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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modernity in question : retrieving imaginaries of the transcontinental Mediterranean

  • Author(s): Tamalet, Edwige
  • et al.

This project focuses on submerged utopias of the Mediterranean crucible in the literary production of colonial and postcolonial authors from the Maghreb (and related space of Gibraltar) throughout the twentieth century. The authors discussed in this dissertation have employed literary creation as a vector of resistance to fixed representations of subjectivity reliant on coercive national frameworks marked by the colonial experience. Albert Camus, Gabriel Audisio, Jean El Mouhoub Amrouche, Tahar Bekri, Trino Cruz, and painter Ahmed Ben Yessef have conceptualized a transnational, often mythical space of the Mediterranean with its distinctive mythology and historical dynamics, which displaces the Eurocentric hegemony of the former colonial center from a cultural, political, and aesthetic point of view. Through their articulation of transcultural representations of the region, they have taken to task the usual division of the space of the sea into two distinct and irreconcilable civilizational models. It is on their literary, imaginary strategic responses to the imposition of Western modernity in a Mediterranean context that this project focuses. My purpose is thus two-fold. I reinscribe the space of the Maghreb in a Mediterranean backdrop while stressing the relevance of a transnational approach to the investigation of the region's plural cultural landscape and of its long- standing history of contact and exchange with a variety of locations on both shores of the sea. As well, I examine the ways in which these representations take to task the Eurocentric dominant historical framing of the Mediterranean region as foil to (and point of origin of) European modernity and explore the resonance of concepts of vernacular modernities, here predicated on alternative Mediterranean identifications, in relation to the space of the Maghreb.

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