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Sarah Barbour, David Howard, Thomas Lacroix & Judith Misrahi-Barak (eds.), Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’, vol.2 Diaspora, Memory and Intimacy

Montpellier : Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2015, 258 p, ISBN : 978- 2-36781. 21€.
Françoise KRÁL
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Sarah Barbour, David Howard, Thomas Lacroix & Judith Misrahi-Barak (eds.), Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’, vol.2 Diaspora, Memory and Intimacy. Montpellier : Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2015, 258 p, ISBN : 978- 2-36781. 21€.

Texte intégral

1This edited collection of essays is the second volume of a series of publications which emerged out of the well-established collaboration between Sarah Barbour, David Howard, Thomas Lacroix and Judith Misrahi-Barak, whose continued work on diasporas has the immense merit of bringing together, in often fruitful interactions, specialists of different disciplines, who approach diaspora studies from different angles. The volume, entitled Diaspora, Memory and Intimacy opens on a short preface rather a longer introduction, which would have had the merit of repositioning the issues of memory and intimacy within the main debates of diaspora studies. However the articles are organized and ordered so as to bring out the specific focuses of the texts selected for publication, and the volume also offers a bibliography of diaspora studies, which adds to the overall cohesion of the volume.

2The first part, entitled “Questions of Theory, History and Memory,” brings together four articles. The first one, “African Diaspora Theory: Here, There and Everywhere” by Maggi Morehouse, sketches in broad yet very accurate brushstrokes the panorama of diaspora studies, which it analyses in a very lucid and didactic way. It stresses in particular the theoretical difficulty inherent in linking diaspora to origins, a difficulty which inevitably involves dealing with the issue of race and running the risk of potentially essentializing it. The article repositions the theories of some of the big names in the field of diaspora studies, dwelling at greater length on the contribution of Avtar Brah and provides interesting discussions of the issues of hybridity and créolisation. With its useful bibliography and careful recontextualisations, this article is a perfect entry point into a set of texts which bring into focus, not necessarily the theory, as announced in the title of Part One but lesser known fields of diaspora studies as the welcome contribution by Mélanie Pénicaud on the Iranien diaspora “D’exils en migrations : échos d’une dispersion iranienne,” or Debora Stefani’s article “Fighting against Post-colonial Optimism: In Search of Subaltern and Diasporic Agency in Vietnamese American Fiction”. Unfortunately, the last two articles of Part One would have benefited from further editing and proofreading as the article on the reception of photographic exhibitions of Spanish immigrants in France contains some serious syntactic and grammatical errors and the article on Vietnamese American fiction contains a serious bibliographical howler (Ashcroft, Griffith and Tiffin’s The Empire Writes Back is referred to as The Empire Strikes Back).

3The Second Part, entitled “Intersecting Identities” continues to explore topics that are not widely known such as Adriana Capuano de Oliveira’s article “A Question of Identity: Being Japanese in Brazil in Brazilian in Japan.” Ghenwa Hayek’s study entitled “Carrying Africa, Becoming Lebanese: Diasporic Middleness in Lebanese Fiction” uses the semiotics of clothes as an entry point into discussions of identity and belonging but gradually moves on to study the problematic relation between diasporic literature and national literature, the latter being not only a passive counterpoint to the former, but part of a dynamics of reciprocal identity construction. This article spans a larger spectrum of issues and analyses very skilfully the relations between home and diaspora. The following two articles, one on Diana Evans’s fiction and the other on Evans and Abraham Verghese form a well-articulated diptych. The first article by Suzanne Scafe foregrounds a very interesting and informative historical recontextualization in terms of diasporic history of the dynamics of settlement of minorities in London and of the role of race relations, as evoked in Evans’s fiction. The second by Christine Vogt-William focuses on how the two novels being compared shed light in different ways on the issue of race and how it is articulated in the context of British society.

4The third and last part of the book continues to offer reflexions on stimulating topics, with an article on queer writing and a very stimulating study by Pat Noxolo which analyses the African-Caribbean dance as ‘embodied mapping’. The article combines several very interesting features which contribute to produce a very original and timely contribution to the field of performance studies, as the author draws on a very good knowledge of the critical literature on maps, mapping and cartography as well as a very good conceptualization of dance as embodied mapping. The article then proceeds to analyse, very skilfully, a performance choreographed by “H” Patten in the 1980s as well as the way she received it and the evolution of her response to the performance watching it a few years later. Aurélie Cordevaux’s paper “All the Same Family: Constructing and Embodying the Pacific Peoples Category in New Zealand” draws on museum studies to chart the rise to visibility of Pacific peoples in New Zealand and map the complex cultural dynamics of a country often defined as bicultural, Maori and Pakeha.

5Another original contribution to this volume is the ethno-historical approach of diasporization through board games in Joanne Drayton’s article “Across the Board – A project exploring Diaspora and Migration.” The underlying ethos of the game as well as the history of how it came to be known worldwide, integrated and sometimes adapted by some cultures – the ban to represent human form giving way to abstract designs in Muslim cultures – puts in perspective an important aspect of the circulation of a given game world-wide and its subsequent reterritorialisation and recontextualization.

6The volume showcases the diversity of themes and aspects that the diasporic field opens onto; it is a very welcome contribution to the field, not only because it focuses on lesser known aspects but because it posits the diasporic as prism and rehistoricizes the cultural dynamics of dissemination, not only of people but also of cultural practices, and their various receptions.

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Françoise KRÁL, « Sarah Barbour, David Howard, Thomas Lacroix & Judith Misrahi-Barak (eds.), Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’, vol.2 Diaspora, Memory and Intimacy », E-rea [En ligne], 13.2 | 2016, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2016, consulté le 26 novembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Françoise KRÁL

Université de Caen Normandie, ERIBIA
University of South Australia, Hawke Centre

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