Marginal Bodies and Precarious Lives in North Africa: Homo Expendibilis presents an examination of North African literature situated at the crossroads of literary analysis, political philosophy, and sociology. The author analyzes social categories in relation to civil and social protections and in particular, the ways in which disruptions to these protections can lead to social degeneration. The author’s analysis starts from the premise that precarious lives in North Africa have become true bodies of exception. In other words, they are deemed dangerous, expendable and unworthy of the rights and treatment accorded to full citizens. Thus, the author assesses portrayals of violence in contemporary literature as a crystallization of the existing disjunction between the socially disqualified and those who wield colonial, political, and religious power. Moreover, the author argues that in order to understand contemporary politics and the current climate of insecurity, a deeper understanding of precarity in North Africa from colonial times to the present is crucial. By affirming their right to exist, the author argues that the marginal bodies of North Africa offer unique insights into the society that marginalized them and thus, from the often inaudible and invisible periphery, they nevertheless challenge the dominant ideas of the center.
Hervé Anderson Tchumkam is associate professor of French and Francophone postcolonial studies at Southern Methodist University.
Introduction: Homo Expendibilis In North Africa
Chapter One: Memento Mori: The Living Dead Of Colonial Algeria
Chapter Two: The Immigrant Body As Body Of Exception
Chapter Three: Women Body, Pathological Body
Chapter Four: Precarious Lives: Slum Dwellers And Social Outcasts
Conclusion: Decentering The Center, Recentering The Periphery
Looking at the social disqualification of the dispossessed and the very corporeal notion of precariousness in a number of novels by Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian writers, Hervé Tchumkam’s concept and analysis of the homo expendibilis offers a most critical and timely reading of the marginalized—colonized, forced exiled, migrants, contemporary slaves. He does so, building on Giorgio Agamben’s, Achille Mbembe’s and Judith Butler’s theoretical works. As he explores the individual’s mechanisms of resistance when facing violence and death, he comes to redefine the relations between life and sovereign power in the North African geopolitical space.
Hervé Tchumkam’s Homo Expendibilis is an original, well researched and strongly argued work on the human condition in North Africa. The book’s innovation lies in that it reads Maghrebi social forms in light of their relationships to their governments and their failure to provide elementary civil rights. Tchumkam expands on Giorgio Agamben’s social and political theories to analyze the relationship between state violence and the production of an indecent society in the postcolonial Maghreb. A major contribution to the study of African literatures and political theory, this fascinating book opens up new directions in the field. An essential work to diffuse for the pedagogy of Maghrebi and African literature studies.
In a wide-ranging study of scholarly virtuosity, Hervé Tchumkam calls our attention to the central figure of homo expendibilis within North African literature and history. Reduced to zombie-like survival at the crossroads of Foucault’s biopolitics, Agamben’s thanatopolitics, and Mbembe’s necropolitics, homo expendibilis embodies the widespread social vulnerability, precarity, and dispossession experienced across the African continent. Deftly weaving together literary criticism, political history, and philosophical reflection into a masterwork of postcolonial Francophone studies, Tchumkam shows what North African authors have to teach us about the limits and futures of humanity.