Mohamed BAYA

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NEC International

Independent Scholar


Research project: Burning Witnesses in Limbo: The Diaspora in Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

The 20th century has witnessed an unprecedented migration of North African populations to Europe in the aftermath of their national independences, and it is now almost axiomatic to state that the early twenty-first century is an age of migration. The cultural production of the Francophone Maghrebi diaspora has received significant attention, and recent publications show a growing interest in the cultural production of the Maghrebi diaspora in Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain and Italy. The literature of the Maghrebi diaspora in English, however, has received only limited consideration. Some scholars of Maghrebi literature have argued that the early diasporic production in French consists in mere sociological testimonials (Durmelat 1995). Similarly, scholarship on the Italian “letteratura della migrazione” has noted that the texts produced by the first generation Maghrebi writers in Italy belong to the autobiographical genre, and share a focus on the everyday life’s vicissitudes of Algerian, Moroccan or Tunisian migrants spread all over the Italian peninsula (Gnisci 2003). To date, however, none of these works have thoroughly examined the relationship between the generic classification of the early literary production of the Maghrebi in French and Italian and the recent literary creation in English. As a result, scholarship endorses a narrative that characterizes the literature of the Maghrebi diaspora primarily as a series of sociological and historical documents, thereby downplaying the artistic achievements of the writers. Without an adequate analysis of the literature of Maghrebi diasporans, we undervalue their artistic enterprise, ultimately leading to monolithic generalizations over the artistic contribution of each author, and we overlook the singularity of each diasporic cultural artefact. My project, Burning Witnesses in Limbo: The Diaspora in Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, remedies this gap by conducting an examination of Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, the first novel on migration written by a diasporan Maghrebi author in English.