Dr Antonia Wimbush

Modern Languages and Cultures

About

Personal Statement

I joined the department in October 2020 to take up a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, under the mentorship of Prof. Charles Forsdick. My project is entitled ‘Representing the BUMIDOM: French Caribbean Migration in Literature and Culture’. I am analysing a range of novels, films, graphic novels, children’s literature, music, and museum exhibitions which portray different aspects of the BUMIDOM, a state-organised migration scheme which actively encouraged people from the French Caribbean islands to migrate to mainland France between 1963 and 1982. I am incorporating archival research and interviews with artists and community groups to investigate the parallels between lived experiences of transatlantic migration and its cultural representation. My project examines what current interest in the BUMIDOM reveals about issues of race and belonging in France today, issues which require our urgent attention in a world still divided by racial inequalities.

I completed my PhD at the University of Birmingham in February 2018. My thesis examined themes of exile and migration in life writing written by women writers from across the Francophone postcolonial world and was fully funded by the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. I drew on postcolonial theory, gender theory, and autobiographical theory to analyse texts by Nina Bouraoui (Algeria), Gisèle Pineau (Guadeloupe), Véronique Tadjo (Côte d’Ivoire), and Kim Lefèvre (Vietnam). The study concluded that these four female writers, whose experiences of mobility have been shaped by French colonialism, have adopted the genre of autofiction to express their exilic identity in their own unique ways. My first monograph, Autofiction: A Francophone Aesthetic of Exile, will be published by Liverpool University Press in 2021. This monograph is revised from my doctoral thesis and incorporates the autofictional writing of Michèle Rakotoson and Abla Farhoud to investigate how the geographic, cultural, and political specificities of Madagascar and Quebec complicates expressions and articulations of exile.

In addition to my research expertise in exile and migration, I am interested in questions of gender, sexuality, and bodily experiences. I co-edited a special issue of L’Esprit Créateur with Dr Polly Galis and Dr Maria Tomlinson, entitled ‘Challenging Normative Spaces and Gazes: Imagining the Body in the Francophone World’. This special issue, which was published in June 2020, arose from an international, bilingual conference we organised in Birmingham in January 2018 on this theme. We are also publishing Queer(ying) Bodily Norms in Francophone Culture with Peter Lang in 2021, an edited volume which investigates questions of gender and sexuality in Francophone contexts.

I have written articles and book chapters on memory and trauma in contemporary Francophone women’s writing. Recent publications include an article for Journal of Romance Studies on literary representations of World War Two in Caribbean women’s writing and a book chapter which offers an ecocritical account of Véronique Tadjo’s latest novel, published in Transgression(s) in Twenty-First-Century Women’s Writing in French (2020).

From 2016 to 2019 I was the Conference Secretary for the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies. I am currently co-editing a special issue of Francosphères entitled ‘Postcolonial Realms of Memory in the Francophone World’, following the conference organised on the same theme in November 2019.

I enjoy teaching French language and culture and postcolonial studies at undergraduate and postgraduate level. From 2017 to 2018, I worked as an English-language tutor at Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier. I then returned to Birmingham, where I worked as a Teaching Fellow in French from 2018 to 2019. From September 2019 to August 2020, I was a Lecturer in French and European Studies at the University of Bath.