Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



This work aims at filling a gap in African cinema studies. The plurality in film production has been neglected or overseen by Africanist critiques as well as most of the filmmakers from the continent. Such continental shield of a monolithic Africa has been carried by European anthropologists and fostered in part by the Negritude movement in the late 1930s, still conveyed by mimetic writing. We begin by assessing such a uniform vision and explaining the ways in which it resisted time after more than 40 years of cinema in Africa. Then we introduce the notion of national cinema by exploring the evolution of thematic discourse in Senegalese film, in order to highlight national specificities, which have been overshadowed by a Pan-africanist approach. Our focus on Senegalese film production allows us to unearth the cultural and social elements embedded in a peculiar history of Senegal. The country’s early contacts with Islam and later with Christianity and colonization on the one hand, and its relatively privileged relationship with the colonial power, i.e. France, before and after independence have generated a unique socio-cultural and political landscape. We investigate how filmmakers have used such a rich and complex historical stream to question and challenge Senegalese national identity and esthetics. In analyzing the thematic evolution in Senegalese filmic discourse, we come to find that not only Nations-states have always existed in Africa, but above all, the various styles and themes, which have emerged from the different approaches to filmmaking. Age, and therefore generation in Senegalese film production is crucial to understanding the Pan-africanist, yet local pattern in Sembene’s films, the national and urban focus of Djibril Diop Mambety, the poetry and evasion in Moussa Sène Absa’s work as well as the various discourses on women through the male cinematic gaze which culminates with Joseph Gaye Ramaka’s controversial Karmen Geï. Ultimately, l’Afrance is a pretext to explore the continuous, yet varied thematic evolution of migration between Senegal and France specifically through these generations of filmmakers, within the contiguous context of migration of texts and bodies.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Pius Ngandu Nkashama