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    Marie NDiaye, the half-self and the white “dead” mother

    Asibong, Andrew (2013) Marie NDiaye, the half-self and the white “dead” mother. International Journal of Francophone Studies: The Postcolonial Human 15 (3/4), ISSN 1368-2679.

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    This article uses writings by the French novelist and playwright Marie NDiaye (born in Pithiviers in 1967) to theorize a very particular kind of postcolonial inhumanness specific to certain ‘hybrid’ subjects. NDiaye’s work revolves obsessively around the psychic (and often fantastically physical) disintegration of characters (coded as a racialized minority) who fail to internalize a sufficiently ‘alive’ imago of their mother (coded as white). The NDiayean protagonist’s sense of herself as a living human being becomes damaged to the point of irreparability, as she drifts between states of blankness, immobility and affective spectralization. NDiaye’s racialization of psychoanalyst André Green’s dead mother complex provides an important psycho-social context for ‘inhuman’ affectlessness. NDiaye’s scenarios show how a certain kind of postcolonial hybrid is doubly ‘orphaned’, not in concrete, provable or representable terms, but via the emotional deadness of her ‘blank’ mother and the unspoken refusal of her only motherland to recognize her as one of its human children. NDiaye’s protagonists in texts such as En famille (1990) and Autoportrait en vert (2005) dwell in non-human half-life and melancholic ghostliness, emotionally evacuated and symbolically castrated by their internalization of the dead white mother(s). If a more recent text like the novel Mon coeur à l’étroit (2007) manages to offer some kind of tentative ‘happy end’, its protagonist Nadia achieving a belated sense of herself as potentially both human and alive when she manages to give birth to the fantastically dead material she has been carrying inside her, this resolution seems to depend on the text’s concomitant insistence that Nadia is not a hybrid, but in fact has two non-white parents who are alive and well and living on a fantasy island. NDiaye’s ‘family romances’ may be becoming more optimistic, then, but their dream of a postcolonial new human appears to necessitate the foreclosure of the old non-human’s original, messy mixedness.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Editor of this special issue: Jane Hiddleston
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): hybridity, monstrosity, whiteness, introjection,object relations, mothering
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture (BIRMAC) (Closed), Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, Birkbeck Research in (BRAKC)
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 19 May 2014 10:24
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:34


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