Into the Abject: Fracture Zones in Francophone African Literature

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Into the Abject: Fracture Zones in Francophone African Literature

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In my dissertation I examine what I call “fracture zones” between France and Africa through literary analysis of novels by authors from across francophone Africa: Abdourahman Waberi, Aminata Sow Fall, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ken Bugul, Léonora Miano and Nina Bouraoui. Fracture zones are interstitial spaces where two elements come into violent contact but in which one element, the author and gatekeeper of this violent space, has all the power. One manifestation of a fracture zone is the Mediterranean Sea which, at Europe’s behest, has become a space that is fluid and passible only to one side. To the other side, it has become a deadly space that swallows up African lives. A fracture zone serves as a sort of protective belt around the global Northern Subject. It is a Butlerian constitutive border, an abject and unlivable space that guarantees the Subject’s privileged identity. This dissertation descends into the abject to explore fracture zones and the process of “abjectification” that Francophone Africans are made to undergo to protect and justify French subjectivity. Chapter one, Zones of (Im)mobility and Fracture in Abdourahman Waberi’s Transit and Aminata Sow Fall’s Douceurs du bercail, paints a dynamic picture of fracture zones as physical spaces of contact that sharply divide a powerful France from relatively powerless African countries. I demonstrate that power-infused binary oppositions do not dissolve in an interstitial space of fluid exchange and negotiation; instead they are reinforced as the global North reifies its borders, making them increasingly impenetrable to those hailing from the global South. Chapter two, Fractured Inner Worlds: Neocolonial and Gendered Alienation in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Aventure ambigüe (1961) and Ken Bugul’s Le Baobab fou (1983), explores France’s historical fracturing of African subjectivity that began with its progressive invasion of the continent. I reveal that fracture zones are not confined to the physical world but produce distorting effects that infect and deform the psyches of the colonized, causing internal fissuring and even internalized abjectification. Chapter three, Infection, Gendered Fracture and Afropessimism in Léonora Miano’s L’Interieur de la nuit, analyzes a fictional central African country in the grips of civil war, exposing how existential destabilization and erasure manifest on a societal level and considering the lasting transgenerational trauma of France’s invasion and colonization of African nations. My concluding chapter, Devoured by Fracture: Nina Bouraoui’s Garçon Manqué, returns to look at the effects of fracturing on both sides of the Mediterranean. I demonstrate that fractures are deforming and even altogether destroying the future not only of the (formerly) colonized, but that of Subject/author-of-fracture as well.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.SEptember 2018. Major: French. Advisors: Judith Preckshot, Eileen Sivert. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 288 pages.

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Jones-Boardman, Sarah. (2018). Into the Abject: Fracture Zones in Francophone African Literature. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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