The particular cultural positioning described as the beur predicament and often summed up in the phrase “belonging neither here nor there,” is clearly a result of French colonial history. As such, it hardly refers to subjects able or willing to assume the vantage point of the classic European travel narrative or to employ its poetics. Beurs are children of North African immigrants (primarily from Algeria, but also Morocco and Tunisia) who arrived in France after the Second World War to work in the developing auto industries. While entitled to French citizenship (born in pre-independence Algeria, their parents are French subjects), these French-born subjects are routinely referred to as “second generation immigrants,” a practice which underscores their problematic status in the French national imagination. In the early 1980s they burst onto the political scene with a series of marches and demonstrations for equal treatment and on the library scene with a series of debut novels and autobiographical narratives. While many of their texts are fundamentally structured by a specific itinerary (a journal from France to Algeria and back to France is imagined, postponed, undertaken and often repeated by beur protagonists), as far as I know, writers of the beur generation have not produced travel narratives in the traditional sense of the genre.

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Copyright © 2006 American Association of Teachers of French. This article first appeared in The French Review 79:4 (2006), 724-736.

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