Identities Ground to and Built with Sand: (Be)coming-of-Age

Discourse on the Capacious Forms of Thinking about Queer and Race Theory in Creation

To those who fight for the continued prominence of the humanities and any creative endeavor as more analytical and capital realms are structurally implemented as superior. To those who are still waiting for their story to be told, or for the emergence of an encounter that allows them to feel seen.


Acknowledgements

Unless stated and cited otherwise, all translations, whether from French to English or English to French, were completed on my own. The source text is always cited first while the translated portion follows in italicized quotes.

Upon completing my master’s project during the outbreak of COVID-19, it is possible that my resources and opportunities for research and revision were limited—whether physical or electronic—as well as at times exasperated by waves of hopelessness, isolation and disarray. In other ways, the time spent focusing on creation and story-telling—all-the-while people are continuing to suffer without financial support and place their lives at risk for ‘essential’ work yet are not guaranteed their health nor benefits—I am reminded of the importance of the humanities and of theoretical work to problematize the systems put in place which continually prioritize efficiency and capital over healing and patient human vigilance.


Introduction: The Path of the Story

I do what I wanna do

I say what I wanna say

When I feel, and I

Look in the mirror and know I’m there

With my hands in the air

I’m proud to say yeah

I’m real

– “Real”, good kid m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar

          What it must take to establish this realness and carry on its promotion, as Kendrick Lamar does through his authorship in my selected epigraph. Over the course of the story told in his good kid, m.A.A.d city, one album amidst three consecutive albums,[1] I can cite lyrics all outlining continuous folds of becoming in realness for black youth in the United States as they embolden my thoughts on what makes a coming-of-age story in certain margins of literature and storytelling.[2] Various declarations of self and story told in and throughout movement with the contribution of diverse creators are perhaps the spaces that were needed for the truth of stating you are real. For the artist, the writer, or the creator there is success when one’s truth is heard, when a story reaches those who needed it or might begin to understand it through its exposure. This exposure is urgent as it composes the emergence of a subject—naming and claiming a self and autocreation. How it must feel to proclaim that there is realness and to see it be served!

          In this creation there is an opportunity to tell, illustrate, or direct insight of a world that would otherwise go unknown, remain on the margins, or simply be misunderstood. I wish to engage with the process of creating this truth and the process of sharing stories by expanding the engagements of the coming-of-age genre and the tools this genre often implements. In order to do so, I intend to first build upon the criticisms I have of the elements of this genre which are commonly employed. Yet, from the critique, I will continue to channel an emphasis of elements that are worth gleaning from its normative renderings towards a minor-genre called becoming-of-age in an extension of the Deleuzian defined minor-literature.[3]

          In pursing an analysis of contemporary francophone literature of the Maghreb and beyond for a minor-genre perusal, as well as aligning epigraphs of creative youth expression in the racial and queer spaces that exist both in France and in the USA as a pan-black experience,[4] my arguments aim to understand both the parallels and the challenges of writing of self in a world trampled by power-dynamics and hegemonic undercurrents. These challenges are seen in the very confinements of language and documentation of identity; how do texts, which lie outside or beyond normative descriptors and functions of documentation and identity, emerge in framing and claiming realness? Additionally, as each narrative I work with engages in a unique relationship with both space and time, I intend to work in my belief that one can enact their own coming-of-age elements towards larger encounters at any point in their imposed time-frame of life and in virtually any setting. In the framings of queerness and phenomenology, as Sara Ahmed pursues in her discourse on queer orientations, this “towards” marks a space and time that is almost but not quite available in the present (Ahmed 554).

          The “towards” involves a movement that we can view as formerly constrained and limited. Yet when anthropologist and creator Gina Athena Ulysse wrote her poem “The Passion of Auto-Ethnography: Homage To Those Who Hollered Before Me” from her book Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti, me & The World, she called for an urgency of understanding the emergence of certain movements towards identity and selfhood.[5] She writes, “I could not live in the castle of my skin as I came of age colonized” (72, italics mine). With this citation, I began to question both the constraints and permeations of this colonization of identity and discourse. The ways in which one moves with it, especially through the time frames implemented by “coming-of-age”, is striking. Even in her cited immobility in livelihood, Ulysse’s skin remains a fortress through the description of castle with access ports and frameworks worth analyzing and circumnavigating. Gina Athena Ulysse writes of screaming and hollering until forming cracks, “I cried and screamed and hollered about…the politics of coming of age colonized and trying to define what it means to be free” (73, italics mine). Such efforts to create cracks and fissures are also needed in order to create an outbreak from the coming-of-age genre to a more affective means of becoming and queering in the ways my work and analysis will suggest. In the creating of cracks and fissures the narratives, stories and subjects can define themselves.

          According to the Merriam-webster online definition as it currently stands, “coming-of-age” refers to the attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition or maturity.[6] And with the implementation of the novel, as it will be the main form of art closely examined for the argument of my piece, Merriam-webster weighs in again for “bildungsroman” where roman indicates that the prominence, respectability, recognition or maturation will take place for the main character or the protagonist of a novel.[7] Furthermore, the definition places the growth as either moral or psychological. There is often an implication of “rites of passage” for a subject as well as pedagogical applications in the canon elements of the genre as these narratives often serve as a framework for what to do or not to do in the timeframes allotted for development. In turn, those creating within this genre can implement their work of creation or even a retelling or version of a work as representation for truth of their own worlds as an autofictive experimentation, though not to be completely conflated with an autobiographical discourse.

          Yet, at what point in a person’s development do their experiences, opinions, and feelings emerge at the objective of recognition or respectability? At what point does the world consider their literature as canon or categorically applicable to the genre? How many aspects of the self must be constructed, torn down and reconstructed? How many rites of passage are required? What if even their own skin, during the time frames allotted for these motions towards recognition, is not accommodating and in turn, alienating? If there is a tipping-point or destination to be reached, then what is made of the moments and settings of experience before and after the placement or destination is met? Does it fall towards the realm of reproduction—such as the amount of times a story is written, rewritten, redit, réduit, until it is again produced to more representational applications? Furthermore, how can we ensure that the development of the story remains in motion and isn’t pinned and subjected to the same renderings again and again?

          These bountiful questions, and many more, represent my journey to problematize the limitations of common-place renderings of coming-of-age and the little accentuation authorized for queer, colonized and racialized subjects.[8] An antagonism, promoting linearity for those with enveloping queerness in literature as well as in cultural or political representation, provides immense difficulties especially upon the stories that arrive at the intersections of gender and race.

“When I was 27, I grew accustomed to more fear

Accumulated 10 times over throughout the years” [9]

– “FEAR.”, DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

          The process of conveying one’s truth and the subjectivity of one’s self is at times messy, chaotic, unplanned, and even full of disappointment or unresolved climaxes. In fact, to disregard the moments or states of obscurity, disreputability, humiliation or immaturity paves way to the dangers of producing or reinstating power structures which domineer to convey a single goal of presentation. Masculine and heteronormative capabilities and associations championed under the growth found in coming-of-age emerge as nothing more than pandering to reproductions of the established order. The performative and pedagogical aspects of the genre emerge as the rites of passage themselves exhibiting subjectivity. Opening an analysis to becoming-of-age evokes any movement and change no matter when it occurs and allows for collective telling and retelling in order to promote realness and truth.

          Further issues of the nature in limiting and pursing canon elements of subjectivity in coming-of-age can be traced in fabricated or hidden curriculums of language and education. It is my intention to create a dialogue with education and literary creativity across international borders in my analysis. While conducting this dialogue, it’s integral to endorse the stories and forms of art and creation which I believe challenge the present renderings of how a story can be told and demonstrate the challenges in evoking the prominence and respectability that are requested by common definitions. Furthermore, it is my intention to draw analysis of stories that either aim to or simply end up evoking an otherwise beside the accumulation of prominence and respectability.[10] Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine Walsh write in their dual publication on decoloniality that an otherwise is “a transformation conceived and impelled from the margins, from the ground up, and for society at large” (59). According to their work, an otherwise is planted and grown “despite and in the borders, margins, and cracks of the modern/colonial/capitalist/heteropatriarchal order” (101). To them, the linking of modernity, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy is unavoidable. In an evocation of an otherwise, and through their continuous work of presentation, there are stories that create a truth as a becoming or queering of age; an idea for a genre that is in continual motion and permeates and flows even to undermine its own language and physical representation and applications.

          To frame becoming-of-age with my analysis asks for an understanding of Deleuzian becomings as a starting point. In the two philosopher’s Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s chapter titled “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible…” from A Thousand Plateaus, the expansive ideas of this concept are unraveled. They write, “A becoming is not a correspondence between relations. But neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification…” (Deleuze 238). Therefore, when held to these standards, the linearity proposed by common readings of coming-of-age already begins to slip from credibility. The perpetuation destined to be maintained as a subject grows up cannot remain the same in the context of becoming as former relations of a youth’s development do not correspond. From dismissing resemblances and imitations Deleuze and Guattari indicate that “To become is not to progress or regress along a series…”, so the genre can in no way subscribe to a simplicity of moral or psychological progress in a novel’s character as Merriam-webster writes when rendered now as becoming-of-age. The undulations for the artist, the character, and the writer are continually dynamic as readers learn that “Becoming produces nothing other than itself” (Deleuze and Guattari 238). As they map the concept, starting with becoming-woman and leading all the way to becoming-molecular, and becoming-imperceptible, it is fashioned both with and against relations of normativity from gender to physical presence and representation. Further, Deleuze and Guattari work with the language of the concept by noting that “Becoming is a verb with a consistency all its own; it does not reduce to, or lead back to, “appearing”, “being”, “equaling”, or “producing” (239). To redefine the language itself here paints a crucial implication that I wish to make through the analysis of my selected stories and the ways in which they allow for becoming(s)-of-age to emerge from the subversion of creative storytelling to the very language that it uses, whether read in the original French or translated to English as well as including or excluding slang and verlan.[11]

          So, why even be engaged with the original term coming-of-age at all if it falls short in the criticisms which I’ve started to outline? Why queer it or engage with it becomings of the Deleuze and Guattarian sense and beyond? My responses lie in the proposal that even within the genre there are elements to be gleaned—an act of carefully and vigilantly moving through elements that may have been overlooked or deemed useless in certain applications. My theoretical approach here with the concept of gleaning and the gleaner arises from the work of Agnes Varda is her film Les glaneurs et la glaneuse.[12] Further exploration of the term and act of gleaning will be useful for analysis in my second chapter section. Additionally, there are texts that have not been identified in the genre yet but in this frame can be read as a work of bricolage as it proves to be an activity combinational in nature.[13] Recognizing stories or texts as becoming-of-age provides them with the chance to have more opportunities than previously imagined and allows for the pursuit of development and growth in ways that formerly felt linear and fixed in the past. The recognition allotted by becoming(s)-of-age paves opportunity to tell stories for someone who may for the first time become engaged or be activated by a new encounter.

“Let ’em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person. But when you do make it, give back with your words of encouragement, and that’s the best way to give back. To your city…” [14]

– Paula Duckworth spoken excerpt in ‘Real’, good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar

          Through this journey I wish to examine the potential of a story as it frames itself as a creative boundless expanse. Through the employment of novels of the Maghreb and beyond in the framing of “Francophone” literature,[15] I wish to extract the capabilities and complications of stories that rework themselves again, and again, in a becoming-of-age. Equally inspirational and worked through the epigraphs of Kendrick Lamar’s poetic music, as well as Grand Corps Malade’s slam poetry,[16] I will pair the capabilities of creative telling and becoming-of-age stories that exist to create encounters and fluid movements not just for one individual but for marginalized communities and folks condemned by institution and language. The becomings I present in the francophone works as well as the extensions to my selected citations and epigraphs problematize the links between self, identity, nation and narration—that of which Homi Bhabha and Frantz Fanon amongst others have written on before in postcolonial theoretical frameworks.[17] Communities emerge in a queering and becoming whilst grappling with bountiful issues of systematic oppression, language regulation and geographical law and limitations, as well as in intra-community education and narration.

          During my first chapter, my arguments will take form in engagements with queer theory and the time and space capabilities in becoming(s)-of-age. L’enfant de sable by Tahar Ben Jelloun is my first choice for analysis as it’s narration of a child’s identity and development undulates from perspective to perspective. Participants gather to hear and retell the story of a complex evolution in queerness and generational expectation. Transgender and nonbinary theory and experiences are of high importance for understanding the story of the enfant that Ben Jelloun conducts. But equally important to the notion of gender and sexuality are the colonial and religious structures that exist in the novel as well as the traditions in oral storytelling and political and pedagogical journaling as they became the background and space for becoming.

          During my second chapter, I look at Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud. The main character, Haroun, redacts the more famous Albert Camus’ story of L’Étranger in order to trace back his own complications with language, family, and growth in a time of national challenges. I propose this novel is instrumental to the conception of becoming-of-age in the ways that learning and speaking through a second language allows for new experiences and phrasing of self and expression, especially in the cadre of a famous novel. This is particularly interesting when responding to texts and narratives in that language as they have directly affected your development and the livelihood of you and those around you—yet not solely responding to them or rewriting them in an imitation. But, instead, to cause a minor-production of new encounters and performative becomings interrogating both the self and the content in place.

          During my third chapter, I turn to a charming becoming-of-age story, Kiffe Kiffe Demain by Faïza Guène. Guène’s novel serves a brilliant purpose of painting a quotidian Parisian banlieue experience for an immigrant mother and daughter, Doria, who both develop and grow in their experiences over a year throughout the novel. Included in the young character’s story-telling is the absence of her father, her relationship with her mother, her mother’s work, her own experiences in school, Parisian grèves, and relationships. This novel is ideal for extending the study of becoming-of-age stories for those of immigrant-origin in a contemporary French world especially as it is problematized in urban spaces. The novel is often argued as an affirmation of beur literature in the canon of contemporary French writing,[18] fitting most easily into the genre of coming-of-age. Yet we can bring it further towards becoming as reading in the original text format allows the reader to read a blended use of verlan, and minor-language through French and minor-identity, through the oscillation of numerous experiences and identifications. Guène as the author herself is also worth examining in this frame as she strives for her work to open horizons of identity expressions beyond what she has seen before her. As a young writer at the time of publishing, there is no better writer or spokesperson for her generation in the contact between fictional writing and lived experience.

C’est le son qui éclaire, qui partage et rassemble
C’est les beaux quartiers qui dansent avec les grands ensembles (Inch’Allah)
Ceux qui souhaitent un pays convivial
Alors ils croient en une autre identité nationale (Inch’Allah)
C’est le son qui rêve en réalité et change les mentalités
Tue la morosité (Inch’Allah)

Il invente, imagine et renverse les clichés établis
Et oublie leur tristesse (Inch’Allah)

– Inch’Allah, Grand Corps Malade

­­[19]

It is the sound that enlightens, shares and gathers
It is the beautiful districts that dance with the great ensembles (Inch’Allah)
Those who want a friendly country
Then they believe in another national identity (Inch’Allah)
It is the sound that dreams in reality and changes mentalities
Kill the gloom (Inch’Allah)
It invents, imagines and reverses the established clichés
And forget their sadness (Inch’Allah)

          Through each narrative geological space and time are evoked and conflated for tracing the ways in which a becoming and queering of age is represented and (re)presented. The sand of our enfant, and the beach in which Daoud’s character returns to, both withholds and evokes history, identity, and growth. Journeying to quite a different setting for Guène’s child-of-an-immigrant narration challenges the narrative to extend to walls of a Parisian banlieue provoking an imagery of concrete fixtures instead of loose swirling sand. Yet, the extensions of becoming-of-age can show that the walls and borders one lives within can still be molle mouvante.[20] These novels unravel the complications of documenting and representing truth especially as it travels through proposed timeframes for one’s aging developments. By viewing their tools and extracting their potential in becoming and queering of age, these readings step away from a simple reproduction of established orders and use language, geographic setting and time and processes of unlearning to share their truth.

« Au cours de liberté y’avait beaucoup d’élèves en transe

Le cours d’égalité était payant, bravo la France » [21]

– “À l’école de la vie“, Grand Corps Malade

In the course of liberty there are many pupils in trance

The course of equality is paying off, bravo France

“America, God bless you if it’s good to you” [22]

– “XXX.”, DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

          It is my intention to argue that more commonplace renderings of the coming-of-age genre are often depicted and rendered as desired reproductions of the established order alongside the promotion of rites of passage. This analysis becomes an issue when it comes to geographic settings that undermine this order as both ecocriticism and queer criticisms can attest to. But additionally, this can be problematized in the ideas of the nation itself and the space given for borders and movement amidst these parameters.

“The great American flag

Is wrapped and dragged with explosives

Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters

Barricaded blocks and borders” [23]

– “XXX.”, DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

          Homi Bhabha in his collection Nation and Narration works with similar frameworks. He opens his introduction citing that “nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind’s eye” (Bhabha 1). In creating the link between nation and a narrative, I find that he looks to question the structure of what makes the two terms. For my work I look to see the ways the nation crumbles under all of its narrators and the tools they implement, but how that is then utilized in a perpetual motion extending beyond the barricades of creative license and literacy. The loss of origin emerges more so as the weakness present in an insistence of linearity for one’s land and identity—time as ill-conveyed in its myths. The liminality points to a threshold for becomings to work through.

          Bhabha continues in his argument, “what I want to emphasize in that large and liminal image of the nation with which I began is a particular ambivalence that haunts the idea of the nation, the language of those who write of it and the lives of those who live it…the cultural temporality of nation inscribes a much more transitional social reality” (Bhabha 1, italics mine). He works with the idea of ambivalence, which resists coming-of-age ideas of prominence and development towards a particular destination. Ambivalence as a haunting, especially when it comes to a language spoken by a subject in their life, is something I will return to as it offers the idea of confusion, dilemma, and testimony in origin and journey.[24] Bhabha invests in the idea of the in-between (between a nation and a narration) and the transitions in social reality. But instead of the in-between as a static location, there can be an otherwise in the becomings. A growing meant for unlearning, a telling in movement.[25] The novels I work with, as well as other creative frames of storytelling, emerge as a minor-literature and involve unthinking in the frames of the majoritarian structures set out before them. In order to be thought about in the capacity of minor, there are three requirements that Deleuze and Guattari insist upon in their book Kafka Pour Une Litterature Mineure.  

            Deleuze and Guattari clarify that « une littérature mineure n’est pas celle d’un langue mineure, plutôt celle qu’une minorite fait dans une langue majeure » (29) “a minor litearture is not that of a minor language, but that a minority is made within a major language”. While I work with texts in French, yet some theory and analysis in English, and as I have suggested the importance of moving between translations as well as slang, working with French and English does not undo any applications of minor-literature or minor-language. Depending on the moments of moving to other languages such as versions of Arabic for the novels of the Magreb, or other moments of words that resist translation or academic definition such as verlan or slang, is not necessary for a discussion of minor literature. Instead, it is more about the minor actions that are rendered within the major language. With this clarification it is possible that minor-language can exist in any literature or genre as long as they fall under the three designated characteristics. First, « …le premier caractère est de toute façon que la langue y est affectée d’un fort coefficient de déterritorialisation » (29), “the first characteristic is that in all capacities the language has to have been affected by strong measure of deterritorialization”. The second characteristic is « …que tout y est politique…la littérature mineure est tout à fait différente : son espace exigu fait que chaque affaire individuelle est immédiatement branchée sur la politique » (30). “All is political and minor literature is quite different: its limited space means that each individual case is immediately connected to the political”. The third aspect « c’est que tout prend une valuer collective » (31), there is a collective value to it, not an individualist aspect nor approach.

          Starting with the third aspect cited here, it is without a doubt that the stories of the novels I work with act collectively in their becomings. L’enfant de sable is constructed in acts of oral storytelling and the proposition of not just the enfant but of the family. Furthermore, all that the readers/listeners learn of the enfant is conducted in an open-air storytelling setting. Meursault, contre-enquête wouldn’t exist in its interrogations without the prewriting of Camus. Additionally, the collaboration of Haroun his mother, and the other characters move with piecing together the loss of Moussa. In Kiffe Kiffe Demain, our character’s daily life is in constant cooperation with those she interacts with in her banlieue, in her school, and with her mother. The collectivity of nationhood in France and of immigrant communities, though fractured, is interrogated in a collective manner.

          The French language is the paper language, in Deleuzian descriptors, used as it was implemented in acts of colonization and administration through the history of France in the Maghreb. There is a deterritorialization and reterritorialization occurring with the movements of words and storytelling in French that emerges as minor language and minor literature even while still being conducted in a major language. When the characters’ identities and worlds have been presupposed as static when in actuality becomings and potentialities exist, all is political. When becoming and queering of age are evoked in each piece, and in the epigraphs of Lamar and Grand Corps Malade, they move against the stabilities endorsed by patriarchal and hegemonic powers.  Deleuze and Guattari conceive that « c’est la littérature qui se trouve chargée positivement de ce rôle et de cette fonction d’énonciation collective, et même révolutionnaire : c’est la littérature qui produit une solidarité active, malgré le scepticisme » (31).“It is literature that finds itself positively charged in this role and function of collective enunciation and even revolution: it is literature that produces an active solidarity despite skepticism”. In piecing together fragments of my selected texts, a form of solidarity in the creative forms of storytelling in the novels and in lyrical declarations sparks arguments for progress and reconnaissance.

Methodology

          The methodology that I take on for this project is an analysis of the discourse on story representations in art and literature. I am aware of my limitations and privileges of hailing from a university, society and culture of the global north. I am in no way aiming to transcend this position in order to reach a new grand analysis as that would certainly fall short. But I am arguing for more effective approaches in carrying out encounters and potential in cultural connectivity and queer collaboration as I have seen these areas to be continually lacking in representation. My marrying of the intersections of race and queer subjectivity as it comes about in coming-of-age narratives is not to limit or minimize the experiences present in either realm but to instead notice moments of solidarity and mediation between them. In the work Sexagon by Mehammed Amadeus Mack, he articulates his own methodologies by noting that, “The potential for queer scholarship to examine what happens when norms are inhabited, engaged, or played with—often with unexpected outcomes—has rarely been examined in the case of French subjects with Islamic roots, a gap that motivates my study” (Mack 20). I found that I identified with this motivation in the ways I have seen both disparities and art in the two nations that I have resided in, those being the United States of America and France. In my own experience with the ideas of queer utopianism and progressivism, I have experienced various results of disappointment, shame, and yet, euphoria—a few of the many elements I wish to emphasize. I believe that this spectrum of experience is uniquely and effectively brought about in the texts I chose to analyze.


[1] Lamar’s album good kid, m.A.A.d city was released in fall 2012. The other albums I refer to as consecutive are To Pimp A Butterfly released in 2015, and DAMN. in 2017. Although they are not the only works released by Lamar, they emerge as a useful trilogy to place alongside analysis of growth of a subject.

[2] In utilizing the vocabulary of “realness” I refer to a long and important history of queer culture in the U.S. with extensions to other parts of the world.  Understanding and applying the concept of realness requires an examination of belonging, passing, and performance both within and outside of the queer community. Extending the word realness in this context towards belonging, passing and performing in other communities, nations, and spaces allows us to be critical and ask how qualifications are set and to what extent.

[3] Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari Félix. Kafka: Pour Une littérature Mineure. Les Éditions De Minuit, 1975.

[4] During this project, the alignment I posit here remains as a creative play with epigraphs and words as it is striking to me in Lamar and Grand Corps Malade’s performative poetry and lyrical expression. To truly research and link the creations of nation and identity in this way involves an additional project.

[5] The names of those who “hollered” before her are cited extensively in the end of the poem and range from Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, from Lauryn Hill to Nelson Mandela, and many more. The references she chooses are to be analyzed as allusions that evocate the range of possible connections for those before who “came of age colonized” and where they moved from there through their work, activism, music, theatre, literature and more. 

[6] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coming%20of%20age

[7] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bildungsroman

[8] When working with what I term as commonplace, I understand that I am working from a perspective of western education and canonized literature in the education I have had in the global north. The limitations of this perspective are a portion of the criticisms I am wishing to enact by offering tactics of gleaning and moving.

[9] Cited from the album DAMN., in this song Lamar narrates fear at ages 7, 17, and 27 showing that this feeling has not developed linearly but is always existing and enfolding in different experiences and interactions with others. There is an accumulation and growth that is still new and becoming even at age 27.

[10] An otherwise is a concept evoked by many theorists in conversations with decolonizing actions. Walter Mignolo and others write on this in their discourse on modernity and praxis in academia. I cite this term and excerpt from On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis by Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine Walsh.

[11] A commonplace form of French slang that utilizes movement of letters and replacement of syllables in words.

[12] As I work to problematize and view to extensive possibilities of self-expression and growth in becomings, it’s worth noting that there is difficultly in rendering a proper translation of this film’s title and it varies from language to language. Often, when translated to English, it is written at The Gleaners and I, but that tends to assume Varda is the posited “I” placing her not just as a director or narrator but as a character within the film. Additionally, this assumption disqualifies leaving it more open for the audience to identify with or for it to lean towards larger applications of feminisms in theory.

[13] Referring to the Claude Levi-Strauss term. This terms is difficult to translate from French and exists best in its original form.

[14] This quote is spoken by Lamar’s mother in a voicemail recording and is mixed in with the song ‘Real’. She speaks to her son Kendrick in this format on being a good representation for younger generations in Compton. The promotion of this by his mother challenges him as he continues to move with his own internal struggles of self-representation amidst gang affiliation, gaining fame, and practicing self-love. I place this quote here in the way that it can be seen as a success in self-love, yet those following the consecutive albums learn there is further to go as his becoming envelopes into different folds of experiences and being. Even without certainty of whether he leaves the impact asked for him by his mother, the story is moved and told for its listeners.

[15] This discourse of utilizing and categorizing literature as “francophone” is another path of investigation with a long, erratic history that I will not be able to spend time developing but wish to remain actively engaged with.

[16] The work of Grand Corps Malade will prove to be most useful in my third chapter section as both he and the character in the novel Kiffe-Kiffe Demain reside in the banlieues of Paris. But nonetheless his lyricism is another form of creative story-telling and a form I believe embodies becoming-of-age in multiple settings.

[17] I am aware that the insertions of epigraphs conduct breaks in my writing, but it is because I wish to keep a performance-like aesthetic to my work, where song and poetic references are always welcome.

[18] Mehta, Brinda J. “Negotiating Arab-Muslim Identity, Contested Citizenship, and Gender Ideologies in the Parisian Housing Proects: Kiffe Kiffe Demain”

[19] From the album 3eme temps Grand Corps Malade uses this song to pursue a call for linking indetities.

[20] Citation from Meursault, contre-enquête in describing soft moving borders of the beach.

[21] In his song titled “School of Life” from 3eme temps Grand Corps Malade references those in ‘trance’ in terms of liberty and equality in France which I interpret as a negative ambivalence in ecstatic flux.

[22] Lamar’s song XXX emerges as a link to my proposals of the connecting of nation and identity

[23] Lamar’s lyrics in XXX connect the symbols of nation to the restrictions put on subjects, young sons and daughters, when they remain in systems of oppression due to class and race. The reference of barricaded blocks and borders evoke imagery of restraint from the national level to the symbolic level.

[24] In thinking of testimony, I keep Derrida’s Demeure in mind as he writes “in order to remain testimony, it [literature or the potential of haunted witnesses] must therefore allow itself to be haunted” (30)

[25] The adoption of the term “unlearning” comes again from Walsh and Mignolo’s work On Decoloniality…where Catherine Walsh in particular references schools’ systems which invite participants to “unlearn in order to relearn” (74). Such a tactic does not necessarily involve a negation of knowledge which is already “obtained” but instead paints a process of unlearning that is a continuing act and doesn’t involve a complete halt it what is already established.


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