Homo Mediaticus: Immigrants, Identity, and (Tele)Visual Media in Contemporary Francophone Literature

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Homo Mediaticus: Immigrants, Identity, and (Tele)Visual Media in Contemporary Francophone Literature

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This dissertation examines the figure of the Immigrant in light of the practical and symbolic role played by the mass media, and especially television and its images, in the processes of identity construction and socialization, as problematized in several Francophone North African immigrant novels. It aims to shed light on the ways in which the figure of the Immigrant has been “mediated” in novels such as Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Les raisins de la galère, Youssouf Elalamy’s Les clandestins or Faiza Guène’s Kiffe kiffe demain. These novels fall mainly into three literary categories: Beur Literature, Banlieue literature and Illiterature (Hakim Abderrezak) which focuses on the phenomenon of clandestine migration (Hrig) in the Mediterranean basin. Products of what I call the “génération du visible,” these novels offer ground for reflection on the political, psychological, social, cultural and, ultimately, ontological effects of the media’s obsessive representations of this social category. Arguing for a new model of subjectivity for the Immigrant grounded on his relationship with the mass media, I posit that, in these novels and more generally in the collective imagination, the Immigrant—embodied by the Beur, Jeune de Banlieue or Harraga—emerges not only as a constructed figure of alterity and subalternity, but also as a Homo Mediaticus (Massimo Ragnedda) born from the interstices of images and discourses, and of the virtual and the real. I also contend that as a Homo Mediaticus, the Immigrant is both a product of media representation and a media user whose existence, subjectivity, and agency depend on his visibility (as object of the Gaze) and on the performative and meaningful act of “seeing” (as agent and user of technology). In novels like Faïza Guène’s Kiffe kiffe demain, the Immigrant's use of media technologies and of his imagination allows him to mediate his experiences in and with society, to control his “droit de regard,” and to create new identities that are more subversive and transcultural in nature than fixed or unique.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2016. Major: French. Advisor: Judith Preckshot. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 358 pages.

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Bates, Severine. (2016). Homo Mediaticus: Immigrants, Identity, and (Tele)Visual Media in Contemporary Francophone Literature. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/183396.

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