Cultural Métissage: A lost movement relevant for our time

Faculty Sponsor

Randa Duvick


Arts and Sciences


French Language and Literature, West African Literature

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


In West African literature, folklore has been a major cultural component in passing down traditions and history, most notably through oral tradition. However, colonialism and western thought have often pushed this history aside in order to impose, or “impart,” more “civilized” modes of culture. Cultural métissage, a movement that looks to the mixing or blending of cultures, is a way to reclaim cultural autonomy for West Africans particularly in the writing down of traditional stories in the French language. Here, we examine “Sarzan” by Birago Diop as an example of cultural métissage in two ways—first, the themes it presents in looking at ancient and modern. Secondly, the story itself is an example of cultural blending; it is a traditional Senegalese story but written in the colonizer's tongue: French. A close examination of the story itself provides a glimpse into the internal struggle between tradition and change, of old and new. This paper demonstrates how métissage is a way to understand the relevance of old tradition and customs in a new post-colonial era in which ancient and modern can live side by side.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Miranda Engholm is a French and Global Service double major, with a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She is interested in how culture and language work together, and in particular how language can be used to empower local communities. As a person who is from two cultures, she has always been curious about how to bridge different communities; thus, this paper is a reflection of her interest in storytelling and how it helps to uplift voices from the margins. In the future, she hopes to work in service to vulnerable communities.

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