Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Formations and Deformations of


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


This paper examines the ways in which articulations of Moroccan, Maghrebi, and African identity are represented in Moroccan literature of clandestine migration. While the texts that comprise this subgenre mainly thematize both the precipitating factors that lead migrants to undertake dangerous journeys across hostile landscapes and life-threatening seas and the fraught outcomes of their odysseys, they implicitly broach issues of identity formation and deformation as well. In particular, the texts address how identity construction and its obverse are articulated along (as well as across and athwart) lines of race, region, and nation. Moreover, in these and other instances, identity formations are represented as being not so much in conflict (either internally or in relation to other formations) but in a state of implosive and irredeemable emergency. Concomitantly, covert emigration to Europe is portrayed as a rational if desperate response not just too strictly economic constrictions, but also to the ongoing crisis of the post-colonial nation of which the subgenre is an effect and which it depicts. After surveying some of the key ways in which questions of identity manifest themselves across the subgenre, I will focus on how I teach two key texts from the corpus, Laila Lalamis collection of inter-related stories Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Mahi Binebines novel Welcome to Paradise. I will discuss how I get students to consider some of the strategies by means of which the texts contest reified notions of race, region, and nation, especially insofar as the latter are inflected by gender. One of my goals in teaching these texts is to illustrate how in implicitly denouncing the plight of subjects who are forced to leave their homes and home countries, the texts also lend textured aesthetic substance to Giorgio Agambens twofold contention that the apparently marginal figure of the refugee fundamentally calls in question the seeming cohesion between nation, state, and territory and his concomitant claim that as a result of their power to destabilize seemingly given categories of identity construction refugees ought to be regarded as central figures of our contemporary world-historical moment. Lastly, I will also discuss how I connect the real-life dramas that these Moroccan texts mediate through fiction with analogous situations along the United States- Mexico border. I will explain how I encourage US students to think of these border-crossing texts not just as agents of critique, but also as harbingers of a different global order.

Conference Name

Middle East East Studies Association Annual Meeting

Conference Location

New Orleans

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