Olivia C Harrison
Research & Practice Areas
Maghrebi and Beur/banlieue literature and film; the Palestinian question; diversity in postcolonial France; the historiography and memory of colonization in France and Algeria; anti- and postcolonial theory; translation.
- Ph.D. French and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, 5/2010
- M.Phil. French and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, 2/2007
- M.A. French, Columbia University, 10/2005
- B.A. French and Linguistics, Oxford University, 6/2002
Summary Statement of Research Interests
Olivia C. Harrison’s research focuses on postcolonial North African, Middle Eastern, and French literature, film, and theory, with a particular emphasis on aesthetic and political affiliations between writers and intellectuals from the Global South. She is the author of two monographs: _Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization_ (Stanford University Press, 2016) analyzes the representation of Palestine in Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian literary works and public debates from the 1960s to the present; _Natives Against Nativism: Antiracism and Indigenous Critique in Postcolonial France_ (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) examines the intersection of anticolonial solidarity and antiracist activism in postcolonial France. She is currently investigating the recuperation of antiracism by the French alt right for a book tentatively titled _The White Minority_. Coeditor of _Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics_ (Stanford University Press, 2016) and co-translator of Hocine Tandjaoui’s _Clamor_ (Litmus Press, 2021), she has translated essays and poems by Abdelkebir Khatibi, Abraham Serfaty, and Abdellatif Laâbi.
Maghreb; Palestine; Beur and banlieue literature and film; decolonization; transcolonial studies; global south studies; racism and anti-racism; translation
Detailed Statement of Research Interests
My first book, Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization, argues for a transnational, South-South approach to postcolonial literature and theory. Building on the work of Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih, who coined the term transcolonialism to account for relations across imperial formations and postcolonial sites, I show that Maghrebi writers and intellectuals have turned to Israel-Palestine to think through the legacies of colonialism and propose new routes for decolonization. I focus on texts that model what I call transcolonial identification: the Moroccan journal Souffles-Anfas, the popular plays of Kateb Yacine, Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s novels and TV series, Albert Memmi’s essays on Jewishness, Abdelkebir Khatibi and Jacques Derrida’s Abrahamic dialogues, and Edmond Amran El Maleh’s writings about Palestine are evidence of the possibilities – and limitations – of identification with Palestine. Though focused on the central importance of the Palestinian question in North African literature and thought, Transcolonial Maghreb offers a model of transcolonial criticism that can be exported to other (post)colonial sites.
Natives Against Nativism: Antiracism and Indigenous Critique in Postcolonial France (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) is the first book-length study devoted to the intersection of anticolonial solidarity and antiracist activism in postcolonial France. Antiracist movements in France have been transcolonial from the start, as evidenced in the twin figures of resistance that regularly appear in the literature of these movements: the Palestinian and the American Indian. For the past fifty years, the Palestinian question has served as a rallying cry for migrant rights, from the immigrant labor associations of the 1970s and Beur movements of the 1980s to the militant decolonial activists of the Indigènes de la république (Natives of the Republic), who since 2005 have claimed indigeneity on behalf of the descendants of France’s colonial subjects, dubbed indigènes in colonial law. These movements have also mobilized the figure of the Indian, disseminated via Hollywood Westerns to countless households in France, against the assumption that coloniality is of the past. Far from being occasional points of interest for antiracist activists, the twin figures of the Palestinian and the Indian have been instrumental in developing a sophisticated critique of colonial and postcolonial racism based on transindigenous identification across imperial formations–in this case, France, the US, and Israel. Rooted in a relational critique of Eurocolonial imperial regimes, these forms of postcolonial anticolonial militancy have given activists and scholars a new lexicon to think through the ways in which the colonial present continues to structure our purportedly postcolonial world. Against the disavowal of decades of antiracist activism in France, Natives Against Nativism analyzes a wide range of texts–novels, memoirs, essays, militant newspapers, documentary films, unpublished plays, and film scripts by anonymous activists, little-known writers, and major public figures like Jean Genet and Jean-Luc Godard–that are all invested to varying degrees in articulating indigenous critique: a critical understanding of the colonial production of indigenous subjects (indigènes, “natives”) and the afterlives of the history of subjectification in the postcolonial era, including white nativist claims to indigeneity.
When I present work from Natives Against Nativism, inevitably the following question comes up: what do you make of Dieudonné? (Dieudonné is a hugely popular comedian, a self-proclaimed pro-Palestinian who is best known for inviting Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson to share the stage with him.) My third book will be devoted to the French alt right’s recuperation of anti-racism, including the Palestinian question, which has been instrumentalized by anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements in recent years. I am particularly interested in white identification with (post)colonial minority positions, as evidenced in the knee-jerk rejection of “repentance” and the mobilization of tropes such as “reverse colonization” or “anti-white racism,” not only in far-right media and literature, but also in the courts. This project is invested in recuperating the agonistic terms of the antiracist struggle against a flattening of discourse that automatically equates pro-Palestinianism with anti-Semitism.
- Harrison, O. C. (2023). _Natives against Nativism: Antiracism and Indigenous Critique in Postcolonial France_. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2016). _Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization_. Stanford University Press.
- Harrison, Olivia C. and Teresa VIlla-Ignacio (Ed.). (2016). _Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics_. Stanford University Press.
- Harrison, O. C. (2021). “Sounds of Palestine”. Sounds Senses pp. 181-208. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2021). “Minor Transpositions: Mohamed Rouabhi Stages the Colonial Cliché”. Transpositions: Migration, Translation, Music pp. 115-132. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2020). “Khatibi and the Transcolonial Turn”. Abdelkebir Khatibi: Postcolonialism, Transnational pp. 149-171. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2020). “Palestine and the Migrant Question”. Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futur pp. 121-143. London: Palgrave Macmillan. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2018). “Etel Adnan’s Transcolonial Mediterranean”. Critically Mediterranean: Aesthetics, Theory, Herm pp. 199-215. London: Palgrave Macmillan. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2017). “Beyond France-Algeria: The Algerian Novel and the Transcolonial Imagination”. Algeria: Nation, Culture and Transnationalism pp. 222-241. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2016). “Transcolonial Cartographies: Kateb Yacine and Mohamed Rouabhi Stage Palestine in France-Algeria”. The Postcolonial World pp. 243-259. New York: Routledge. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2023). Transcolonial Studies. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2022). “France, a Settler Postcolony?”. Middle East Report. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2015). “How to Live Together: Lessons from Algeria”. Los Angeles Review of Books. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2013). “Deconstruction, Religion, Politics”. Los Angeles Review of Books. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2012). “Judith Butler and the Cause of the Other”. Los Angeles Review of Books. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2021). “Translating Race on the French Stage”. Comparative Literature. Vol. 73 (4), pp. 385-402. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2021). “Writing Difference: Palestine as Metaphor in the Poetry of Tahar Ben Jelloun”. Yale French Studies. Vol. 137-138, pp. 207-230.
- Harrison, O. C. (2020). “Decolonizing the Figure of the Migrant, or What Does Palestine Teach Us About the Migrant Question?”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. Vol. 52 (1), pp. 150-53. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2019). “Whither Anti-Racism? Farida Belghoul, les Indigènes de la République, and the Contest for Indigeneity in France.”. Diacritics. Vol. 46 (3), pp. 54-77. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2018). “Maghreb as Method”. boundary 2 online. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2017). “Consuming Palestine: Anticapitalism and Anticolonialism in Jean-Luc Godard’s _Ici et Ailleurs_”. Studies in French Cinema. Vol. 18 (3), pp. 178-91. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2016). “For a Transcolonial Reading of the Contemporary Algerian Novel”. Contemporary French & Francophone Studies. Vol. 20 (1), pp. 102-110. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2016). “Translational Activism and the Decolonization of Culture”. Expressions Maghrébines. Vol. 15 (2), pp. 45-57. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2014). “Performing Palestine in Contemporary France: Mohamed Rouabhi’s Transcolonial Banlieue”. Modern and Contemporary France. Vol. 22 (1), pp. 43-57. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2013). “Cross-Colonial Poetics: _Souffles-Anfas_ and the Figure of Palestine”. PMLA. Vol. 128 (2), pp. 353-69. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2013). “Rethinking ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs Through Palestine: Transcolonial Perspectives on Maghrebi Literature”. Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: SITES. pp. pp. 17-27. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2012). “Staging Palestine in France-Algeria: Popular Theater and the Politics of Transcolonial Comparison”. Social Text. Vol. 112, pp. 27-47. PubMed Web Address
- Harrison, O. C. (2009). “Resistances of Literature: Strategies of Narrative Affiliation in Etel Adnan’s _Sitt Marie Rose_”. Postcolonial Text. Vol. 5 (2) PubMed Web Address
- USC ASHSS Grant Writing Mentorship Program, 2013-2014
- Zumberge Individual Research Grant, 2013-2014
- Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship in Arabic, 2005-2006