Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Gerald Prince

Abstract

Inspired by Didier Eribon's La société comme verdict, this dissertation examines how the novelistic representation of racism and racialization in French-language texts can push back against a collective social verdict in France that stigmatizes non-white peoples as lesser and as other. Though discussing the existence of race is still taboo in France, I show that this stigmatization is in fact a racial verdict, or one that operates through racialization, as opposed to a verdict predicated on sexuality, gender, or class. To do so, I analyze the representation of racial hierarchies and the experience of racism in six novels written in French: Daniel Biyaoula's L'Impasse, Gisèle Pineau's L'Exil selon Julia, Leïla Sebbar's Le Chinois vert d'Afrique, Zahia Rahmani's "Musulman" roman, Cyril Bedel's Sale nègre, and Bessora's 53 cm. As I argue, these authors resist racial verdicts by writing about and examining the place of the ethnic minority individual in French society. In so doing they also issue counter verdicts that condemn society, individuals, and the state for their complicity in maintaining an unjust status quo. I first demonstrate that the racial hierarchies introduced during the colonial era to justify the exploitation and domination of non-white peoples continue to mark French society, operating as a collective societal verdict that marks those perceived as "colored" according to the sign of stigma. This judgment is first and foremost tied to phenotype–the inescapable physical body–but also includes fluid markers like religion, speech, dress and culture. Second, I examine this racial verdict through three lenses–"blackness," "arabness," and "whiteness"–interrogating both how the authors present its impact on society and individuals–, thus proving its very existence–and how they refute it. Once exposed, verdict is countered through the rehabilitation of stigmatized identities such as blackness, the indictment of the impulse to categorize individuals based on race, the condemnation of the French state for its exclusion of its own citizens, and the revelation that whiteness–the source of the racial hierarchy–is both colored and founded on emptiness.

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