Rémi Armand Tchokothe: Major Language, ‘Minor’ Literature? Decolonial Practice in Selected Works from the Comoros

This project, in its early stages, examines an inherent contradiction in the category of World Literature. Damrosch (2003) identified translation as one major axis of World Literature, which implies that works not translated into languages with more economic power and international prestige, such as English, French, Spanish, Arabic, or recently, Chinese, do not qualify as World Literature. By focusing on selected cross-generic works by writers from the Comoros Archipelago who write in French, the language of the political minority – or ‘the language of ceremony’, to quote the Senegalese writer Boubacar Boris Diop – the project will ask the following questions: What linguistic strategies do selected authors use to minorise French in the Comoros? How do subtexts in languages of daily life, such as Shikomore, peripherise French? How does contesting the hegemony of the French ‘canon’ work while writing in French and mostly publishing  in outlets based in mainland France? What resistance strategies and creative spaces do authors and literary agents from the Comoros Archipelago use to break free from the Parisian ‘centre’? Can one contribute to Literature in a language that is socially not their ‘own’ language? In order to answer these questions, the project will combine tenets of ‘decoloniality’ (Mignolo); ‘coolitude’ (Torabully); ‘mélangues’ (Marson); ‘bi-langue’ (Mcguire); ‘intranquilité’ (Pessoa); ‘polysystem’ (Even-Zohar) and ‘literature sociology’ (Bourdieu).

Rémi Armand Tchokothe (Institute of African Studies, University of Bayreuth) is Principal Investigator in the Cluster of Excellence Africa Multiple: Reconfiguring African Studies sponsored by the German Research Foundation (2019-2025); affiliate with the Centre Universitaire de Formation et de Recherche de Mayotte and visiting research associate at Rhodes University. He received his B.A. in Linguistics and English Literature from the University of Buea and his Magister in Literatures in African Languages, African Languages Studies and Development Sociology from the University of Bayreuth. From 2008 to 2012 he was research associate in a collaborative Bordeaux-Bayreuth project on Swahili Worlds. In this framework he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Lubumbashi and he translated from the original French version into English Xavier Garnier’s monographThe Swahili Novel: Challenging the Idea of ‘Minor Literature’ (James Currey, 2013). His dissertation (Lit, 2014) examines the aesthetics of transgression in Swahili fiction and the ethnography of book production and reception which was designed after a three-months field research in Kenya and Tanzania. His research interests include Comorian literatures and borders; oceanic humanities; literatures in African languages; intercultural translation; African urban youth languages in the diaspora and Critical African Studies.


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