112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

L'alterité en soi: L'Impasse de Daniel Biyaoula

Emma Chebinou, University of South Florida

Le mouvement spatial dans L’Impasse entre Kinshasa et Paris amène à la crise identitaire du personnage principal. Le roman apporte aussi une nouvelle vision du concept de l'Autre. Celui-ci n'est plus l'Autre de l'Occident mais l'Africain Occidentalisé dont Joseph refuse de ressembler. Se retrouvant dans une impasse identitaire, Joseph se résigne et finit par porter un "masque blanc": seul moyen de regagner sa place dans sa propre communauté. Joseph devient l’Autre.


Daniel Biyaoula’s novel L’impasse belongs to literature of immigration and deals with a character from Congo who lives in the banlieue of Paris. The hero, Joseph Gakatuga, sees himself as a stranger in his own community in Kinshasa, and most of all, in Paris. In fact, Joseph is viewed in his hometown and in France as the “Other”. A gap suddenly stands between Joseph and his community: on one hand, he struggles with the shaped ‘authentic’ Congolese identity as dictated by his community, and on the other hand, his sense of ‘westernized’ freedom adds to his Otherness. In this novel, Biyaoula seems to denounce the dangers for Congolese obsessed with the paraître, which in the case of Joseph is labeled as sapologie. Could Joseph escape such impasse as he became aware of his conflictual sense of both cultural and racial belonging and non-belonging?

In our presentation, we first analyze the different stages of Joseph’s identity crisis. Such mental journey interestingly takes dramatic turns as the main character mingles between his two dwelling spaces: Kinshasa or Paris. We then explore the concept of Otherness, which traditionally is assimilated to the White man through the Black man's eyes, but now applies to the so-called 'westernized' Black. We last elaborate on the seemingly liberating quest for hybrid identity from Joseph, a step we concluded transitional yet beneficial for our character as it puts on him a “corporeal mask” as a mean to regaining his place in his community.

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