Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Paris and London in Postcolonial Imagery

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Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Language Centre, Institut Français in London, 14 Cromwell Place, London SW7 2JR


One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to understand how migrants, settled in multicultural metropolises, contribute to renewing literary canons and reshaping national identities. This international conference, held on 18th and 19th June 2009 at the French Institute in London, aims to explore the diverse ways in which contemporary Paris and London are experienced and portrayed by exogenous, first or second generation immigrant writers who address issues of citizenship, belonging, identity, displacement and trespassing of material and symbolic borders.

While there is an evident parallel between both postcolonial metropolises, little critical attention has been devoted to a comparative exploration of their literary representation. The conference proposes to defy the national, linguistic and epistemological divide by launching a cross-cultural dialogue on postcolonial imaginary in which Paris and London feature prominently. Delegates will include keynote speakers Odile Cazenave (Boston University), Michel Laronde (University of Iowa) and John C. Ball (University of New Brunswick) and leading international scholars from Britain, France, Austria, Canada, Germany, the USA, Belgium and Algeria. The presented papers will be published by subject specialist publishing house L'Harmattan in the bilingual book series ‘Transnational Francophone and Comparative Studies' devoted to Diasporas and immigrant cultures.

Public Evening Session on Thursday 18 June at 7.30pm (in English)

A public evening session will be held with the participation of Djibouti-born French writer Abdourahman Waberi and British writer of Nigerian descent Bernardine Evaristo, in conversation with Claire Squires. In their latest works, both writers irresistibly drawn to the "what if?" game, imagining a world turned upside down in which Africa swaps places with the West and Africans dominate and enslave Europeans. Evaristo's Blonde Roots (2008) is the story of a young English girl, Doris, enslaved by black Africans and transported to a life of barely credible savagery in the New World. In the United States of Africa (2006), by Abdourahman Waberi, traces the journey of Malaïka, a young artist adopted by a doctor in well-off Africa, to the impoverished and dangerous city of Paris on a quest to find her birth mother. This round table discussion followed by readings by both authors calls into question commonly-held assumptions about the global political and economic order and gives a deeper insight into the ways in which postcolonial France and Britain are experienced and portrayed by contemporary exogenous writers.

£3, concessions £2  - early reservation recommended

Further details on the speakers at this evening session:

Abdourahman A. Waberi was born in Djibouti in 1965. He left his country in 1985 to study English at the University of Caen and of Dijon, in France. He has published works of fiction including The Land without Shadows (1994), Transit (2003), and In the United States of Africa (2006). His work has been translated into several languages and in 2005 he was chosen amongst the "50 Writers of Future" by French literary Magazine "Lire". He has been a Fellow of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm in Berlin and a Donald and Susan Newhouse Humanities Fellow at Wellesley College, USA.

Bernardine Evaristo was born in London to an English mother and Nigerian father and was raised in Woolwich, South London. She originally trained as an actress and worked in theatre. She is the author of critically-acclaimed novels-in-verse Lara (1997), The Emperor's Babe (2001), and Soul Tourists (2005). Blonde Roots (2008) is her first novel written exclusively in prose. She has been a Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York, Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, and Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia.

Dr Claire Squires is Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the MAs in Publishing in the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University. She is author of _Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain_ (2007), and Volume Editor for the _Cambridge History of the Book Volume 7 1914-2000_

Time allocations and working languages

The time allocated for keynote speakers is maximum 60 minutes. Within each panel, the time allocation for each paper is 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. Papers may be given in either French or English. We advise that speakers give their papers in the language in which they feel most comfortable. If that is not the language in which you submitted your title and abstract, please send me fresh versions of the title and abstract in the language in which you will speak.