Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of French Studies

Document Type



The slave ship’s hold is the only place Black people put in chains can appropriate. There is no other place they can claim as their own since they know nothing of the New World to which they are being deported by force. A space where the memory of the native land quickly deteriorates, the hold becomes the main “home” with which the uprooted captives can identify. Therefore, it becomes a “lieu de mémoire”, a place that keeps traumatizing the descendants of people enslaved, to the point that it poisons the most intimate space of all: the bedroom. This dissertation is based on a primary corpus made of one movie and four novels, all created by black authors: Les Princes noirs de Saint-Germain-des-Prés by Ben Diogaye Bèye, La Fin d’un primitif by Chester Himes, Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer by Dany Laferrière, L’Impasse by Daniel Biyaoula and African Gigolo by Simon Njami. It stems from the working assumption that striking similarities do exist between the hold of the slaveship and the modern day bedroom in which black men have sex with white women. After approaching the reality of the slave ship’s hold and its impact on the descendants of slaves (chapter 2), we establish a dialogue (chapter 3 & 4) between these two spaces and explore how the bedrooms described in our corpus appear as a battleground where race is being constructed and performed, and whose black and white occupants try to reenact the dynamics of master and slave. To build our demonstration, we navigate across notions such as “la dépossession” as conceptualized by Edouard Glissant, “lieux de mémoire” (Pierre Nora), “social death” (Orlando Patterson), “alienation” (Fanon, Memmi), “hom(m)osexuality” (Lucie Irigaray), “mélancolie” (Aimé Césaire). In addition to these critical and literary texts, we use historical archives and a wide corpus of films and visual arts. In this trans-disciplinary dissertation, we get to the conclusion that for the descendants of African people taken from Africa aboard slave ships, there is no way to escape the ghosts of the past and the evil spirits of the hold.



Committee Chair

Russo, Adelaide



Available for download on Wednesday, April 02, 2025