P059 – Swarm, Demolish, Destroy
10 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Shringarpure Bhakti / University of Connecticut


In a world increasingly marked by warfare, natural and built spaces have come under violent attack. Even with the end of colonialism, the cycle of violence continues on many fronts in postcolonial societies. In Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon has written about the dreams of the colonized underclass which are often centered on how to take over spaces out of which they have been left out. They wish to “swarm the forbidden cities” and want nothing more than “demolishing the colonist’s sector, burying it deep within the earth or banishing it from the territory.” A similar anger is directed toward the privileged group of leaders and intellectuals who inevitably begin occupying the villas, offices, monuments, public institutions, administrative buildings, clubs, bars and gymnasiums formerly inhabited by the colonizers. The failures of the postcolonial state find expression in discontent mobs thirsty for destruction. More recently, the Arab Spring uprisings as well as the desecration of monuments in Mali have provided challenging examples. This panel seeks to interrogate postcolonial civil violence as it is enacted upon spaces, architecture, monuments and buildings. Does the destruction of monuments constitute a resistant act in postcolonial societies? How do we understand mob violence within the paradigm of ‘revolution’? Is there a dialectical relationship between space and violence? How does literature engage architecture under duress?


Paper 1

Lambert Leopold / Independent/Funambulist

Politics of Iconoclasm

This presentation proposes a non-moralizing reading of the various acts of architectural iconoclasm to favor an acute understanding of the link the iconoclast and the icon. An architecture/sculpture’s destructor develops a similar relationship to what (s)he destroys than its creator. The text presented will attempt to examine several examples: the destruction of Timbuktu’s mausoleums by Ansar Dine, the swarms (described by Rimbaud) of the 1871 Paris Commune ceremonially demolishing the Vendome Column, the beheading of the statue of Impress Josephine in Fort de France, as well as other “positive holes” of iconoclasm.

Paper 2

Thierry Raphaël / LAM / Sciences Po Bordeaux

L’édition africaine, espace de déconstruction littéraire

Les années 80 constituent un tournant pour la production littéraire africaine. En Afrique, l’édition subit une crise. D’une édition attractive, on passe à un «non-lieu littéraire» où il y a beaucoup à reconstruire. Voici l’émergence du concept de «famine de livre» en Afrique. Au Nord, la même période est le creuset d’un renouveau : des éditeurs prennent leur essor, annonçant l’internationalisation littéraire africaine à venir. Celle de la World Alliance, du «Tout-Monde» littéraire…
On se demandera alors si cette construction littéraire, pourvoyeuse de grandes œuvres et de consécrations diverses, ne bénéficie pas du bouleversement des économies littéraires en Afrique. D’une construction, on passe alors à l’idée d’une déconstruction.
Il est ainsi intéressant de porter un regard sur les «ailleurs» de cette littérature africaine de plus en plus mondialisée, mais polarisée au Nord. Au sein de ces «ailleurs», des dynamiques se développent. Elles favorisent production et rapatriement littéraires. Surtout, elles contredisent la violence d’un don sans retour (contre-don) et celle d’une extraversion littéraire sans alternative. Mais doit-on y voir là une économie du livre contestataire de modèles imposés, volontairement marginale, ou plutôt une édition «tout-court» et surtout mal connue ?
Cette communication proposera d’analyser une certaine forme de violence en prenant en compte la relation entre le don de livre vers l’Afrique et la monopolisation littéraire de l’édition du Nord.

Paper 3

Cantalupo Charles / Penn State University

Violence, Bordering on Epic, in the – Colonial, Pre and/or Post – Eritrean Literary Space

“Violence, Bordering on Epic, in the – Colonial, Pre and/or Post – Eritrean Literary Space” considers a variety of major literary works from Eritrea, beginning with its oldest – inscribed on an ancient stele – and continuing through traditional oral poetry, contemporary poetry, and prose from its twentieth-century war of independence until now. Their depiction of the violence against a place and a nation as if it did not and could not exist forms a kind of incomplete yet unending and spontaneously forming epic if not in form at least in spirit.

Paper 4

Shringarpure Bhakti / University of Connecticut

Crisis as Refuge: Women Flanêurs in Destroyed Cities

The chaotic city has often been represented as a refuge in Third World women’s literature due to its ability to offer anonymity, independence and quite often, a collapse of existing religious or patriarchal paradigms. This paper will look at women as flanêurs in cities destroyed by wars. Authors include Assia Djebar, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Chimamanda Adichie, Buchi Emecheta and Nadifa Mohamed.

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