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Romance Languages Seminar: Sheela Hadjivassiliou

Friday, December 6, 2019 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Erb Memorial Union (EMU), Rogue 140
1395 University Street, Eugene, OR 97403

From Colonial Diplomacy to the Postcolonial NGO: “Douce colonisation” in Marguerite Duras’ Le Vice-consul and Nathacha Appanah’s Tropique de la violence.


The writings of Francophone authors Marguerite Duras and Nathacha Appanah span more than a half-century, yet despite the time and geographical distance that separate their works, Appanah’s postcolonial narrative reactivates a strikingly similar anticolonial critique to that of Duras. In Tropique de la violence (2016), Appanah presents foreign humanitarian aid in Mayotte as another iteration of the earlier diplomatic intervention in India criticized by Duras in Le Vice consul (1966). These goodwill practices of diplomacy, volunteer work, and adoption prove equally disastrous as the modern NGO continues to reproduce the paternalism and “good intentions” of the civilizing mission that once attempted to justify colonial intervention. Under the guise of beneficence and aid to the poor and marginalized, volunteer and other “good works” eroticize misery (both in the formerly colonized world and the current global south) while reinforcing the hierarchies that sustain this misery—ultimately commodifying and packaging human suffering into the entries of a diplomatic dossier or the bullet points on a curriculum vitae.


Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


College of Arts & Sciences, Comparative Literature, Romance Languages

Target Audience

Faculty/Staff, Graduate Students


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