Oral Narratives and Black Lives in Francophone Studies
Senegalese in the Diaspora: What Sociolinguistic Interviews Can Tell Us about Language, Race, Mobility, and Belonging
Maya Smith, University of Washington
Drawing on extensive interviews with people of Senegalese heritage in Paris, Rome, and New York City, this talk explores the fascinating role of language in national, transnational, postcolonial, racial, and migrant identities. Senegalese in the diaspora are notable in their capacity for movement and in their multifaceted approach to discourse, shaping their identity as they purposefully switch between languages. Through a mix of poignant, funny, reflexive, introspective, and witty stories, interviewees blur the lines between the utility and pleasure of language, allowing a more nuanced understanding of why and how Senegalese move.
“Un désordre indescriptible”: Folklore as Mask in the Congolese Nervous State
Jonathon Repinecz, George Mason University
This paper is part of a larger project about how colonial explorers, missionaries, and magistrates in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo used strategies of “folklorization”—that is, the framing of oral traditional materials as quaint, rural, and authentic—as propaganda in the service of popularizing the colony and obscuring the everyday violence of the colonial state. It will focus on the archives of Léon Guébels, a prosecutor and judge who published many folklore collections under a pseudonym, contain manuscripts written by Congolese schoolchildren in both French and African languages, sent to him by their teachers, which he overwrites in large red letters with appreciations such as “IDIOTIC,” “NOT WITTY ENOUGH,” or “CLEARLY THE INVENTION OF A SILLY CHRISTIAN GIRL.” I will examine some of the reasons he finds these tales inconvenient, framing my findings in the context of colonial racial anxieties over subversive ideologies, urbanization, “detribalization,” and open rebellion.
Thursday, September 23 • 4-6pm
French Department Library (4229 Dwinelle)