Reconciliations : memory and mediation in narratives of postcolonial second generations

Date
2010-05
Authors
Moïnfar, Aména
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Abstract

This project examines narratives of transplanted identity-building and memory in European languages by second-generation non-European writers who choose to write their stories in European languages. The dissertation focuses on three books: La colline aux oliviers by Mehdi Lallaoui, a “Beur” (French Algerian) writer, White Teeth by British Caribbean Zadie Smith and Lipstick Jihad by Do-rageh/Iranian American Azadeh Moaveni. I argue that these three narratives use the language and memory sites of the host countries. They claim these as their own in order to recuperate events removed from historical memory by the violence of colonialism and the disruptive tide of exile and immigration. Because these children of immigrants are born and raised in the host country, they occupy a privileged position of being in-between that enables them to undertake reconciliatory mediation and assert the relevance of the colonized and imperialized experience for all its inheritors, both former colonizers and former colonized. Multiple choices eclipse the sense of dead end and rejection that characterizes literature of exile and colonization. To discuss these choices, I use Edward W. Said's concepts of filiation and affiliation. Filiation implicates the culture inherited from the parents of second-generation characters whereas affiliation points to the place of birth and upbringing. Filiation and affiliation can be seen as contradictory and antagonistic, however I choose to use these terms as complementary and reconciliatory. If previous scholars consider second-generation immigrant narratives to reproduce the sense of displacement and bitterness experienced by their parents, I propose to examine how concepts such as Maurice Halbwachs'collective memory nevertheless occupy a positive strength in the second-generation immigrant narratives where memory and reconciliation are reclaimed.

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