An active Utopia

An active Utopia

(Translated by George Morgan)

My paper will draw on the principal meanings of the term crossings as defined by the Webster’s:
act of passing across, of thwarting, of interbreeding,
an intersection,  a place where a street, a  river may be crossed.

As the same cannot be done with the French term brassages, I will use only those meanings which are common to both terms given that the result of each of these actions is a product different from each of their component parts, another in which their component parts are fused.

It is thus the product of another, the result of hybridization, a new reality with its own characteristics, its own virtualities to be developed and specific norms which release it from the dominant ideologies.

Theoretical landmarks : hybridization, deterritorialization, post-national, imagined communities.

The major work by Homi K. Bhabha The Location of Culture [i] clearly showed how this cultural hybridization occurs and spawns “Another in process” in an interstice or third space between two or several shifting items: e.g. the former interstice between colonizer and colonized or the new one between minorities within the diaspora. And he pointed out that “it is the “inter” – the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space – that carries the burden of the meaning of culture” (Bhabha, 1994 : 38).

 In 2008, at a moment when 191 million migrants made up 3% of the world population and when a  minority situation was giving rise to a kind of global citizenship, Bhabha showed already how builds up “an international culture, based not on the exotiscism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity” (Bhabha, 1994 : 38).

And the type of cultural productions which he analyses in his demonstration is not related to any particular territory but emerges wherever migrants come together from different countries and cultures. Disseminated within the diaspora, they become dissociated from any nation.

Thus, deterritorialization [ii] is a process which advances not merely into an aftermath of the national dimension, but beyond it into post-nationality, the manifestations of which have been explored by Arjun Appadurai in Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization [iii] and, in particular, “the spread of national forms that are largely divorced from territorial states”(Appadurai, 1996 : 169).  By endeavoring to construct “a theory of large scale ethnic mobilization that explicitly recognizes and interprets its post-national properties” the Indo-American anthropologist intends “to free us from the trope of the tribe” (Appadurai, 1996 : 164). While still remaining attached to their country of origin, the migrants of the diaspora withstand the national fantasies promoted by ruling autocrats and oligarchs in order to legitimize their modes of governing (dictatorship, nepotism, tribalism, corruption, etc.) in a hybrid third space which no longer provides either a point of reference or any form of guarantee.  There then develops a form of collective post-national imagery which is not subject to any standardized, authoritarian, nationalistic or fundamentalist reductionism. And while exile, in the deterritorialization process, can constitute a painful experience, it can also provide an opportunity for shared creativity unbounded by frontiers, in particular via the new modes of communication on Internet “which allow debate, dialogue and relationship building among various territorially divided individuals, who nethertheless are forming communities of imagination and interest that are geared to their diasporic positions and voices” (Appadurai, 1996 : 195).You will have detected here the concept of “imagined communities” devised by Benedict Anderson [iv].

Communities of passion

There exist “communities of imagination and interest” on both sides of the Mediterranean. One example is the Marsa publishing house which prides itself on uncovering new talent (Maïssa Bey, Salim Bachi, Anouar Ben Malek) or the review Algérie Littérature Action  founded in 1996 by Aïssa Khelladi and Marie Virolle, who describes it as follows: “Situated at the cross-roads of languages, ideologies, imagination systems, history, meanings and doubts, [the review] bears witness time and again to a quest for reconciled plurality directed towards the future” [v].It provides “a space for unbridled creativity and intercultural dialogue” which hosts both budding and confirmed writers, poetry, fiction and testimonies such as theatrical plays, and is helping construct a multi-cultural contemporary memory which affords glimpses of the unrelenting dream of a humane modernity” [vi].

“Communities of imagination and interest”, or communities of passion like the D’Algérie-Djezaïr movement which draws together on both sides of the Mediterranean, and throughout the entire diaspora, all those who have had to leave Algeria, whether in Canada, the USA, Latin America or Europe, writers, film-makers, artists, scientists, men and women, ordinary citizens from different countries who share a common language, French, a language which no longer acknowledges either a center or a periphery. Ranging through cyperspace, the forum on its internet site enables members to receive information from different sources and offers them the opportunity to exchange ideas, feelings and personal testimonies and to experience a “togetherness” which was not possible – or only rarely so – in colonial Algeria. The following is the founding statement [vii]  written by myself and 11other members of the D’Algérie Djézaïr movement and  published in 2008:

We, the undersigned, whether of Afro-Berber, Judeo-Berber or Arabo-Berber stock, or originating from any of the Euro-Mediterranean nations and currently living in Algeria or France, or scattered about the world, consider Algeria to be our first or second country. And this despite the fact that many factors – French law and the naturalization of Euro-Mediterranean immigrants, not to forget the violence and vengeance which marked the end of the war, the Judeo-European and Harki exoduses at Independence in 1962 and, finally, the intellectual exile in the 1990s to escape Islamic terrorism and State violence –  have led some of us to take out French nationality or that of another host country.

United by the modern and republican concept of nationality based on “right of soil” as opposed to “right of blood”, we have never reconciled ourselves to the fact that Algerian independence, which aimed to put an end to the inequalities under the colonial system, resulted in the expatriation of more than a million men and women. Thus, one of the largest population movements in the history of mankind put an end to an experiment in multi-ethnic reconciliation which had a chance, at last, to develop between Berbers, Arabs, Pieds-Noirs, Muslims, Jews, Christians and non-believers. Our decision today to mingle our names and, tomorrow, to act in unison, bears clear witness to our determination to repair this missed historical opportunity and symbolizes what Algeria could have been, namely a great multi-ethnic nation integrating all the various migrations which our country had attracted over several millennia through trade, conquest or exile due to poverty and persecution.

This common history cannot be reduced, however, merely to periods of misfortune. One need only mention the ever-more frequent return of Pieds-Noirs and Jews to their towns, villages and hamlets of origin, and the warm welcome they receive, as also with the Harkis and the children of Harkis returning to their families.

Together, and bearing in mind the wounds endured by all concerned, we wish, firstly, to restore a dialogue which should never have been curtailed. Together we wish to reconstruct the fraternity which has been bruised and battered by history and humiliation, war and exile, guilt and silence. A fraternity which has not perished and must be reborn, as speedily as possible.

Together we wish to pick up the traces of a human story which has been obscured by official histories and to rid ourselves of all Manichaeism.

Together, this is what we wish to hand down to our children but also to all mankind. In these days of violent recomposition of nations and peoples, our reconciliation will be evidence that hatred is not the inevitable companion of History. And that by respecting our differences – both cultural and  religious – fraternity can usher in a new dawn for humanity.

For these reasons, we are today proposing to found a Movement based on humanistic values, a Movement rich with, and respectful of, all our diversities –ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and philosophical, a Movement we take pleasure in naming “D’Algérie-Djezaïr.

Refusing all forms of ideological conformism, we wish to initiate taboo-free communication between the women and men that History has separated, to encourage every initiative designed to foster encounters and dialogue, to oppose all manner of hate-filled discourse and all modes of exclusion, past and future, to roll back the narrow definitions of identity, to encourage the writing of multi-cultural memoirs and a rigorous approach to History, to convey our fraternal vision wherever we may be, and stand united behind symbolic actions whenever we deem it necessary.

So doing, we wish to contribute to the building of a space of peace in the Mediterranean and, beyond this, we wish to convey a message aimed at universality by being part of the growing awareness of planetary issues.

Our movement, the fruit of numerous contacts between associations and individuals fostered by the evolution of mind-frames, by travel and the thirst for knowledge among young people, by the communication explosion via Internet but also by the more recent spate of exiles from Algeria in the 1990s, will not be fenced in within any of the existing association-based structures.

With neither membership fee nor membership form, the movement will exert its presence by creating connections and synergies between networks of men and women who can identify with its vision and values.

The “D’Algérie-Djezaïr” movement is open to all people born in Algeria who wish to keep it alive, as well as to all their descendants.

The panorimage [viii] of a common language

Generally speaking, a common language can function as a shared storehouse of imagination, a “panorimage”, as it were, with neither centre nor periphery, gathering the different contributions made by all those who share this language. And it should be noted that, over the past twenty years or so, the field of French-expression literatures in the Mediterranean area has now eclipsed the national cleavages between France, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and that these countries are now producing a family of literatures in French, both north and south of the Mediterranean. An example in point is the History of Islam and Muslims in France from the Middle Ages to the Present [ix], coordinated by Mohamed Arkoun and which devotes Chapter IV of the  Part 4 to literary Crisscrossings with two articles by Charles Bonn and Antoine Raybaud who refer, in their titles or in the body of their texts, to the concept of a “poetics of relationship” as defined by Edouard Glissant.

In this way, intersecting views can cross and intertwine on the same issues: the concept of citizenship, the role of literature, the function of the writer, the status of women etc.

But it is only over the last twenty years or so that people have come to consider that the field of Mediterranean French-language literatures embraces the works produced by the different communities, be they Pieds-Noirs, Jewish, Christian or Arabo-Berber, in these different countries, as in the diaspora. And it is one of the great achievements of the International Coordination of Researchers in Maghrebine Literatures that, by integrating the works they produce into their corpus, they have helped inform people of this interesting change which goes beyond the established ethnic modes of exclusion under “the suns of independence”.

An active utopia

There thus opens a path towards a truly post-national utopia, one which undermines the rigidity of nationalism, cancels cleavages, overcomes contradictions, and attunes all the different instruments while leaving space for the culture of dissonance and all the strategies of imbalance which are indispensable to literary creation, as to all forms of artistic creativity. This is an active utopia conducive to all forms of cross-fertilization and interaction whether this involves queries regarding intertextuality, interactions between the different established genres –fiction, poetry, drama, comic strips, videos, film and photos – or interactions between author and reader, since readers of e-books on a digital tablet can also key in comments alongside the text aimed at the author or him/herself, or add music, images, photos and videos. Take, for instance L’Ex-Aletti [x]. This novel takes as its subject the intersection between two stories around the theme of passion. One focuses on a young Algerian woman, Amina, who reads the narrative of another European woman, Françoise. Both women have refused to be hemmed in by a gender defined by society or tradition. The novel itself also blends genres: narrative, diary and e-mails. And this example is interesting because Amazon has formatted L’Ex-Aletti on their site as an expanded book or one which could be expanded if the reader elected to do so. This novel way of experiencing the digital book encourages shared reading and interactions between the written word and the way the words are received, while offering another conception of literature in the domain of the possible, as a future for deterritorialized legacies.


These ever-shifting intersections in the interstice or third space call therefore for a change of paradigm. I refer here not to the paradigm of immigration, which involves one-way flows of population between States, but henceforth that of mobility between countries, between groups of men and women, and in every direction. In this process of general interaction, there is continual motion, a multitude of intersections between peoples and between works, and within the works themselves, between genres, between texts, between the writer and his/her reader, and between the book and the reader. It is a fact that that these intersections have been facilitated by the new technologies in the cyberspace and by the spawning of the social nets. However, all are founded on a desire for the other, a fondness for human contact and the pleasure of exchanging in a common language such as French.

As we have all shown during these three days at Tallahassee.

Éveline Caduc

End Notes


[i] Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London and New-York: Routledge, 1994.
[ii] I borrow from the concept of déterritorialisation created by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les éditions de Minuit, 1972. In cultural geography, this concept connotes a fracture between a society and a territory.
[iii] Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
[iv] Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Ed. Verso, 1983.
[v] Virolle, Marie. “Une aventure de création et de partage”, (p.288-293),  et al. Générations, Un siècle d’histoire culturelle des Maghrébins en France, Catalogue de l’exposition Générations. Ed. Driss El Yazami, Yvan Gastaut and  Naïma Yahi, Paris,  Co-Ed Gallimard/Cité Nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration/Génériques, 2009,  p.293.
[vi] Back cover of the special issue # 153-156 of Algérie Littérature Action, “Frantz Fanon et l’Algérie” Mon Fanon à moi (September-December 2011).
[vii] Texte Fondateur, 22 juin 2008,  < >. Consulted on 25 january 2012.
[viii] “panorimage”  is an approximate rendering of the French porte-manteau term paymage which telescopes the words patrie (homeland), pays  (country), and image.
[ix] Histoire de l’Islam et des Musulmans en France du Moyen-âge à nos jours, directed by Mohamed Arkoun, preface by Jacques Le Goff, éditions Albin Michel,  2006.
-Part 4, Chapter IV “Entrecroisements”, (p.1082 –1145).
Charles Bonn . “La littérature maghrébine de langue française : une poétique de la relation”, (p.1082-1097).
Antoine Raybaud. “Andalus pour notre temps : défis de cultures, croisées d’écritures”, (p.1100-1113).
[x] Caduc, éveline. L’Ex-Aletti e-book, ed. Amazon 2011 Consulted on 25 january 2012.