Urban Borderlands: African Writers in Precarious Spain, 1985-2008

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2021

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This dissertation, “Urban Borderlands: African Writers in Precarious Spain, 1985-2008,” analyzes the literature of four African-born authors who publish for a Spanish audience: the Beninese writer Agnès Agboton; Najat El Hachmi and Rachid Nini who migrated from Morocco; as well as exiled Equatorial Guinean novelist Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo. Because they come from such diverse backgrounds, literary critics have typically only read their work in unison under the label “migrant narrative.” However, rather than treat these authors and their depictions of migrancy as somehow foreign, I ask what they can tell us about Spain’s dependency on undocumented African workers in its quest to become a developed, European nation. Starting with the promulgation of the first immigration law in 1985 this project charts Spain’s subsequent transformation from a country of émigrés into a cosmopolitan destination for workers the world over.Sociological and anthropological approaches to Spanish/African relations center on Spain’s frontier zone with Morocco or in the true interior, between agricultural workers, whereas these creative works offer rare testimonies to the simultaneous bordering of Spanish cities. Through their collective storytelling effort, I reframe the concept of bordering—not just as geographical lines or physical boundaries—but as practices of racialization and gender discrimination that undergird labor market segmentation, thereby exerting serious controls over the day-to-day of migrant life in a new host country. Each chapter addresses one of these forms of border making and how it contributed to Spain’s ability to claim its place among the ranks of the European Union. On the whole, the project considers these bordering efforts as iterations of precarious life and labor conditions that predate the financial crisis of 2008.

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Tybinko, Anna Catherine (2021). Urban Borderlands: African Writers in Precarious Spain, 1985-2008. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23113.

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