Social Binaries in Contemporary Beur Fiction

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Virginia Tech

This study examines the term beur as well as the category it defines, both in terms of individuals who identify as beur, and the genre of literature that stems from the beur population in contemporary France. I begin by first suggesting that the notion of beur as a category and label serves as a third space in the binary of French culture and Maghrebi culture. This third space is necessary as the children of Maghrebi immigrants in France find themselves in between each culture and the sphere of influence that follows. The term is then problematized. The theme of binaries and the third spaces that emerge because of the problematic nature of the binaries is recurring throughout my study. I explore what these third spaces are by examining four contemporary French novels: Faïza Guène’s Kiffe kiffe demain and Un homme ça ne pleure pas, Ahmed Djouder’s Désintégration, and Brahim Metiba’s Ma mère et moi. The characters in each of these works struggle with their identity as they forge their own third spaces as solutions to various binaries that they discover they cannot fit into. In my study, I demonstrate this in three realms: integration and engaged citizenship; familial relationships, primarily parent-child relationships and the generational difference that further complicates pre-existing cultural difference; and gender roles. Each of the narratives and the main characters conveys the problematic nature of viewing French and Maghrebi culture in a binary. In my explication of the text, I argue that each narrative works towards the creation of a new third space in varying ways.

Beur, integration, banlieue, assimilation, gender roles, cultural binaries, familial relationships