Research

The threads that connect my various research projects include my interest in the movement of people across space, the contemporary legacies of the (former) French empire, and the continued interconnectedness between France and the francophone world. Many of my research questions are rooted in transnational theory and gender studies.

Transforming Family: Queer Kinship and Migration in Contemporary Francophone Literature

Transforming Family (forthcoming with the University of Nebraska Press in 2022) consists of six chapters that analyze queer, transnational family structures in Nina Bouraoui’s Garçon manqué (2000), Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce (2016), Leïla Sebbar’s Mon cher fils (2012), Azouz Begag’s Salam Ouessant (2012), Fouad Laroui’s Une année chez les français (2010), and Abdellah Taïa’s Celui qui est digne d’être aimé (2017).

The following is an excerpt from the manuscript’s introduction:

Family is a crucial unit of inquiry, not for what it can elucidate about individuals or society, but for the light it can shed on family. Conversations about family are about power. The assumption that all families aspire to a kinship arrangement based on normative, nuclear, individuality-based models of family is a colonizing assumption. Conversations about family are also about work and care. The affective work of care is gendered, and Western publics imagine this work as the work of women. The authors I analyze in this volume propose alternate understandings of familial aspiration that are decolonial and queer – a kind of familial aspiration that converges with transnational feminist theory and aims to dismantle a “center/periphery” binary. The texts in question in this study invite complex questions about how family relates to race, gender, class, embodiment, and intersectionality theory and illustrate the transformative power of trans- families.[1]

In Transforming Family, I contend that trans- families are always already queer. [2] Trans- families can also be strategically mobilized to queer normative families. Instead of thinking about the family as a sovereign site for the Foucauldian disciplining of individuals, the authors in this study suggest that families, themselves, have been and are continually disciplined. Specific iterations of family are legitimized and even legalized by hegemonic forces, a process which leaves non-conforming families disenfranchised. A study of family is a study of the false public versus private binary, of the discourses that give preference to particular visions of family, and of the human rights implications of asking families to conform to a particular model. This book also shows how imagining families differently opens up the possibility of new spaces of agency for both family units and individuals who see representation of their lived realities as “a matter of life or death, or at least trauma, as well as maneuvers of survival” (Provencher 48).[3]

The texts in Transforming Family, as well as the families they depict, resist classification into neat categories. Each of the novels engages the decolonial project of delinking the legacies of colonialism from contemporary modes of being.[4] The authors included here create trans- identities for their protagonists and, therefore, contribute to a scholarly understanding of the becoming trans- of cultural production. For these authors, transnationalism, transculturality, and the transdiaspora are related to the residue of the colonial era.


[1] I use the prefix trans- for several reasons: 1. to create an umbrella signifier for families that could be considered transnational, transcultural, or transdiasporic, 2. to recall that trans- is a general a prefix that could modify a variety of words; and, 3. to distinguish this prefix from trans, which is most often shorthand for transgender.

[2] The term “always already” is found in the work of Martin Heidegger. It refers to a state of being that has no identifiable beginning. “Always already” also has postcolonial resonance. In her preface to Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Gayatry Chakravorty Spivak writes: “[T]here, is then, always already a preface between the two hands holding open a book. And the ‘prefacer’ of the same or another proper names as the ‘author,’ need not apologize for ‘repeating’ the text” (xiii). Here, Ilan Kapoor describes Spivak’s work: “Spivak underlines how we cannot encounter the Third World today without carrying a lot of baggage. She joins her fellow postcolonial critic, Edward Said (1978), in maintaining that her own discipline of literary criticism is unavoidably invested in Orientalism, so that literary writing (especially on the Third World) always already means reproducing various forms of Western hegemonic power over the Third World” (628).

[3] These are the stakes Denis Provencher delimits of his concept of transfiliation, which he argues “involves the creation of filial ties through subversive and transgressive artistic and cultural productions, and the transmission of those models across genres and generations of producers and consumers, and across transnational networks of communication” (2007, 46-47).

[4] See Cultural Studies 21.2-3. This special issue includes instructive essays on decolonial thought by Walter D. Mignolo, Agustin Lao-Montes, Aníbal Quijano, and Freya Schiwy.

Together in the Unknown: Traveling Across the (Former) French Empire

Together in the Unknown is currently in progress. In this project, I trace the logic of uncharted territory as a justification for travel from French colonial expeditions to digital nomadism. I pay particular attention to the cases of contemporary overseas territories, including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion Island, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia.

Articles

My research for Transforming Family has led to the publication of a pair of scholarly articles.

North Africa is a complex region with a layered history of cross-cultural connections. Recent trends in North African studies have, justifiably, pushed for research that accounts for the multiplicity of the region. I have written two peer-reviewed articles that attend to the multiplicity of the region:

I have a variety of essays in progress or under consideration with journals in French/francophone studies, transnational studies, and gender studies. My research thrives on the synergy of exchanging ideas and I welcome opportunities to participate in conferences or get involved in collaborative projects.

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