Presentation Title

Camp de Thiaroye or deconstruction of the colonial myth through the French language

Program

French

College

Arts and Sciences

Student Level

Master's

Start Date

7-11-2018 3:00 PM

End Date

7-11-2018 4:00 PM

Abstract

The history between France and Africa has been peppered with numerous irregularities and crimes. Senegalese filmmaker Sembene Ousmane’s film Camp de Thiaroye (1988) returned to this painful story of the Thiaroye tragedy. That film chronicles the criminal massacre by the French of returning Senegalese soldiers. The latter, having sacrificed themselves for France during WWII, demanded treatment and compensation equal to their French counterparts. Interestingly, one of the significant details of this film is the multitude of languages and “patois” that the various African soldiers speak. At the same time, the lingua-franca, a kind of “pidgin” called Français-tirailleur, is simultaneously a demeaning “baby-talk” used by the French to speak to the African soldiers and serves, once coopted by the infantrymen, as a weapon of resistance. Indeed, it is my argument that with the complex politics of language in the film, Sembene turns French against itself, thereby signaling the crimes of the colonial power and their lingering legacy. Complicating matters, Francophone African literature and films are not only noteworthy for their use of various vernacular and/or local versions of French but as the meeting place of various local “African” languages that also interact in complex ways with the language of colonialism, modifying it and absorbing it equally. This is one of those aspects that Sembène significantly highlights in Camp de Thiaroye where language becomes an instrument of anti-colonial struggle. By their alleged misuse of the French language, African soldiers manifest their rejection of this language which is for them symbol of oppression. The cultural aspect then comes into play to reduce French content and absorb it completely. Therefore, the sociolinguistic approach will help for a thoughtful analysis of the linguistic dynamic of the film. The sociolinguistics integrates the speaking subject, producer of speech and language, his immediate environment and the influence that the social and historical context can have on the practice of the language in each environment. It appears from these remarks that languages evolve, and that to grasp what language theorist call "phonetic succession" requires to refer to the etymology of words. This is mostly found in cultural (and social) roots of the speakers themselves. That said, the norm in the field of language would be an evanescent, unstable fact that evolves (or varies) at the whim of societies and even habitus. It is in this linguistic field that Sembène’s film stages the stakes of the language. Through a poorly articulated French language on the part of returning African soldiers, the colonial architecture collapses. There is a rejection of imperialism manifested by the rejection of the language of the imperialists

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Camp de Thiaroye or deconstruction of the colonial myth through the French language

The history between France and Africa has been peppered with numerous irregularities and crimes. Senegalese filmmaker Sembene Ousmane’s film Camp de Thiaroye (1988) returned to this painful story of the Thiaroye tragedy. That film chronicles the criminal massacre by the French of returning Senegalese soldiers. The latter, having sacrificed themselves for France during WWII, demanded treatment and compensation equal to their French counterparts. Interestingly, one of the significant details of this film is the multitude of languages and “patois” that the various African soldiers speak. At the same time, the lingua-franca, a kind of “pidgin” called Français-tirailleur, is simultaneously a demeaning “baby-talk” used by the French to speak to the African soldiers and serves, once coopted by the infantrymen, as a weapon of resistance. Indeed, it is my argument that with the complex politics of language in the film, Sembene turns French against itself, thereby signaling the crimes of the colonial power and their lingering legacy. Complicating matters, Francophone African literature and films are not only noteworthy for their use of various vernacular and/or local versions of French but as the meeting place of various local “African” languages that also interact in complex ways with the language of colonialism, modifying it and absorbing it equally. This is one of those aspects that Sembène significantly highlights in Camp de Thiaroye where language becomes an instrument of anti-colonial struggle. By their alleged misuse of the French language, African soldiers manifest their rejection of this language which is for them symbol of oppression. The cultural aspect then comes into play to reduce French content and absorb it completely. Therefore, the sociolinguistic approach will help for a thoughtful analysis of the linguistic dynamic of the film. The sociolinguistics integrates the speaking subject, producer of speech and language, his immediate environment and the influence that the social and historical context can have on the practice of the language in each environment. It appears from these remarks that languages evolve, and that to grasp what language theorist call "phonetic succession" requires to refer to the etymology of words. This is mostly found in cultural (and social) roots of the speakers themselves. That said, the norm in the field of language would be an evanescent, unstable fact that evolves (or varies) at the whim of societies and even habitus. It is in this linguistic field that Sembène’s film stages the stakes of the language. Through a poorly articulated French language on the part of returning African soldiers, the colonial architecture collapses. There is a rejection of imperialism manifested by the rejection of the language of the imperialists