Refugee Life Narratives — The Disturbing Potential of a Genre and the Case of Mende Nazer

Refugee Life Narratives — The Disturbing Potential of a Genre and the Case of Mende Nazer This article offers a close reading of Slave: The True Story of a Girl's Lost Childhood and her Fight for Survival (2004), a recently published testimony about the life of the Sudanese refugee woman Mende Nazer who became an unpaid maid in the home of a Sudanese diplomat in London. After her escape from abusive treatment there, the launching of her book stirred huge public pressure, eventually saving her from being sent back to Sudan. In this respect, the story of Nazer's book shows how literature sometimes reaches beyond its usual sphere to interact directly with politics. Taking the text and the extratextual facts into consideration, this essay raises questions about the currency of refugee narratives, the need to perform refugee identities, and the risk involved of essentializing `refugeehood'. Nazer's testimony as a `refugee life narrative' prompts us to see literature, with its intertwined historico-political and cultural-aesthetic dimensions, as both a distinct layer within, and agent of, modernity. Introduction UTOBIOGRAPHICAL PROJECTS have always been intriguingly creative grounds for artists. It is within these life writings that performers, artists, and writers courageously invest in various forms of © Transcultural Modernities: Narrating Africa in Europe, ed. Elisabeth Bekers, & Daniela http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Matatu Brill

Refugee Life Narratives — The Disturbing Potential of a Genre and the Case of Mende Nazer

Matatu , Volume 36 (1): 331 – Jan 1, 2009

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Publisher
BRILL
Copyright
Copyright 2009 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0932-9714
eISSN
1875-7421
D.O.I.
10.1163/9789042028166_022
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article offers a close reading of Slave: The True Story of a Girl's Lost Childhood and her Fight for Survival (2004), a recently published testimony about the life of the Sudanese refugee woman Mende Nazer who became an unpaid maid in the home of a Sudanese diplomat in London. After her escape from abusive treatment there, the launching of her book stirred huge public pressure, eventually saving her from being sent back to Sudan. In this respect, the story of Nazer's book shows how literature sometimes reaches beyond its usual sphere to interact directly with politics. Taking the text and the extratextual facts into consideration, this essay raises questions about the currency of refugee narratives, the need to perform refugee identities, and the risk involved of essentializing `refugeehood'. Nazer's testimony as a `refugee life narrative' prompts us to see literature, with its intertwined historico-political and cultural-aesthetic dimensions, as both a distinct layer within, and agent of, modernity. Introduction UTOBIOGRAPHICAL PROJECTS have always been intriguingly creative grounds for artists. It is within these life writings that performers, artists, and writers courageously invest in various forms of © Transcultural Modernities: Narrating Africa in Europe, ed. Elisabeth Bekers, & Daniela

Journal

MatatuBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2009

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