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25 Years

Soccer Dreams and Migrant Narratives in French Graphic Novels

Date: 
Fri, 03/29/2019 - 12:00pm
Event Location: 
537 Heller Hall

Agnes Schaffauser, Department of French & Italian 

Western countries often present the “migrant crisis” as a threat by considering clandestine migrants as anonymous invaders, reducing them to numbers and stripping them of their identities. My talk challenges this fear-inducing narrative of “illegal” migration from Africa to Europe and examines the ways in which graphic novels, through their visual framing and appropriation of orality, render migrant lives more visible in their individual specificity. I will focus on two French graphic novels in which young West African men, lured by the dream of becoming professional soccer players in Europe, become entangled in clandestine migration. Indeed, the soccer fantasy emerges as a leitmotif in contemporary Francophone productions, soccer becoming a social and economic venue promising to boost the agency of Africans who consider this sport to be a potential escape from endemic continental poverty. However, while soccer presents a possible emancipatory path, it also creates an illusory enthusiasm for Europe that translates into the risk of death for budding migrating athletes. Furthermore, by reprising detailed accounts of human trafficking in soccer’s sordid underworld, graphic novels call into question the fraudulent recruitment system at play in Africa: a system that gets families into debt by inducing them to finance deceitful projects of migrant expatriation for fake tryouts in soccer clubs.