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 (available for preorder on the University of Nebraska Press website) 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 the “About the Book” section on the press website:

One of the lasting legacies of colonialism is the assumption that families should conform to a kinship arrangement built on normative, nuclear, individuality-based models. An alternate understanding of familial aspiration is one cultivated across national borders and cultures and beyond the constraints of diasporas. This alternate understanding, which imagines a category of “trans-” families, relies on decolonial and queer intellectual thought to mobilize or transform power across borders.

In Transforming Family Jocelyn Frelier examines a selection of novels penned by francophone authors in France, Morocco, and Algeria, including Azouz Begag, Nina Bouraoui, Fouad Laroui, Leïla Sebbar, Leïla Slimani, and Abdellah Taïa. Each novel contributes a unique argument about this alternate understanding of family, questioning how family relates to race, gender, class, embodiment, and intersectionality. Arguing that trans- families are always already queer, Frelier opens up new spaces of agency for both family units and individuals who seek representation and fulfilling futures.

The novels analyzed in Transforming Family, as well as the families they depict, resist classification and delink the legacies of colonialism from contemporary modes of being. As a result, these novels create trans- identities for their protagonists and contribute to a scholarly understanding of the becoming trans- of cultural production. As international political debates related to migration, the family unit, and the “global migrant crisis” surge, Frelier destabilizes governmental criteria for the “regrouping” of families by turning to a set of definitions found in the cultural production of members of the francophone, North African diaspora.

Dismantling the Unknown: Travel and Literature in France’s DOM-TOM

Dismantling the Unknown is currently in progress. In this project, I trace the logic of uncharted territory (the “unknown”) as a justification for travel in France d’outre-merthe thirteen territories outside of continental Europe that the French government administers today. These territories remain part of France, long after the dwindling of colonial Europe and the dawn of postcolonial thought, and in spite of decades of global engagement with independence movements. The fact remains that the residual logics of colonialism underpin continued French sovereignty across France d’outre-mer, portions of which are as many as 10,000 miles from Paris. This project challenges French sovereignty in France d’outre-mer.

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 that multiplicity:

My final peer reviewed essay is a comparative analysis of French and English language texts that examine gender in diasporic contexts:

  • “Maternal Becoming in the Vietnamese Transdiaspora: Kim Thúy’s Ru (2012) and Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (2017).” Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 22.2 (2022). Forthcoming.

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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