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Africa at Noon: Subha Xavier

August 2, 2021 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

“Wretched of the sea: African migrant boat narratives in international context”

Subha Xavier
Associate Professor of French
Core Faculty at the Institute of African Studies
Emory University


This presentation examines Franco-Senegalese Abasse Ndione’s novel about boat migration Mbëkë mi : à l’assaut des vagues de l’Atlantique in the context of “boat-people” narratives from Vietnam, Haiti and Northern Africa. Setting this and other African boat narratives in their international literary context is to examine today’s migration “crisis” through a historical lens that privileges testimony, story-telling and the use of the imaginary to recount the horrors of the sea and the human will to survive. Rereading boat narratives through the work of Frantz Fanon is to reconsider the ways in which the abject returns in our present-day treatment of migrants and especially in the nihilation of Black male bodies, left to die at sea.


Subha Xavier is Associate Professor of French and core faculty at the Institute of African Studies at Emory University. She is author of the The Migrant Text: Making and Marketing a Global French Literature (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016) and has authored several articles and book chapters on migrant works by authors from African, the Caribbean and Asia. Most recently, she has a forthcoming book chapter on migrant boat narratives with Cambridge University Press and an co-edited volume on Migrant Texts from Sub-Saharan Africa with Presses universitaires de Rennes. She is currently at work on a second book project detailing the literary history of Sino-French migration.

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August 2, 2021
8:00 am - 5:00 pm