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Poel, I.M. van der

Poel, I.M. van der


Ieme van der Poel, born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1949. Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam. Professor of French Literature at the University of Amsterdam.

Fellow (1 September 2005 – 30 June 2006)


My current research focuses on two topics: the study of (post) colonial literature in French, and the writings of the French critic and psychoanalist Julia Kristeva. My stay at NIAS allowed me to finalize a two volume book, entitled: Congo-Océan (1921-1934): Un chemin de fer colonial controversé (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006). My approach to the history of the Congo-Océan railway is twofold. Firstly, I recreated the intellectual debate about the building of the railway, a public enterprise in which between 18,000 and 20,000 black workers lost their lives, according to the French (colonial) press between 1925 and 1934. Among the major players in the debate, we find the names of André Gide, Georges Simenon, and a black writer, René Maran. Secondly, I analyzed the different ways in which the story of the Congo-Océan railway has been recreated in contemporary works of fiction, from Aimé Césaire to Emmanuel Dongala. From 28-30 October 2005, I also organised an international expert meeting at NIAS on “Transcolonialism: The future of Postcolonial Studies from a Comparative Perspective.” As a follow-up of this extremely fruitful event, a next meeting is planned in London in 2007.

Due to these and other activities within the field of postcolonial studies, I had to change my initial plan to dedicate the entire year at NIAS to write a monograph on the French critic and psychoanalist Julia Kristeva. I nevertheless managed two write two new chapters: one on the idea of the maternal in her writings and one on the ‘Imaginary Father’. Besides and quite unexpectedly, one of the NIAS fellows from Bulgaria provided me with very interesting new material (partly in Bulgarian, which she was so kind to translate for me), which will form the basis for the final chapter of the book. In this chapter I will discuss the different ways in which Kristeva’s theoretical work has been received in France, in the English-speaking world and in her native land, Bulgaria.