Narrative Subversions: “Unnatural” Narration and an Ethics of Engagement in the Work of Mahi Binebine


Narrative Subversions: “Unnatural” Narration and an Ethics of Engagement in the Work of Mahi Binebine

In this podcast, Doyle Calhoun presents a work related to his first book project, The Suicide Archive: Reading Resistance in the Wake of French Empire—which concludes with a chapter on suicide bombing, focused on Moroccan writer and artist Mahi Binebine’s (b. 1959) novel Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen (2010)—and a second book project, Narrative Subversions: Strange Voices in Francophone Fiction, which explores unconventional narrative configurations and includes a chapter on narrative techniques in Binebine’s work.

Doyle Calhoun is currently Assistant Professor of Language and Culture Studies (postcolonial Francophone studies) at Trinity College in Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. in French from Yale University, where he was an affiliate of the Yale Council on African Studies. Prior to Yale, he completed a Masters in linguistics at KU Leuven, in Belgium, where he was also a Fulbright Research Grantee.

Calhoun’s research and teaching focus on the literatures and cinemas of Africa and the Caribbean, especially Senegalese literature in French and Wolof. Working at the intersection of literary criticism, history, media studies, and decolonial theory, Calhoun shows how aesthetic forms provide alternatives to dominant colonial and postcolonial scripts. Calhoun has published over a dozen articles, in journals such as Research in African Literatures, French Studies, and Nineteenth-Century French Studies, and his work is forthcoming from PMLA. His public-facing writing has appeared in Public Books and the Sydney Review of Books. In 2021, he received the Ralph Cohen Prize from New Literary History for the best essay by an untenured scholar.
His first book project, The Suicide Archive: Reading Resistance in the Wake of French Empire, turns the difficult topic of suicidal resistance into one worthy of analysis, attention, and interpretation. Beginning in the eighteenth century and working through the twenty-first century, from the time of slavery to the so-called Arab Spring, The Suicide Archive covers a broad geography that stretches from Guadeloupe and Martinique to Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, and draws on an expansive corpus of literature, film, oral history, and archival materials to plot a long history of suicide as a political language in extremis.

This episode was recorded on July 28th, 2022 at the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM)
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Recorded and edited in Tangier, by: Abdelbaar Mounadi Idrissi, Outreach Coordinator, TALIM.

Posted by Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).

Suggested Readings

Ayouch , N. (2012). Les Chevaux de Dieux (long métrage). France, Les Films du Nouveau Monde. Stone Angels.

Binebine. A. 2009. Tazmamort : Dix-huit ans dans le bagne de Hassan II, (récit). Denoël

Binebine, M. (2022). Mon frère fantôme. FranceStock. Maroc, Fennec. 

___. (2017). Le fou du roi. FranceStock.

___. (2013). Le seigneur vous le rendra. France, Flammarion.

___. (2010). Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen. France, Flammarion.

___. (2004). Terre d’ombre brulé. France, Fayard.

___. (2001). Pollens. France, Fayard.

___. (1999). Cannibales. France, Fayard.

___. (1997). L’ombre du poète.FranceStock. Maroc, Fennec. 

___. (1994). Les funérailles du laitFranceStock.

___. (1992). Le sommeil de l’esclaveFranceStock.

Alber, J. (2014). “Unnatural Narrative”. Handbook of Narratology. De Gruyter, 887–95.

Asad, T. (2007). On Suicide Bombing. New York, Columbia Univ. Press.

Calhoun, D. “Dead Narrators, Queer Terrorists: On Suicide Bombing and Literature,” New Literary History, vol. 53, no. 2 (2022), 285–304.

___. “Looking for Diouana Gomis (1927–1958): The Story behind African Cinema’s most Iconic Suicide,” Research in African Literatures vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, 1–35. doi: 10.2979/reseafrilite.52.2.01

___. “(Im)possible Inscriptions: Silence, Servitude, and Suicide in Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire de…,”. Research in African Literatures vol. 51, no. 2 (2020), 96–116.

Nussbaum, M. 1995. Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. BostonBeacon Press.

Puar, J. 2007. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. United States, Duke Univ. Press.

Rose. J. 2007. The Last Resistance. New YorkVerso, 2007.

Spivak, G. “Terror: A Speech after 9-11,” boundary 2 31, no. 2 (2004): 81–111.



Slide 1.     Mahi Binebine, wax and pigments on wood (2022) // Matisse Art Gallery Marrakech

Slide 2.     Mahi Binebine, wax and pigments on wood (2020) // Matisse Art Gallery Marrakech

Slide 3.     Mahi Binebine, Couple entrelacé (2009) // Musée Mohammed IV

Slide 4.     Place Jamaa el-Fna