At the heart of Laila Amine
’s book is a crucial question: where is Paris? This question may be surprising for anyone who can readily point to the French capital on a map. Geography is, after all stable, is it not? Postcolonial Paris: Fictions of Intimacy in the City of Light
(University of Wisconsin Press, 2018) shows that space and place are anything but stable. Amine focuses on the literal margins of Paris, and on the literary and artistic works that are produced in or about those margins. Rather than reproduce the well-worn trope of the banlieue
, the outskirts of Paris, as a tragic space whose inhabitants are unable to integrate so-called French values, Amine carefully examines the work of writers and artists who have engaged with the space and have produced pointed critiques of structural inequality and the legacy of colonialism that calls into question traditional French narratives of cultural and religious alterity.
makes the rare and much-needed move of reading across the works of North African and African American writers, artists and filmmakers, thereby expanding traditional scholarly notions of thinkers of African descent in France. From novels to film to graffiti art, Amine writes about spaces that are oft-ignored and that remain productive sites at which to locate Paris and the attendant, highly contested idea of what it means to be French.
Annette Joseph-Gabriel is an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her forthcoming book,
Decolonial Citizenship: Black Women’s Resistance in the Francophone World, examines Caribbean and African women’s literary and political contributions to anti-colonial movements.