This chapter develops the notion of ‘self-spectacularization’ to describe racial and ethnic minorities’ late-twentieth century efforts to draw attention to and counter the many exoticizing ‘gazes’ to which they were subjected. It focuses primarily on the sans-papiers’ socio-political movement, as well as representations of undocumented or clandestine migrants in literature (J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du Nord) and popular music (Salif Keïta’s ‘Nou Pas Bouger’, Meiway’s ‘Je suis sans-papiers’, and Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’). In so doing, however, it also contends that the ways Francophone authors and musicians were ‘packaged’ by their respective industries effectively places the author or artist in the role of spokesperson for the communities to which s/he belongs. The works examined in chapter 5 return to and contest this role ascribed to minority authors, arguing that it is yet another manifestation of the ‘exotic gaze’ that allows whiteness and its latent association with notions of ‘normalcy’ to evade critical scrutiny. Chapter 2 therefore ultimately considers whether these early efforts to ‘speak out’ through ‘spectacularizing the self’ nevertheless perpetuate the very ways of looking they seek to contest.
Select French-language news reports about the sans-papiers protest and the affaire Saint-Bernard discussed in the book: A “retrospective” report from 2000:
In this chapter, I primarily study J.R. Essomba’s novel Le Paradis du Nord, reading it alongside popular musical works championing sans-papiers identity, including Salif Keïta’s “Nou Pas Bouger,” Manu Chao’s “Clandestino,” and Meiway’s “Je suis sans-papiers.”