Department of English

Book Project and Article

Emilie DioufBook Project

Errant Voices: African Women, Traumatic Text, and Refuge

This book examines the border as the most immediate narrative space from which to glimpse at the contributions of African women refugees to the field of cultural memory in its interface with human rights. It explores the aesthetics and politics of deconstructing conceptions of human rights through testimonial narratives of political violence and displacement. I analyze strategies deployed to contest the theories and human rights mechanisms that have failed to address violence against women from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan who seek refuge in Uganda. I also investigate how exiled survivors of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda use testimony to mediate the interface of displacement, commemoration, and translation of traumatic memory across historical and geographical contexts.Errant Voicesspecifically investigates the tension foregrounding the narration of traumatic experience in different contexts of seeking refuge in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. An examination of how gender affects the psychosocial effects of displacement enables us to understand the ways in which local specificities and broader sociopolitical structures of refugee settlement shape displaced African women’s traumatic texts. Besides substantial considerations of African women’s experiences in global human rights discourse, there are ethical reasons for analyzing African women refugees’ representations of political violence and trauma. A gender-focused analysis of trauma as it pertains to forced displacement is urgent at times dominated by hostile political rhetoric toward refugees and immigrants.

Journal Article

Banc Jaxle[1]As an Ethical Zone of Mattering

 Deadly forms of transhumance have occupied center stage in Senegal in the last twenty years. Senegalese people have seen their families split by the tragic departures of those thousands of young men and women who were lost at open sea en route to the Canary Islands. Therefore, migration has been an issue that needs to be confronted and narrated. In looking at films by Senegalese filmmakers one is struck by the recurrence of the trope of dislocation and its psychological effects on the migrants, their families, and Senegalese society as well. From Musa Dieng Kala’s Dieu a t-il quitté l’Afrique (2008) to Dyana Gaye’s Des étoiles (2013) one realizes that filmmakers of Senegalese origins have been grappling with how to make an archive capable of containing the grief of all the bodies, whose socio-economic aspirations, pushed them from the banc jaxleinto immigrant cargos. This paper examines banc jaxle as a site of ethical engagement with various states of refuge. Through an analysis of Dyana Gaye’s Des étoiles, I argue that a consideration of the bancin the epistemic discourse of African migration can yield a sociopolitical narrative that brings attention to the complex subject positions located at the intersection of metaphorical homelessness and socio-economic dispossession. 

[1]Franco-wolof term that can be translated as “the bench of the worried;” it is usually located near a house, a kiosk, or a barber shop. Banc jaxleis a hangout place that cuts across social divides and can therefore be read as a space of inclusion and refuge, which offers its occupants, when needed, solace through sociability. In this paper, I translate it as bench of refuge in attempt to capture its function as “a form of inhabiting the world in which one tries to make the world one’s own, or to find one’s voice both within and outside the genres that become available in the descent to the everyday” (Veena Das, Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary, 2016, p.216).