In 1976, French philosopher Michel Foucault described the advent of a new logic of government, specific to Western liberal societies. He called it biopolitics. It is a complex concept that has been used in social theory to examine the strategies and mechanisms through which human lives are managed under regimes of authority over knowledge, power, and the processes of subjectivation. With Foucault’s biopolitics as a springboard, Taïeb Berrada is examining Francophone literature and its relationships to addressing migration and immigration policies.
Berrada, associate professor of French and Francophone Studies in the department of modern languages and literatures, is using Foucault to investigate various aspects of illegal immigration in France by analyzing novels and films and critiquing the current postmodern and postcolonial interpretations of displacement and exile. The phenomenon of Harraga, where illegal immigrants burn their documents and cross borders between North Africa and Europe, has been the topic of a many literary and cinematic works. Berrada posits that the concept of borders has, itself, changed. It is more than geographic, and his current book project examines the ways in which these works help readers reconsider, reshape and redefine the notion of borders within which individuals as well as their bodies are confined to a space of “discipline and punishment” before becoming disposable commodities. These narratives about, or by, illegal immigrants constitute a “clandestine” argument that interrupts mainstream discussion regarding transnationalism and notes that these works demonstrate a need to reassess the idea of migration between France and North Africa, he says.