Spatial Boundaries, Abounding Spaces

Colonial Borders in French and Francophone Literature and Film

Mohit Chandna

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Colonial expansion and spatial grammar in French-language works from different historical and national contexts

Colonialism advanced its project of territorial expansion by changing the very meaning of borders and space. The colonial project scripted a unipolar spatial discourse that saw the colonies as an extension of European borders. In his monograph, Mohit Chandna engages with narrations of spatial conflicts in French and Francophone literature and film from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. In literary works by Jules Verne, Ananda Devi, and Patrick Chamoiseau, and film by Michael Haneke, Chandna analyzes the depiction of ever-changing borders and spatial grammar within the colonial project. In so doing, he also examines the ongoing resistance to the spatial legacies of colonial practices that act as omnipresent enforcers of colonial borders. Literature and film become sites that register colonial spatial paradigms and advance competing narratives that fracture the dominance of these borders.

Through its analyses Spatial Boundaries, Abounding Spaces shows that colonialism is not a finished project relegated to our past. Colonialism is present in the here and now, and exercises its power through the borders that define us.

Ebook available in Open Access.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

“The colonial project is far from over and it continues to determine our lives through the borders that surround us. In order to understand here and now, one needs to start with there and then.”, Mohit Chandna

Chapter 1: Introduction: Charting Course

Anchoring Space - Doing Space - Geographies of Literature - Postmodern Spaces – Material -  Histories


Chapter 2: Around the World in Eighty (One) Days

Section 1. Understanding Verne: Laying the Groundwork

Verne and the World - Verne’s Geography - Geography on Verne - Reading Verne’s Geographies - Rounding up the World - Capital Repetitions: Monghir

Section 2. Opium Silence and Nineteenth-Century French Literature

Colonizing Hong Kong  - Illegal Opium and Colonial Wealth  - Opium Cities  - Opium Race


Chapter 3: Dislocating the Indian Nation: Ananda Devi’s Homelands

Global Pathways - Along a Local Road - Dislocating Location - Grounding Identity - Patriarchal Homelands - Tango with India - Delhi’s Underbelly - Antipodal Itineraries - Desert Safari - Producing Dissent - Rediscovering India


Chapter 4: Martinique: Space, Language, Gender

Section 1. Contextualizing Texaco

Texaco and its Significations - A Spatial Metaphor - Literary Margins: City and Language - Marie-Sophie as Texaco - Chamoiseau and Feminism - Reinventing the City

Section 2. Martinique’s Literary Identity and French Borders

Martinique: Colonial History, Postcolonial Literature - French Borders, Martinican Text

Section 3. Text, Texaco and Landscape

Texaco: Space and Language - Rewriting l’En-ville

Section 4. France, Martinique and Marie-Sophie’s Body

Marie-Sophie and Texaco - Marie-Sophie’s body and Martinique


Chapter 5: Out of Place: French Family at (Algerian) War 205

Immaterial Differences - Locating Caché - White Lies - Hidden Agenda - Colonial Family; National Lies - Colonial Past; Cinematic Present - Escaping Images - Deadly Images


Epilogue: Interjecting Passages



Format: Monograph - free ebook - ePUB

302 pages

ISBN: 9789461663849

Publication: August 13, 2021

Languages: English


Mohit Chandna completed his doctoral studies at Cornell University, New York, and currently works as assistant professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.
At times, Mohit Chandna succeeds brilliantly, drawing on Doreen Massey and Henri Lefebvre to further develop a theoretical
approach to understand how “complex layered spatial legacies of colonialism are embedded in and contested by creative works” that he understands as “creative geographers of colonialism”. Chapter 2, which takes up Jules Verne’s Le tour du monde dans quatre-vingt jours, demonstrates some of the strengths of this approach.
Christopher Lizotte, Political Geography

This book is an insightful and well-researched academic volume that explores the intersection between space(s), colonial subjectivities, and Francophone literatures and films. [...] overall a well-written, thorough study of different spatial elements in colonial and postcolonial Francophone fiction.
Alex Lenoble, The French Review, Volume 96, Number 2, December 2022, p. 256, DOI:
One of the strengths of the book is its detailed and helpful historical, political, and cultural contextualization of each location examined in the study. In addition, Chandna demonstrates excellent close reading skills – he takes care to draw out the key themes and ideas of the novels and films while also analysing their formal and stylistic features in relation to colonial spatiality. Chapters are well structured and subheadings are used effectively to guide the reader through the diverse arguments. [...] Overall, though, this is a well-researched study of Francophone colonial and postcolonial cultural production which makes a unique contribution to scholarship. The fact that quotations are given in French and also translated into English ensures that the study is accessible to non-Francophone scholars, although it is perhaps mostly aimed at postgraduates and researchers, given the complex theoretical ideas explored in the book. Above all, Spatial Boundaries, Abounding Spaces shows how the French colonial project continues to shape identities and subjectivities today.
Antonia Wimbush, Literary Geographies 8(2) 2022 241-243

It is worth noting that Leuven has published Chandna’s book under a non-commercial licence, making it freely available in PDF format. Doing so should help it secure the extensive readership and reach it undoubtedly deserves.
Edward Welch, L'Esprit Créateur, VOL. 62, NO. 2