Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



My dissertation “ De l’Autre Coté du Periph’: Les Lieux de l’Identité dans le Roman Féminin de Banlieue en France” examines the writings of young female authors from the French suburbs, known as the banlieues. Not to be confused with their American counterparts, French suburbs have recently emerged as spatialized emblems of violence, poverty and social unrest. Their perception as sites of massive immigration furthermore fueled fears of national identity loss. The riots of fall 2005 violently brought to the foreground tensions that had been simmering and illustrated the increasing division between the banlieues and the rest of French society. Using an approach that combines the study of space, an examination of media, feminist theory and language analysis, I demonstrate that far from being a menace to postmodern France’s imagined community, banlieues are the laboratory of new multiethnic and transnational beings. In my dissertation, I look at writers from the banlieues whose novels feature female protagonists, born in immigrant families and engaged in a quest to redefine self. In this pursuit, the characters of the texts attempt to negotiate their position between the culture at home and the French culture, often symbolized by the powerful école Républicaine. This search is rendered more arduous for female characters within a space that has been constructed as masculine. I argue that through the evocation of non-hegemonic visions, the novels present the banlieues as dynamic spaces allowing for a new discursive practice of identity and citizenship. Chapter one starts with an analysis of public and media discourses and their role in crafting of the banlieue as a lieu du ban. In Chapter two, I show through a reading of Habiba Mahany’s Kiffer sa race and Faïza Guène’s Kiffe kiffe demain how the characters conjure these images of a marginalized space. Chapter three explores the generational differences between female protagonists and the impact of the quest for self on mother-daughter relations. A side-by-side analysis of Leila Sebbar’s Fatima ou les Algériennes au Square, Tassadit Imache’s Une Fille sans histoire and Habiba Mahany’s Kiffer sa race brings light to the influence of the maternal figure on the daughters’ representation of self. Finally, the fourth chapter looks at the linguistic manifestations of these métissages. A close examination of the writing and linguistic features of my corpus will reveal the critical position of language as a shelter for polyphonic voices calling on France to reexamine its position vis-à-vis these marginalized citizens.



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Committee Chair

Ngandu, Nkashama P