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Community, identity and the dynamics of borders in Yasmina Yahiaoui's Rue des Figuiers (2005) and Karin Albou's La Petite Jrusalem (2006)

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In the context of Republican universalism, the perceived communitarianism of diasporic postcolonial communities in France is considered a threat to the unity and cohesion of the nation. Most films by minority film-makers stress their protagonists' hybrid identity and aspirations towards a form of integration which would recognize the multicultural nature of contemporary postcolonial French society. However, two recent films by minority women film-makers, Yasmina Yahiaoui's Rue des Figuiers and Karin Albou's La Petite Jrusalem, focus on the representation of particular, bounded, postcolonial communities in France, one of Arab/Berber Maghrebi origin, the other of Jewish Maghrebi (and other) origin. This article contrasts the films' representations of the various physical and mental, real and imagined borders which delimit the lives of the inhabitants of these communities, particularly those of the female protagonists, and investigates the extent to which they promote or assuage majority fears about the alterity of its citizens from postcolonial minorities. It suggests that, whereas the young women in La Petite Jrusalem can only negotiate their identities by either accepting or completely abandoning their family and community, the women in Rue des Figuiers are able to negotiate new gender roles and identities within the diasporic Maghrebi community itself. Yet this situation is only possible because the community is constructed as a secular rather than a religious community, indicating that there are still limits to the way in which the postcolonial immigrant community can be represented in French cinema.

Keywords: Maghrebi; anti-semitism; banlieue; community; diaspora; ethnicity; identity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Kingston University.

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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