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Title: Reinventing community : collective identity and cultural difference in recent theory and literature in French
Author: Hiddleston, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0000 5393 0608
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis examines representations of 'community' in recent critical theory and literature in French. I argue that the theoretical discourses that emerged through the eighties and nineties affirming the extinction of community need to be rethought. Derrida, Lyotard and Nancy have all suggested that the notion of the 'in-common' be replaced with attention to radically diverse and dissimilar beings, arguing that consensus is usually both dangerous and illusory. However, while these conclusions serve to a certain extent to rescue particular cultural perspectives from appropriation by assimilative discourses, the emphasis on intractable difference also risks perpetuating fragmentation and marginalisation. By juxtaposing theory with socio-political debates on multiculturalism in France, I demonstrate how a conception of the coexistence of cultural specificity with various forms of dialogue constitutes a more accurate depiction of actual community formations, as well as providing a more effective means to counteract prejudice. I then use Nancy's more recent work to show how singular beings continually converge and diverge within a wider interactive network. The rest of the thesis explores the complex mediations between singularity and collectivity represented in a range of texts written in French. The intersection of diverse cultural positions is enacted in representations of bilingualism and multilingualism; Khatibi and Glissant, for example, evoke the ways in which any language or idiom is unsettlingly shot through with traces of other dialects. Furthermore, literary works discussing North African immigrant communities testify to a shift from a reflection on cultural frontiers to a more unstable movement between particularity and relationality. While 'first-generation' authors reflect the emphasis on difference proposed in the work of Derrida and Lyotard, Sebbar and various Beur writers hover more uncertainly between exile and cultural or linguistic dialogue. These analyses convey the slippery relation between singularity and collectivity, problematising fixed models and blurring conventional cultural dichotomies. Fictional representation is shown to function as a locus where categories of 'identity' and 'difference' can be undermined, since its ludic and subjective form escapes the identification of any exemplary cultural position.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology