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Dr. Subha Xavier will give a lecture on "Some of them had the power to transform into into Fish": Boat Migration in the time of scarcity

In Mati Diop’s 2009 short film Atlantiques three friends sit around a fire in Dakar while one of them, Serigne, tells of his failed journey to Spain by pirogue. “Some of them had the power to transform into fish!” he says, describing those who managed to survive by swimming their way to Spain. This presentation traces the end of the artisanal fishing industry in Senegal, drawing on cinematic meditations of its fisherman, the fish they catch, sell and finally become. In the age of climate induced scarcity, the human-turned-fish offers new ways to apprehend the planetary impetus to migrate and the urgency of taking to the seas. As silence engulfs the dead and uncertain grief haunts the living, films like Mati Diop’s Atlantiques (Short 2009), Moussa Sene Absa’s Yoolé (2010) and Thomas Grand and Moussa Diop’s Poisson d’or, Poisson africain (2018) begin the work of narrativizing, documenting and representing migration as power.

This lecture is part of a series of events co-sponsored by the Mellon Humanities for Life Grant, the Margaret Parkhurst Morey Fund of the French Program, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the River Campus Libraries

Subha Xavier is Associate Professor of French at Emory University and a scholar of migration and the Global South. She is author of The Migrant Text: making and Marketing a Global French Literature (McGill-Queen’s UP 2016), and is completing her second book Transcultural Fantasies: China, France and the History of Sino-French Literary Exchange. She is also currently at work on a new monograph on transnational boat migration Wretched of the Sea: Boat Narratives in International Context.

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  • Zongyuan Lu

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