The most recent addition to the Francophone Postcolonial Studies series Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France is now available! We caught up with editors Kathryn A. Kleppinger and Laura Reeck to discuss their recent publication.
What prompted the volume?
Given the span of time – twenty years – and important demographic changes in France, our original idea was to provide an update to Alec Hargreaves’s and Mark McKinney’s very important volume, Post-Colonial Cultures in France (1997). Their volume transposed postcoloniality, which had primarily been used as a critical lens to study France’s former colonies, to metropolitan France and looked specifically at the case of post-colonial minorities for whom France became a contact zone. But these postcolonial minorities were not necessarily French citizens. Our volume, for which Hargreaves and McKinney have written the Afterword, focuses on activists, artists, and cultural producers who are French citizens and who have lived in France for all their lives (or virtually so). Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France explores this proximity with the attendant opportunities and challenges that it brings for people who are too often marginalized or at once highly visible and invisible. We suggest that the post-migratory is an important conceptual category that stands to help rearticulate and update relationships between the local and global, national and transnational, all the while holding postcoloniality as relevant. Also, part of our motivation stemmed from our sense that it was time to cross over resolutely to the 21st century and hone in on 21st century cultural production, which is exclusively featured in the volume. All too often, the most contemporary cultural production gets treated insufficiently in edited volumes. We wanted to ensure that Post-Migratory Cultures in Postcolonial France was timely and spoke to the current social and cultural moment in France, and all the contributors harnessed this perspective.
Can you summarise some of the common themes and findings in the diversity of topics covered in the volume?
Although the volume explores many cultural forms — literature, rap, hip hop dance, visual art, bandes déssinées, film, new media — there is a cohesiveness and consensus that emerges. Examining such topics as institutions/institutional memory, laïcité, Blackness, and Islamophobia, the volume explores vacuums created by French republicanism and faux colorblindness, and advocates for an adjustment to indifference to social differences. It seems as though the artistic and cultural forms that best account for this adjustment themselves collapse boundaries and differentials – for example, rapper-writers, or El Seed’s street art as it grows onto institutional walls. Filling in the void of silence and activating post-memory also recur across the volume, whether in the case of the children of harkis or second-generation Vietnamese French, both cases in which trauma resulting from war and displacement figures prominently. Another interesting consideration is the level of access to various stages. The volume suggests there is unequal opportunity and access depending on the stage in question: while the dance, music, and street art stages seem somewhat favorable and open, the literary and mediatic establishments’ gates remain largely shut to post-migratory postcolonial minorities. Meanwhile, these artists and cultural producers have appropriated their own spaces (whether on Twitter or on the walls of buildings) and are demonstrating that they, too, deserve to be recognized as innovators: they produce works with their own distinctive voices and refuse to relegate their art to the margins of French high culture. By revealing the social and political nature of canonization and consecration in France, they make us more aware of our own expectations and blindspots when we “consume culture.”
How do you think this book will pave the way for further research into cultural production in relation to new social identities?
We are excited to contribute to this conversation! Each of the fields of study presented here (media, film, literature, visual arts, dance, etc) merits attention in its own right, so we hope to see new monographs in these areas as well as additional collections that seek to synthesize new material as we have done here. While we chose to focus on how these artists and cultural producers reconsider Frenchness and their place in French society, further research could look at the ways in which contemporary post-migratory producers engage with concepts such as neoliberal economic policies and the future of Europe in a transnational world. Each of these themes requires sensitivity to the relationship between the local and the global and the role of historical events and precedents in the contemporary era, which are tensions we address in our volume. We also think the volume points toward the importance of intersectionality in new social identities in France, an area of research that is key and imminent in our view. We hope our vocabulary, centered around the concept of the post-migratory, provides researchers with a theoretically useful foundation upon which to build future investigations.