Research Project: Contemporary Postcolonial Francophone Theatre

Clare Finburgh Delijani

Clare Finburgh Delijani’s current book project on postcolonial Francophone theatre examines the many ways in which contemporary theatre in France treats histories of colonialism, in order better to understand identity, community and nation today.

‘Decolonising’ the terms ‘postcolonial’ and ‘Francophone’, the book applies these notions to migrant and post-migrant theatre makers working in France today, in order to underscore the complex, entangled relationships between the former Empire – France – and its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and East Asia.

The project engages with writings by recent theorists of postcolonial French nationhood and identity, for example by the Indigènes de la République, to argue that the French language and French institutions, notably the theatre, tend to determine what France and Frenchness should be, to the exclusion of voices from France’s former colonies.

It brings together for the first time a host of contemporary playwrights and directors who stage racial discrimination and social injustice in contemporary French society, against a backdrop of brutalities committed to maintaining territory during the period of Empire. These include Marine Bachelot Nguyen, Alexandra Badea, Nasser Djamaï, Caroline Guiela Nguyen, Koffi Kwahulé, Latifa Laâbissi, Léonora Miano, Marie NDiaye and Dieudonné Niangouna.

Throughout, the book synthesises the tropes of the silenced “dead person” (Dieudonné Niangouna), the “specter of race” (Michael Hanchard), the “haunting” of migrant heritage (Nasser Djemaï and Wajdi Mouawad) and the “ghost [of France’s colonial past] that continues to prowl” (Edwy Plenel), into a politics of haunting which reveals how postcolonial theatre can promote racial and social justice by viewing contemporary European societies through the prism of colonial pasts.

Clare’s talk “‘Hear the Bones Sing’: Postcolonial Ghost Plays”, 5 May 2022, is based on her research for this project.


Other research projects at the CCL