Book Chapter

Postcolonial France: Immigration and the De-centring of the Hexagon


Barclay F (2011) Postcolonial France: Immigration and the De-centring of the Hexagon. In: McCormack J, Pratt M & Rolls A (eds.) Hexagonal Variations. Diversity, Plurality and Reinvention in Contemporary France. Faux Titre, 359. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 413-431.

Research into the plurality of contemporary French identities has tended to focus on the perspectives and experiences of groups which, for reasons of ethnicity, gender or class, differ from the constructed norms of the metropolitan majority. Consequently, in the postcolonial field comparatively little attention has been paid to the potential of metropolitan writers for decentring traditional conceptions of the Hexagon. This chapter analyses the similarities between Françoise Sagan’s modern classic Bonjour Tristesse (1954) and the more recent novel by Dominique Bona, Malika (1992), and compares the way in which received notions of bourgeois reality are destabilised. While Sagan used the presence of feminine autonomy and emergent sexuality as the disruptive force, Bona draws on many of the features of Sagan’s text to construct her image of a white, bourgeois milieu, before disrupting it through the addition of Malika, a young and beautiful Moroccan immigrant. The nature of the challenge to French society forms the focus of the second half of the chapter, as the postcolonial Other produces diverse reactions, ranging from an empowering creativity to the return of repressed memories of the Algerian war. However, whilst an initial reading of the text suggests that Malika wields an exotic power over those around her, further analysis suggests that, like Sagan’s Anne, she does not fully control her situation. Rather, she represents a modern exoticism designed to appeal to the tastes of Western readers such that, in the process of consumption, hegemonic discourses of the North African woman are reasserted. The resumption of the status quo, albeit in a subtly altered form, raises questions about the power of the exotic to resist totalising constructions, and serves to indicate the persistence of neo-colonial conceptions of the immigrant Other in contemporary French society.

France; immigration; exoticism; postcolonial; France Social conditions 20th century; France Emigration and immigration History 20th century; France Civilization

Title of seriesFaux Titre, 359
Publication date31/12/2011
Publisher URL
Place of publicationAmsterdam