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Remembering the (Post)Colonial Self

Memory and Identity in the Novels of Assia Djebar

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Jennifer Murray

The globalisation of culture and the shifting nature of national identities have propelled the stakes of memory and identity to the forefront of current intellectual debates. In recent years, the works of the Algerian francophone author Assia Djebar have reflected a growing preoccupation with the role of memory in forging a sense of individual as well as collective identity. This study traces the interrelated motifs of memory and identity in Djebar’s novels, arguing the centrality of these themes to her literary project. An interdisciplinary theoretical framework positions Djebar’s corpus in the wider context of philosophical and psychoanalytical debates on memory and identity. Djebar reveals that much more is at stake in discussions of the interrelationship between memory and identity than concerns of a mere cultural nature. In postcolonial Algeria, repressed memories of Algeria’s colonial past are revealed as instrumental to the genealogy of the current Algerian conflict; in this context, Djebar’s poetics of memory become a ‘devoir de mémoire’, an appeal for a revised Algerian historiography in which the individual takes pride of place.
Contents: Duration and Endurance: The Early Novels – L’Amour, la fantasia: Unearthing Memories of Love and War – Vaste est la prison: Finding/Effacing Traces of the Past – Le Blanc de l’Algérie: ‘Le devoir de mémoire’ – Les Nuits de Strasbourg: Building Identities on the Ruins of History – La Femme sans sépulture: Exorcising the Ghosts of Memory – La Disparition de la langue française: Chasing the Shadows of the Past.