Refusing to be buried alive : burial and African immigration in Afro-Hispanic literature




Bobbitt, Brian

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In this study, I analyze the imagery and semantics of burial in prose and poetry as written by African authors who compose in Castilian Spanish. The examination will be of interment in four literary works: El diablo de Yudis (1994), by Ahmed Daoudi; Desde la otra orilla (2004), by Abderrahman El Fathi; El metro (2007), by Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo; and El motín del silencio (2006), by Mohamed Bouissef Rekab Luque. I explore how burial is conceived discursively and spatially in a manner that questions rigid, Eurocentric concepts of identity and modernity, thus challenging the rise of xenophobia in Spain since the passing of the Foreigner’s Act. I look at how the role of burial as a space and semantic signifier facilitates a fresh understanding of African subjects as agents who rise above their sociopolitical milieu, taking the initiative to change their sociopolitical leverage toward obtaining and achieving cultural and social autonomy for themselves and for their families. Employing a theoretical analysis that includes Walter Mignolo’s border gnosis, Judith Butler’s passionate attachments, Néstor García Canclini’s understanding of modernity, Kathleen Brogan’s approach to burial, and Cathy Caruth’s writings on trauma, the study delves into the consequences and implications of freedom and agency in the aftermath of colonial violence and human degradation. These theoretical approaches allow for the negotiation of an autonomous identity that challenges traditional ideas of borders, geographical territorialities, and the porousness of bodies both personal and geopolitical. With sustained critical study, the analysis points to different solutions to stepping outside of colonial narrative, affirming the life of humans whose lives, usually subaltern, are often considered not worthy of grieving. Simultaneously, the study’s intent is to also de-center hegemonic systems of control and information, usually Western and Eurocentric, that threaten to make communal living between Africa and the rest of the globe an impossibility. By examining the authors’ intent in choosing to include burial scenes in their novels, the idea is to open up burial as a strategic literary device, space, and trope that can make achieving equality an attainable working goal, locally and globally.


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