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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Performing the Immigrant: The Works of Calixthe Beyala and Fatou Diome

  • Author(s): Stern, Kristen
  • et al.

This paper proposes a study of the fictional works of two African women authors in French, Calixthe Beyala and Fatou Diome, and the various ways in which they explore constructions of identity in the transnational individual. Identifying forms are explored in their works in the manipulations of personal appearance, in more “official” representations such as documents and identification papers, and in other individual performances of a certain vision of the “authentic” African immigrant. Special attention will be paid to the figure of the author as a character within each text, and the relation of this particular authorial performance to the writers themselves.

This paper seeks to explore several questions, based on three axes of analysis. First, I investigate the performative nature of identity as demonstrated by characters in these works. What aspects of the performance are particular to the migrant or transnational individual? Second, I examine the intersections of migrant identity and gender. How are performativity and gender related? How is the migrant experience embodied in a gendered individual? Finally, I analyze the image of the writer within each work. Who are the author figures in these texts? How do these characters perform an authorial identity? How do these characters perform an authorial identity, and can these two authors be said to represent authors differently? Using selections of their recent work, this paper will demonstrate how performativity intersects with the contemporary migrant fiction in the texts of Beyala and Diome.

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