An Alternative Mediterranean Space. Narratives of Movement and Resistance Across Italy and North Africa

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Through a comparative analysis of contemporary literary and visual narratives that dialogue across the Mediterranean Sea, in this dissertation I apply the category of narrative to the field of Mediterranean Studies. Working across different genres, different media, and different languages, I explore the possible configuration of a Mediterranean narrative that would take into account the multiple articulations of a real and imaginary Mediterranean space. I focus on alternative narratives of migration, of the interconnection between land and sea, and of the desert, through a comparative reading of Italian literary works by Paolo Rumiz and Lina Prosa, Libyan novels by Ibrahim Al-Koni and Razan Moghrabi, video installations by the French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira, and a short story by the Lebanese writer Emily Nasrallah. How can these narratives of and in the Mediterranean help us understand the ways in which the contemporary Mediterranean is experienced, and the role it might have to play within the current dynamics of globalization? In this dissertation, I argue that the two dimensions of living and narrating the Mediterranean cannot be separated, but that they are, rather, intimately interconnected. I show that Mediterranean narratives can provide alternative ways of thinking, conceptualizing, and ultimately experiencing the Mediterranean, both within its permeable and porous boundaries and beyond that, in the space of the global world. The narratives I put in dialogue with each other counteract a mainstream narrative of the Mediterranean as backward and immobile, when compared to Northern Europe, and as a conflict zone and a barrier, which separates Europe from the threatening Arab world. Thus, these narratives all respond to Iain Chamber’s call for “dissonant” narratives, whose “disturbing” voices are able to create the Mediterranean as a postcolonial space of agency and resistance, where alternative modernities can also be imagined. The Mediterranean that ultimately emerges from the interaction of its narrative voices is a dialogic space of differences that, while retaining their own specificities, “encounter” each other without necessarily melding. In the dichotomy that globalization proclaims between assimilation and proliferation of difference, alternative Mediterranean narratives occupy, and create, an in-between space, suspended in its unresolved, and potential, condition of liminality.

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migration; Mediterranean; Comparative Literature; Libya; narrative; sea; Italian literature; African literature; Italy


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Pinkus, Karen Elyse

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Melas, Natalie Anne-Marie
Campbell, Timothy C.
Diabate, Naminata

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Comparative Literature

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Ph. D., Comparative Literature

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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