Identifier

etd-04272011-180006

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

French Studies

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation explores the graphic, literary and cinematic representations of the Pieds-Noirs, the French citizens of various origins who lived in French Algeria before independence. Rather than focusing on the War for Independence (1954-1962), the extensive study of which has failed to faithfully render the heterogeneous soul of Pieds-Noirs, this work aims at showing the multi-faceted aspects of a community that has always been considered by mainland France to be borderline, Mediterranean rather than French, and, overall, estranged both physically and emotionally, not only from its African roots, but also from its theoretical allegiance to the motherland. By tracing back closely the motivations of these European settlers and by looking closely at the somewhat capricious etymology of the term pied-noir, I first bring to light some recurrent patterns of memory, exile and identity that have permeated all layers of the pied-noir psyche. Secondly, I tackle the schizophrenic narrative voice of pied-noir authors, from Albert Camus to Annelise Roux, both emblematic of a people torn and impaired by colonization and obsessed with guilt, lost paradise, the impossibility of return, and disillusionment. While a close study of the scarce cinematic representations of the Pieds-Noirs in films produced before and after Algeria’s independence further confirms the quintessential pied-noir quest for amnesia and acceptance, it tends to showcase that cultural and linguistic stereotypes have helped Pieds-Noirs build an identity, exorcize their fear of Otherness, as well as embrace their hybrid status as French citizens born in Algeria. The last chapter is devoted to current productions in video art, graphic novels and literature, exploring the pied-noir multiple identities along promising and pioneering lines. By not exclusively limiting the corpus to artists of pied-noir descent, my goal is to emphasize that being pied-noir no longer has to be seen as a static status imposed upon individuals by a governmental force. Piednoiritude can finally evolve into an empowering perspective fueled by a rhizomatic propensity for networking differences and relocating national History within personal trajectories.

Date

2011

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Yeager, Jack

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