This chapter analyzes the multiple voices of exiles, asylum seekers, adventurers, travelers, or migrants. To understand migration processes, it is necessary to understand that language practices are social practices that create and throw into play interactional and socio-political contexts. In opposition to a media, state and police conception of the speech (parole) of exiles, a plethora of academic and artistic productions related to migration issues have shaped a new approach to mobility and language practices in Europe. By freeing the speech of exiles themselves, through life narratives in particular, these works offer a different perspective on women and men whose discourse and language registers have been obscured or erased. By shifting gazes, I suggest instead starting out from countries affected by mobility in order to observe language practices as social practices, where they emerge locally through cinema, radio, songs, rap, performances, novels, etc.
In this chapter, I examine translingual practice in the Italian polyphonic novel Oltre Babilonia by Igiaba Scego. Specifically, I analyze the main protagonist Zuhra’s code-switching as heteroglossia and her translanguaging as an expression of identity and subjectivity. As a result of her language use, she is able to mix, play with, and challenge preconceptions of stable and unitary identities. Thus, through the translingual practice in the protagonist’s speech, as well as through the novel’s polyphonic narrative structure, Zuhra finds the means to express subjectivity and a coming to voice.
Jonas Carpignano’s film Mediterranea is a complex and nuanced portrait of contemporary transnational migration, with a focus on exilic agency. Translingual practice is an essential part of the biographical narration of the film, which centres on the protagonist, Ayiva. This chapter proposes a reading of translingual practice in Mediterranea through the lens of recent sociolinguistic theory, which focuses on the interaction of agency, spatial setting and material context. The analyses indicate that Ayiva’s translingual practice is crucial to the representation of his agency, as well as to the critical potential of the film.
In this chapter, I analyze the code-switching between English and Spanish in Junot Díaz’s 2012 short story collection This Is How You Lose Her alongside Emily Apter’s (2013) concept of the untranslatable. I argue that these two approaches are comparable both in their attention to individual words and phrases and in their carving out of a highly site-specific kind of (comparative) literature. In their attention to global trajectories and to the ways these trajectories can be mirrored in a single untranslated word, they gesture toward a multivocality which resists “neo-imperialist cartographies”.
The present essay deals with the representations of exile in Shahan Shahnour’s novel Retreat Without Song (Chahnour, 1929). Exile is represented through a translingual literary identity, but also through an unsettling version of a bildungsroman which fails to provide a final stage of fulfilment, harping on trauma and exile as inhibitors of seamless integration and self-development.
This article focuses on the structural presence of the concept of border within different debates about transnational art by introducing the Chicano artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña. In his live and video performances, this transnational artist develops a “border art” using hybrid languages (Spanglish), cultures (Chicano), aesthetics (ethno-futuristic and queer) and alliances (amongst the “peripheries”) in order to resist the conformism of an illusory dominant assimilation. I will therefore analyse how Gomez-Peña builds his art around the concept of border, including it in a global and postcolonial world that requires taking into account the multiplicity of migrant identities.
This chapter focuses on contemporary graphic novels that enact the practices related to the porosity of the US–Mexican border in combination with the traumatic aspects of migration. Despite their common focus on the spatial representation, most novels, including Ruins by Kuper (2015) and Feeding Ground by Lang, Lapinski and Mangun (2011), turn into creative mono- and multilingual narratives where the use of English prevails. Others, such as Tan’s The Arrival (2006), become a wordless depiction in which pictograms and other graphics establish an unsettling relationship between characters and readers.
This paper shows how the migrant black body in contemporary representations of the Mediterranean refugee crisis is “shadowed” by the Zong massacre where 132 slave bodies drowned during the Middle Passage. The paper builds on an existing epistemology of 18th century modernity as proposed by Ian Baucom (2005) in Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. It furthermore proposes the extension of this epistemology through contemporary drowned migrants. This problematic will be discussed in Davide Enia’s (2019) Notes on a Shipwreck: A Story of Refugees, Borders, and Hope, Josué Guébo’s (2017) Think of Lampedusa, and Anders Lustgarten’s (2015) Lampedusa.
This essay engages critically with the idea of the archive and its postcolonial reconsiderations, to show how, through the work of activists and artists, the objects migrants leave behind during the Mediterranean crossing acquire an afterlife as material reworked into art, and create aspirational spaces of futurity. By analyzing a series of artistic and archival experiences based on migrants’ discarded belongings, this chapter argues that they contribute to creating a heterogeneous, transnational community whose memories establish counter-narratives about migration and displacement.
Camilla Erichsen Skalle is associate professor in Italian literature at the University of Bergen, where she teaches Italian literature and culture. Her research interests include contemporary Italian literature, foreign language didactics and migration narratives.
Anje Müller Gjesdal is associate professor of French language at Østfold University College, where she teaches French language and sociolinguistics. Her current research focuses on the linguistic and discursive representation of migration and exile.