Hélène Quiniou: “You say I’m French, I say I’m Algerian”

“You say I’m French, I say I’m Algerian”: Jacques Vergès’ rupture strategy in the defense of Djamila Bouhired, 1957

Hélène Quiniou

Debates within the academy rest not only on the old colonial hierarchies of French North Africa and the British Middle East, but also on the social sciences’ production of a Muslim southern shore of the Mediterranean as a scholarly object within the purview of anthropology versus a European northern shore as host to legal structures of citizenship. These dominant paradigms, which undergird the production of a category such as the “Middle East and North Africa,” concern this project inasmuch as they contribute to set up the conditions of possibility for the scientific and media treatment of migration on the other side of the Mediterranean, where discussions often “look at the ‘immigrant’ problem,” as Pierre Bourdieu noted,” only insofar as ‘immigrants’ cause problems” to the host society.

Intervening into debates around cultural translation and the construction of “Islamic” or “Muslim” North Africa through Euro-American anthropology, this research unpacks emergent notions of citizenship present in contemporary migration through the Mediterranean region, with a dedicated attention to the memory of colonial regimes of citizenship binding Africa and Europe. It suggests a rewriting of the decolonization narrative that involves both a de-framing and a re-membering of the Mediterranean.

Hélène Quiniou is a researcher, editor, translator, and served as a member of the editorial board of the Revue des Livres. She is currently a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Columbia University in New York, and a member of the scientific committee of the “Généalogies du mondial” research program at the University Paris 8. Her extensive translation work includes texts by Stuart Hall, Judith Butler, Robert J. C. Young, Emily Apter, Unica Zürn, and artistic projects such as the first French adaptation of Hartleben and Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire under the patronage of Pierre Boulez. She has published articles on the genealogy of Anglophone postcolonial theory in the German hermeneutical tradition, on the legacy of the Hegelian concept of alienation in contemporary Marxist and postcolonial thoughts, as well as its uptake in contemporary art’s theories and practices of hybridity. Her current research investigates the remaking of secular paradigms in Francophone contexts of decolonization.


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