Unruly Landscapes of a Diasporic Return

Mobility and Memory in Michèle Rakotoson's Juillet au pays: Chroniques d'un retour à Madagascar (2007)

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Anna-Leena Toivanen Academy Research Fellow, University of Eastern Finland, Finland anna-leena.toivanen@uef.fi

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Juillet au pays: Chroniques d'un retour à Madagascar (“July in the Country: Chronicles of a Return to Madagascar,” 2007) narrates the “homecoming” of the diasporic author Michèle Rakotoson after several years of absence. Applying a literary mobility studies perspective and contributing to the dialogue between mobilities research and postcolonial literary studies, this article analyzes how Rakotoson's return travelogue constructs Madagascan landscapes through the interplay of mobility and memory. The article focuses on the text's representations of mobility practices and how different means of transport affect the returnee's impressions of the “homely” landscapes and her own positioning with respect to them. While different mobility practices and modes of transport and their intertwinement with personal/collective memories allow for diverse perspectives on the former home, the landscapes of return remain unruly: they are mobile not only because observed while in movement, but also because their present meanings escape from the returnee.

Return travelogues form a sub-category of travel writing, narrating diasporic subjects’ journeys to their former home countries.1 Such journeys often qualify for “personal memory tourism,” which entails the traveler's “pursuit of memories of their own past.”2 This form of tourism is individualistic and entails “journeys to sites of subjective attraction” for reasons that range from the search of identity and self-discovery to nostalgia and fostering social relations.3 Diasporic returns are marked by a temporal and spatial distance from the former home country, because of which return narratives depict journeys to landscapes that are uncannily familiar but also strange. In the postcolonial context, these “homecomings” may generate anxious narratives of “dark return” as the diasporic travelers return to their poverty-ridden “homes” in the Global South.4

Juillet au pays: Chroniques d'un retour à Madagascar [“July in the Country: Chronicles of a Return to Madagascar”]5 represents the “homecoming” of the diasporic author Michèle Rakotoson after several years of absence and after more than twenty years of life in France. Rakotoson exiled in 1983 for political reasons and was not allowed to travel to Madagascar for 25 years. Juillet narrates her multiple returns to the country from 2002 to 2007, and by intertwining the author's desire to revisit her own past with the need to understand the colonial history and the postcolonial present of Madagascar, the text also reflects her traumatic experience of exile.6 This sort of “two-fold investment in the personal and the social” is characteristic of postcolonial travel writing7 and it moves beyond the mainly individualistic qualities of personal memory tourism.

Rakotoson has published novels, plays, and short stories since the mid-1980s. In addition to fiction such as the novels Elle, au printemps [“She, in Springtime”],8 focused on the migratory journey and life in Paris of a Malagasy student, and Lalana,9 a portrayal of the last journey from Antananarivo to the seaside of a musician living with AIDS, Rakotoson's oeuvre includes non-fiction. After Juillet, she published Passeport pour Antananarivo [“Passport to Antananarivo”]10 and Madame à la campagne: Chroniques malgaches [“Lady in the Country: Malagasy Chronicles”],11 which both attest to her interest in travel. The latter also adds a new layer to the theme of journeying as it portrays the author's mobilities in Madagascar after her decision to settle there for good. In addition to Rakotoson's interest in exploring the connections of colonial, familial, and personal histories,12 the theme of mobility—as metaphorical and tangible and as long-distance/non-daily/life-changing, and an everyday practice—motivates her work.

This tendency also characterizes Juillet, a text marked by a tensioned relationship between memories and the present as the diasporic returnee tries to claim her belonging to the landscapes that used to be her home but that now seem to reject her as a mere tourist. The returnee-traveler's oscillation between the positions of an in/outsider and her difficulties in reconciling her memories with “the present tense of the destination”13 are conveyed in the text's portrayals of mobility practices as the returnee travels to Madagascar and through its un/familiar landscapes.

This article analyzes how Rakotoson's return travelogue constructs Madagascan landscapes through the interplay of mobility and memory. My reading focuses on the text's representations of mobility practices—air travel, automobility, travel by public transport, and pedestrianism—in order to discuss how different modes of transport affect the returnee's impressions of the “homely” landscapes and her positioning in relation to them. While different mobility practices and their intertwinement with personal (and collective) memories allow for diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives on the former home, the landscapes of return remain profoundly unruly because of the evasiveness of their present meanings. The returnee uses different modes of mobility and transport for renegotiating her relationship with the place of return and inscribing herself in its formerly familiar landscape.14 However, as my analysis demonstrates, these attempts never entirely succeed, which is telling of the ambiguity of the idea of diasporic “homecoming.”

By analyzing the representation of mobility practices and modes of transport in Rakotoson's text, this article contributes to “the recent ‘humanities turn’ in mobilities studies,”15 and more specifically, aims at further enhancing much-needed dialogue between postcolonial literary studies and mobilities research.16 While there is increasing cross-pollination between these fields,17 the majority of research addressing mobility-related topics in postcolonial studies is not informed by the mobility studies framework. The term “mobility” features frequently in current postcolonial literary discourses, but its meaning is mostly equated with global migration movements and, on a more metaphorical level, with “the migrant experience”18 in a way that does not pay much attention to what Tim Cresswell refers to as “the actual fact of movement.”19 Indeed, postcolonial studies has been more interested in the outcomes of mobility than in mobility itself.20 The sedentarist, migration studies-oriented approach that informs mainstream understandings of “mobility” in postcolonial studies is characterized by the way in which “the story of human movement [is] mainly … told from the position of fixed points.”21 Such an approach tends to ignore the tangibly kinetic aspects of migration and other postcolonial mobilities. Moreover, the prioritization of migration can lead to the failure to acknowledge the multiplicity and relationality of mobilities.22 With my reading of Rakotoson's return travelogue from a mobility studies perspective, I argue for the value of portrayals of concrete mobility practices for postcolonial literary analysis. I subscribe to Stephen Greenblatt's idea that it is “only when conditions directly related to literal movement are firmly grasped will it be possible to understand the metaphorical movements”23—for instance, the diasporic returnee's oscillation between belonging and unbelonging and their balancing between the past and the present of the place of return. By reading Rakotoson's narrative of diasporic “homecoming” from a mobility studies perspective, this article contributes to “mobilizing” the study of African diasporic literatures by demonstrating how mobilities “shape diasporic formations and narratives”24—not only metaphorically but also in a very tangible way. The figure of the diasporic returnee enables insights into tourism motivated by one's personal past and attests to the relationality of global mobilities in terms of migration, diaspora, and travel.25

Aeromobility: A Landscape from Above

Unlike many contemporary travel narratives that leave the physical part of the journey unaddressed,26 Juillet opens with a scene at Roissy Airport in Paris. The airport scene, which already articulates the text's central dilemma of diaspora and (un)belonging, is followed by a chapter in which the returnee observes Madagascar through the airplane window. The bird's-eye perspective or the “aeromobile gaze” enabled by air travel is associated with knowledge and power: a view from above permits the observer to see things that are not perceptible from the ground.27 The narrator's words, “Madagascar is there, beneath my eyes,”28 attest to this “objective” and “all-knowing” position—indeed, as the landing approaches, the narrator claims that “Antananarivo lets itself be looked at.”29 The returnee's view over the landscape is defined by memories on both a personal and a collective level: the landscape below not only “speaks of exoduses, escapes, slave trade, turf wars,”30 but also evokes a personal effect as “layers of memories fall back into place.”31 The landscape of return is seen through the lenses of the past: it gains its meaning through memories while its present tense remains beyond reach.32

What is noteworthy in the aeromobility passage is how the narrative ends up challenging the link between the aeromobile gaze and knowledge. The narrator states that the movement of the airplane affects the way she perceives the landscape. Observing the landscape from above and in movement renders it fleeting and blurry: “The airplane makes everything slide, it erases.”33 Indeed, the Antananarivo which just a moment before was docile and there to be looked at, suddenly turns into a blurred view with different elements of the urban landscape blending with each other.34 Partly, this effect of “blurring” results from the altitude and speed typical of air travel. However, from an affective viewpoint, the fleeting qualities of the landscape attest to the fact that the reverse side of the “objectivity” of the aeromobile gaze is its detachment from the lived materiality of the landscape.35 This detachment marks the way in which the landscape is experienced: it is certainly material but it feels alienatingly abstract36 and cannot be properly grasped, as is conveyed in the returnee's comparison of Antananarivo with a jewel: “[Antananarivo] hides in its case, revealing only its contours, like a jewel that does not want to be taken.”37 Observed through the airplane window, the city of the returnee's early years escapes and hides its meanings, leaving the returnee emotionally detached from its present realities.

The following chapter of the travelogue describes the narrator's arrival at Antananarivo Airport. The airport scene underlines how the returnee's connection with her former home country has been weakened by her long absence. While the notion of “homecoming” entails a sense of belonging both in national/cultural and in familial terms, the way in which the narrator's arrival is represented disturbs such associations. The border authorities are uninterested in her travel documents, in addition to which she becomes concretely aware of the loss of her parents—they will never again be waiting for her at the airport. The realization that no one is waiting for her generates a panicky feeling of loneliness, leading her to question herself: “And if no-one came to pick me up, where would I find a taxi? How would I get home?”38 The airport fails to play the role as a place that “enables and actualizes the … reconnection of otherwise faraway individuals”39 and underlines, instead, that the returnee does not quite feel at home. The text's portrayals of aeromobility destabilize unproblematized understandings of “homecoming” by conveying a sense of emotional distance between the returnee and the place of return. The altitude and speed characteristic of air travel and the indifference and absences that mark the narrator's airport experience play a key role in producing this distance.

Automobility: A Protective Shell

Eventually, the narrator's friend turns up to pick her up from the airport. Observing the landscape from the passenger's seat of a moving car, the returnee notes that “details that I had not seen before jump out at me”:40 the concrete block houses of military bases, rickety houses along the road, people walking barefoot. According to the narrator, it is thanks to the low speed of the vehicle that these details become perceptible; the car runs “to the rhythm of the country,”41 which for the narrator is “a normal speed which permits one to see the details of the landscape, to become part of it.”42 Compared to air travel, traveling in a passenger car seems to be a more appropriate mode of transport to reconnect with the place of return.

However, the slow speed of the car also makes it possible to see things that do not strengthen the connection between the narrator and the place of return but that make the relatively privileged returnee see the surrounding poverty and failures of the infrastructure,43 or what the narrator refers to as “the fragility of this country”:44 the streets are too narrow to support motor traffic, which causes traffic jams, and there is a flagrant gap between the affluent members of society driving their “big ‘rides’”45 and peasants with their heavily loaded carriages. Highways with three lanes that run through the landscape are made for the elites, while people living along the road have to walk for several kilometers when they want to cross the highway. The landscape through which the narrator and her friend drive is marked by a social inequality that manifests itself in the opposition between the traditional and the modern, or the rural and the urban: one has to be constantly wary of “a flock of geese that goes astray or a big Ferrari that thinks it is on a rally circuit.”46 While the returnee perceives these differences, the reader cannot ignore the fact that she is inside the protective “shield”47 or the “domestic, cocooned moving capsule”48 of the private vehicle, observing the landscape “through the shut off windows of the car.”49 In short, her observations are those of a privileged outsider. Suddenly, the returnee's friend brakes, waking the narrator from her introspective mode: a man is dragging a car wreck on a rickshaw, with one of the wheels stuck in a pothole. All of the traffic is obliged to stop for ten minutes, and the narrator's friend says, “Welcome to Antananarivo and its indiscipline.”50 The narrator reacts to his words as follows: “I keep quiet, swallow the scathing sentence that almost bursts out.”51 It remains unclear what the narrator wanted to say—whether she was going to criticize Antananarivo's failures of infrastructure or her friend's caustic words. In any case, that she feels obliged to keep her comments to herself points to her awareness of her position as an outsider: someone not entitled to criticize.

The returnee's outsiderness and unbelonging are also conveyed in another scene involving automobility as she decides to rent a car to drive to the countryside. Her friend's worrying reaction—“You're going there alone?”52—suggests that he does not consider her capable of making the trip by herself, positioning her as a helpless tourist. The very next passage describes the returnee driving a rental car and picking up a hitchhiker. After a short discussion during which the hitchhiker, a young peasant, informs the narrator about the hardships of rural life, the two travel in silence. Immersed in her memories in a melancholic, introspective mode while driving through the desolate landscape, the narrator claims:

Driving in this country of mine, driving time and again, taking the national highways, side roads, paths, driving, driving, trying to understand … My co-traveler is now silent. What can I say to him? That I certainly don't share the same memories as him?53

The quotation suggests, first of all, that for the returnee automobility is a way of trying to reclaim the landscapes of return and to renegotiate her relationship with them. Second, the fact that she does not know what to say to the hitchhiker—who belongs to a different socio-economic class and generation—suggests that her attempts to understand the present tense of her former home country by engaging in mobility practices are not proving to be that successful. While compared to air travel, driving seems to enable a “closer” contact with the place of return by immersing the returnee to the slow mobile rhythms of local life, the fact of traveling inside the protected “bubble” of the private vehicle conveys the returnee's socio-economic privilege that underlines her disconnection from the predicament of everyday life both in Antananarivo and Madagascan rural areas.

Public Transport: Going Nostalgic

While the passenger car is represented as a protective shell and driving as the returnee's (ultimately not very successful) attempt to re-establish a closer connection with the “homely” landscapes, the portrayal of public transport is invested with slightly different meanings. At one point, the narrator feels overwhelmed by Antananarivo's “demands”54 and omnipresent poverty. She plans another trip to the countryside where she believes she can not only find much-needed space and silence but also reconnect with her childhood memories. That the narrator's trip to the countryside is motivated by a nostalgic impulse also influences her choice of transport: she wants to take a bush taxi to relive a childhood experience. Typical of public transportation, as a mobile public space the minibus in Rakotoson's text functions as a space of encounter and differentiation55 in that it challenges her ideas about “being part” of Madagascar. In order to catch the bush taxi, she first has to ride another bus to reach the road station. The bus is crowded, but the narrator occupies two seats instead of one, unlike the locals, whose way of giving her more room make her feel “elephantine”.56 Her awareness of taking more room than the locals underlines her outsiderness and her diasporic class privilege in a very tangible, almost comical way. In order not to think about this awkwardness, the narrator focuses her attention on the streets that she can see through the window of the vehicle. She recognizes the buildings and notes that “The streets are the ones that I once took when going on holiday.”57 Her sense of familiarity is, however, disturbed by the present overpopulation, which differs from her childhood memories. The nostalgic landscape of the “homecoming” is the same, but not quite: to quote Svetlana Boym's words, it is “a superimposition of two images”; home and away, and the past and the present.58

The returnee experiences another moment of familiarity when the bus reaches the road station, where a seemingly chaotic assemblage of vehicles is waiting. Despite the chaos, the narrator manages to find the right bush taxi when someone orients her to “an old, rotten jalopy.”59 In this respect, the vehicle evokes her childhood experiences. But then again, the tragedy of nostalgia lies in the fact that time affects not only the things that are remembered but also the person who remembers. This becomes clear to the returnee when she starts thinking about the doubtful safety standards of the vehicle, after which she tells herself: “Anyway, I wanted to reconnect with my roots: here they are. I wanted to travel in the same way as I did in my childhood: here I am. Except that I am no longer a child.”60

The journey in the bush taxi is also illuminative of how she is positioned as a tourist-outsider by the locals. When the bush taxi does not set off, even though no one has boarded for a while, the returnee starts to lose her patience:

I had forgotten that time is flexible here. […] I ask:

– When do we leave?

It would have been better to have kept my mouth shut. The driver's assistant looks at me disdainfully.

– When we're full.

– And when will we be full?

A foreigner's question. He makes sure that I know this.61

The narrator's impatient questions position her as someone no longer familiar with local procedures of travel by public transport and whose “foreigner's” concept of time is not in line with local rhythms. As Filipa Wunderlich argues, “a sense of time [is] not only … intersubjective but also place-specific” and that “time in urban places is produced and perceived jointly.”62 In Juillet, the returnee's relation to local, jointly produced temporalized space is marked by lack of synchrony, which contributes to the failure of her nostalgia trip by public transport.

Pedestrianism: Attempt to Accept the Gap

In addition to technology-enhanced modes of transport, the text includes portrayals of pedestrianism. The returnee's walks in the vicinity are motivated by the need to reconnect with the place of return—for her, walking is an embodied process of spatial appropriation à la de Certeau:63 “I need to walk, breathe, find myself in this city, adapt my movements to it, reshape myself to it.”64 Walking, in contrast with forms of transport whereby the landscape is observed from the vehicle and through a window, seems to be a more “unmediated” and embodied way of moving in the landscapes of return. The recurring word-choice “Il me faut” (I need/have to) in passages portraying walking conveys a sense of urgency that the narrator experiences in her attempt to understand her own position vis-à-vis her former hometown. Her attempt to reconnect with the landscape through walking is a process of identifying the different temporal layers of meaning that she attaches to the urban landscape: “I need to sort out what I have brought in me from Paris, what I see now, and what comes from my past. I need to wander in the city without a goal or aimlessly, rather.”65 The narrator's act of flâneurism is a very specific, “diasporic returnee version” of the activity: it is an act in which she attempts to reconcile the schisms between memory and the present, between the here and the remote, and not an act of “detached” observation by someone who feels at home in the urban space as a modernist flâneur figure.66 The narrator's aimless wandering in the urban landscape is characterized by the necessity to accept her loss of the city that she once knew and to come to terms with its present version.

Significantly, the narrative keeps alluding to the figure of the tourist in its descriptions of the returnee's walks in the urban space.67 The way in which the narrator positions herself in relation to the figure of the tourist is revealing of her ambivalent relationship with Antananarivo. The narrator claims that she wants to walk in the city streets “without being a tourist”68 and that, indeed, “I'm not a tourist in my city, but profoundly from somewhere else, from another life, from another time.”69 Here, the narrator rejects the position of the tourist and defines her relationship with Antananarivo differently, as someone displaced from its present. Later, however, the narrator is willing to identify herself in the figure of the tourist: “To walk, walk like a tourist who discovers.”70 Here, she embraces the position of the tourist as an attempt to see the city with “new eyes”—and not as someone engaging in personal memory tourism—and to remain detached and more “approving” of its unpleasant aspects, as her rhetorical question suggests: “How can one love this city without hating it, a city that poverty has rendered pious and wise like a circumcised woman?”71 The uneasy relation between the past and the present is articulated again in the way in which the narrator, walking while immersed in melancholic introspection and her personal memories of Antananarivo, almost trips over a child sleeping on the street on a sheet of cardboard.

The narrator's attempts to reconnect with Madagascar are constantly disturbed by her repulsion at the country's poverty and the failures of its infrastructure. During a visit to the rural landscapes of her childhood, she encounters an abject scene of decomposition and neglect at the house that had once belonged to her grandparents: “Here, the ground is a foul mire, the smell is pestilential, the houses swarm with fleas, lice and bugs, the thatched roofs crumble, the walls crack, and the paths are slippery.”72 In the description of this visit, the narrative several times repeats the words, “I'm going to turn back, I'm going to escape.”73 The repetition conveys the returnee's refusal to witness the degradation of the place to which she is attached through her memories, and also invests the act of walking with a new meaning: that of walking away, of turning one's back on the painful aspects of the landscapes of a “homecoming”. Initially, Juillet represents walking as a necessity—as the ultimate mobility practice to engage with the place of return and become immersed in it and to see it with “new eyes.” However, the allegedly “unmediated” relationship with place that is supposedly achieved through walking fails: memories step in and formerly familiar places feel alienating because of the present degradation and predicament they embody.

Conclusion: Mobile, Unruly Landscapes

Dialogue between postcolonial literary studies and mobilities research allows for a relational and multiple understanding of postcolonial mobilities that may overlap but that are not necessarily commensurable with migration or diaspora. Personal memory tourism by travelers like diasporic returnees highlights these intertwined qualities of global mobilities.74 A mobility studies perspective on postcolonial literary texts makes it possible to appreciate the tangibly kinetic aspects of migration and diaspora and the ways in which portrayals of mobility practices contribute to producing their meanings. As Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce state, “literary texts are … vital constituents of the ways in which mobility itself is experienced as embodied, subjective act that is informed by, and through, the cultural context in which it occurs.”75 A literary mobility studies reading elucidates the complexities of postcolonial mobilities as in the case of the mobilities of affluent diasporic subjects that may seem smooth and unimpeded but that can be experienced as particularly uneasy because of the tensions their position as tourist-natives76 causes.

In Juillet, mobility practices play a key role in the returnee's attempt to renegotiate her relationship with Madagascar, her former home. However, as my analysis of the text's portrayals of aero- and automobility, travel by public transport, and pedestrianism suggests, none of these modes of transport enables a successful reconnection; there is always an unruly element that underlines the returnee's failure to claim belonging and that points at a gap between “the internal and external topography” typical of personal memory tourism.77 Air travel allows for a wider overall view but is simultaneously disconnected from lived reality. The passenger car allows her a closer look at and greater immersion in the present state of the place of her return. However, as a protective shell the automobile also underlines the returnee's detachment from the environment and her socio-economic privilege. Traveling on public transportation is a nostalgia trip, but it eventually underlines the unfamiliar aspects of the formerly familiar landscapes and the returnee's outsiderness. And finally, walking is represented as an embodied attempt to come to terms with the present tense of the “homely” landscapes but also as an act of turning one's back on their disturbing aspects. Portrayals of mobility practices in Juillet convey the discrepancy between the memories and the present in the returnee's relationship with the landscapes of her former home. The landscapes of the diasporic homecoming are unruly in the sense that they are mobile—not only because they are observed while in movement but also because their present meanings seem to elude the returnee.



Research for this article has received funding from the Academy of Finland (grant number 330906).


Sabine Marschall, “‘Travelling Down the Memory Lane’: Personal Memory as Generator of Tourism,” Tourism Geographies 17, no. 1 (2015): 36–53, here 36, https://doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2014.925963.


Marschall, “Travelling,” 37.


Srilata Ravi, “Home and the ‘Failed’ City in Postcolonial Narratives of Dark Return,” Postcolonial Studies 17, no. 3 (2014): 296–306, https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790.2014.987900.


Michèle Rakotoson, Juillet au pays : Chroniques d'un retour à Madagascar (Bordeaux: Elytis, 2007).


Antonia Wimbush, Autofiction: A Female Francophone Aesthetic of Exile (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2021), 144, 158.


María Lourdes López Ropero, “Travel Writing and Postcoloniality: Caryl Phillips's The Atlantic Sound,” in Postcolonial Travel Writing: Critical Explorations, ed. Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 72–84, here 73.


Michèle Rakotoson, Elle, au printemps [She, in Springtime] (Paris: Sépia, 1996).


Michèle Rakotoson, Lalana (La Tour-d'Aigues: L'Aube, 2002).


Michèle Rakotoson, Passeport pour Antananarivo: Tana la belle [Passport to Antananarivo: Tana the beautiful] (Bordeaux: Élytis, 2011).


Michèle Rakotoson, Madame à la campagne: Chroniques malgaches [Lady in the Country: Malagasy Chronicles] (Paris: Dodo Vole, 2015).


Karin Schwerdtner, “Retour aux sources: parcours, obstacles et passages dans Juillet au pays de Michèle Rakotoson” [Back to the roots: routes, obstacles and passages in July in the Country of Michèle Rakotoson], in Migrations/Translations, ed. Maroussia Ahmed, Corinne Alexandre-Garner, Nicholas Serruys, Iulian Toma, and Isabelle Keller-Privat (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris-Ouest, 2016), 169–181.


Debbie Lisle, The Global Politics of Contemporary Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 215; emphasis original.


See also Anna-Leena Toivanen, “Urban Mobilities in Francophone African Return Narratives,” in The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies, ed. Lieven Ameel (London: Routledge, 2022), 209–222.


Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce, “Introduction: Mobilities, Literature, Culture,” in Mobilities, Literature, Culture, ed. Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 1–31, here 2.


Anna-Leena Toivanen, Mobilities and Cosmopolitanisms in African and Afrodiasporic Literatures (Leiden: Brill, 2021), 16.


Explicit endeavors to enhance dialogue between postcolonial literary studies and mobilities research include, for example: Lindsay Green-Simms, Postcolonial Automobility: Car Culture in West Africa (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press, 2017); Amanda Lagji, “Waiting in Motion: Mapping Postcolonial Fiction, New Mobilities, and Migration Through Mohsin Hamid's Exit West,” Mobilities 14, no. 2 (2019): 218–232, https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2018.1533684; Kudzai P. Matereke, “‘Breaking Free from Epistemic Enclosures’: Re-Imagining Travel and ‘Mobility’ in Discourses of Cosmopolitanism,” Transfers 1, no. 2 (2011): 5–28, doi: 10.3167/trans.2011.010202; Stéphanie Ponsavady, Cultural and Literary Representations of the Automobile in French Indochina: A Colonial Roadshow (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); Toivanen, Mobilities; Sarah Upstone, “‘Footprints are the Only Fixed Point’: The Mobilities of Postcolonial Fiction,” in Researching and Representing Mobilities: Transdisciplinary Encounters, ed. Lesley Murray and Sarah Upstone (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 39–56.


Toivanen, Mobilities, 1–2.


Tim Cresswell, “Towards a Politics of Mobility,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2010): 17–31, here 18, https://doi.org/10.1068/d11407.


Aguiar, Mathieson, and Pearce, “Introduction,” 19.


Joris Schapendonk, “Sub-Saharan Migrants Heading North: A Mobility Perspective,” in Long Journeys: African Migrants on the Road, ed. Alessandro Triulzi and Robert Lawrence McKenzie (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2013), 9–23, here 12.


Allison Hui, “The Boundaries of Interdisciplinary Fields: Temporalities Shaping the Past and Future of Dialogue between Migration and Mobilities Research,” Mobilities 11, no. 1 (2016): 66–82, here 76, https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2015.1097033.


Stephen Greenblatt, “A Mobility Studies Manifesto,” in Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 250–253, here 250.


Nauja Kleist, “Mobility,” African Diaspora 11 (2018): 71–86; here 82.


Marschall, “Travelling,” 38; Aedín Ní Loingsigh, Postcolonial Eyes: Intercontinental Travel in Francophone African Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009), 159.


Alasdair Pettinger, “‘Trains, Boats and Planes’: Some Reflections on Travel Writing and Public Transport,” in Travel Writing: Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, ed. Tim Youngs and Charles Forsdick (London: Routledge, 2012), 127–134, here 127.


Peter Adey, “Aeromobilities: Geographies, Subjects and Vision,” Geography Compass 2, no. 5 (2008): 1318–1336, here 1320–1321, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00149.x.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 13; all the translations from Rakotoson's novel are by the author.


Ibid., 15.


Ibid., 13.


Ibid., 15.


On the unrepresentability of the place of return in Juillet, see also Ravi, “Home”, 304.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 13.


On the blurred landscapes of air travel, see Marit J. MacArthur, “One World? The Poetics of Passenger Flight and the Perception of the Global,” PMLA 127, no. 2 (2012): 264–282, here 273, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41616815.


Bradley Rink, “The Aeromobile Tourist Gaze: Understanding Tourism ‘from Above’,” Tourism Geographies: An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment 19, no. 5 (2017): 878–896, here 880, 892, https://doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2017.1354391.


MacArthur, “One World?”, 269.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 15.


Ibid., 18.


Erica Durante, Air Travel Fiction and Film: Cloud People (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 163.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 19.


Ibid., 19.


Ibid., 19.


Ravi, “Home”, 302.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 21.


Ibid., 30.


Ibid., 31.


Gordon Pirie, “Colours, Compartments and Corridors: Racialised Spaces, Mobility and Sociability in South Africa,” in Cultural Histories of Sociabilities, Spaces and Mobilities, ed. Colin Divall (London: Routledge, 2015), 39–51, here 49.


John Urry, Mobilities (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), 120.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 30.


Ibid., 32.


Ibid., 32.


Ibid., 55.


Ibid., 58.


Ibid., 111.


See Laavanya Kathiravelu, “Encounter, Transport, and Transitory Spaces,” in Diversities Old and New: Global Diversities, ed. Steven Vertovec (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 120–134; Helen F. Wilson, “Passing Propinquities in the Multicultural City: The Everyday Encounters of Bus Passengering,” Environment and Planning A 43, no. 3 (2011): 634–649, https://doi.org/10.1068/a43354.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 112.


Ibid., 112.


Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), xiv.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 113.


Ibid., 114.


Ibid., 113.


Filipa Matos Wunderlich, “The Aesthetics of Place-Temporality in Everyday Urban Space: The Case of Fitzroy Square,” in Geographies of Rhythm: Nature, Place, Mobilities and Bodies, ed. Tim Edensor (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 45–56, here 45.


Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988), 97.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 40.


Ibid., 45.


On recent critical conceptualizations of the flâneur see Isabel Carrera Suárez, “The Stranger Flâneuse and the Aesthetics of Pedestrianism,” Interventions 17, no. 6 (2015): 853–865, https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2014.998259; Sofia Aatkar, “Postcolonial Flânerie in Caryl Phillips's The Atlantic Sound and Ferdinand Dennis's Behind the Frontlines: Journey into Afro-Britain,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 56, no. 1 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2019.1678061.


See also Ravi, “Home,” 299.


Rakotoson, Juillet, 46.


Ibid., 46.


Ibid., 79.


Ibid., 79.


Ibid., 189.


Ibid., 189–191.


Marschall, “Travelling,” 38.


Aguiar, Mathieson, and Pearce, “Introduction,” 17.


See Ravi, “Home,” 296.


Marschall, “Travelling,” 48.

Contributor Notes

Anna-Leena Toivanen is Academy Research Fellow at the University of Eastern Finland. Her current research project focuses on the poetics of mobility in Francophone African literatures. She acts as the literary studies subject editor of the Nordic Journal of African Studies. She has published widely on mobility-related themes in African literatures, most recently in journals such as Mobilities, Transfers, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Urban Studies, and Studies in Travel Writing. She is the author of Mobilities and Cosmopolitanisms in African and Afrodiasporic Literatures (Brill 2021). E-mail: anna-leena.toivanen@uef.fi

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies