathy and Humility: A Conversation with Laila Lalami,” appeared in print in October of 2019.
I also recently wrote “Refugee Literature in the Age of the ‘Global Migrant Crisis'” for Blog // Los Angeles Review of Books. This essay is contemplates the role of literature and the Humanities, more generally, in American discourse and rhetoric surrounding refugees and other displaced peoples.
I also occasionally publish reviews of books that I find particularly noteworthy.
- “Horrible Mothers: Representations across Francophone North America, edited by Loïc Bourdeau.” French Studies, forthcoming.
- “Contesting the Classroom: Reimagining Education in Moroccan and Algerian Literatures, by Erin Twohig.” The French Review, forthcoming.
- “Our Civilizing Mission: The Lessons of Colonial Education, by Nicholas Harrison.” The French Review, forthcoming.
- “Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France, edited by Kathryn Kleppinger and Laura Reeck.” The French Review, 92.4.
- “Osons la fraternité ! Les écrivains aux côtés des migrants. Sous la direction de Patrick Chamoiseau et Michel Le Bris.” French Studies, 73.2.
I also review novels and literature in translation:
- “The Other Americans” by Laila Lalami, in World Literature Today.
- “‘Do You Hear in the Mountains…’ by Maïssa Bey Probes the Untold Pasts of Algerian History” in Words Without Borders: The Online Magazine for International Literature.