Skip to main content Accessibility help

Genre, heteroglossic performances, and new identity: Stand-up comedy in modern French society

  • Cécile B. Vigouroux (a1)


This article analyses the ways in which stand-up comedy has been taken up by French comics of North and sub-Saharan African origins as a space of visibility and hearability. Following Bakhtin (1986), who argues that a genre reflects the social changes taking place in a society, I argue that such an appropriation should be considered as an important sociolinguistic fact that gives us privileged access to Hexagonal France's contemporary sociopolitical dynamics. I show that through their display of heteroglossic repertoires (viz. Maghrebi Arabic, several varieties of vernacular French, Hexagonal standard French, mesolectal African French, stylized chunks of English) comics challenge, at least symbolically, France's monoglot and highly centralized linguistic ideology. They also contribute to unsettling France's Republican model, which is marked by the institutional denial of the social and cultural diversity of the French population. The comics use heteroglossic resources to align with and disalign from multiple chronotopes associated with different social personae. From this emerges a new identity, urban, which both encompasses and transcends racial and ethnic categories. By contrast, I show that this identity is constructed through and received by the nonratified audience with ambivalence. (France, stand-up comedy, genre, urban, identity, chronotope, intertextuality.)*

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Genre, heteroglossic performances, and new identity: Stand-up comedy in modern French society
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Genre, heteroglossic performances, and new identity: Stand-up comedy in modern French society
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Genre, heteroglossic performances, and new identity: Stand-up comedy in modern French society
      Available formats



Hide All
Adam, Lucien (1883). Les idiomes négro-aryens et malayo aryens: Essai d'hybridologie linguistique. Paris: Maisonneuve.
Agha, Asif (2005). Voice, footing and enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1):3859.
Alim, Samy (2009). Translocal style communities: Hip hop youth as cultural theorists of style, language and globalization. Pragmatics 19(1):103–27.
Bachollet, Raymond (1992). Negripub: L'image des Noirs dans la publicité. Paris: Éditions de l'Amateur.
Bailey, Benjamin (2007). Heteroglossia and boundaries. In Heller, Monica (ed.), Bilingualism: A social approach, 257–74. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bakhtin, Mikhail (1981). The dialogic imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, Mikhail (1986). The problem of speech genres. In Emerson, Caryl & Holquist, Michael (eds.), Speech genres and other late essays, 60102. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Barthes, Roland (1981). Le grain de la voix. Paris: Seuil.
Bauman, Richard (1975). Verbal art as performance. American Anthropologist 77:290311.
Bauman, Richard (2000). Genre. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9(1–2):8487.
Bell, Allan, & Gibson, Andy (2011). Staging language: An introduction to the sociolinguistics of performance. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(5):555–72.
Boskin, Joseph, & Dorinson, Joseph (1985). Ethnic humor: Subversion and survival. American Quarterly 37(1):8197.
Boucher, Manuel (2001). Rap, ‘peur de la jeunesse’ et ingénuosité créatrice. In Vulbeau, Alain (ed.), La jeunesse comme ressource créatrice, 151–68. Paris: ERES.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1979). La distinction: Critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1993). The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature. New York: Columbia University Press.
Boyer, Henri (1997). ‘Nouveau français’, ‘parler jeune’ ou ‘langue des cités’? Remarques sur un objet linguistique médiatiquement identifié. Langue française 114(1):615.
Braudel, Fernand (1969). Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue durée. Écrits sur l'histoire, 4183. Paris: Flammarion.
Brayton, Sean (2009). Race comedy and the ‘misembodied’ voice. Topia 22:97116.
Briggs, Charles, & Bauman, Richard (1992). Genre, intertextuality and social power. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2(2):131–72.
Brodie, Ian (2008). Stand-up comedy as a genre of intimacy. Ethnologies 30(2):153–80.
Brown, Michael F. (1996). On resisting resistance. American Anthropologist 98(4):729–49.
Caubet, Dominique (2002). Métissages linguistiques ici (en France) et là-bas (au Maghreb). Ville-École-Intégration Enjeux 130:117–32.
Caubet, Dominique (2004). La ‘darja’ langue de culture en France. Hommes et Migrations 1252:3444.
Chalaye, Sylvie (1998). Du Noir au nègre: L'image du Noir au théâtre. Paris: L'Harmattan.
Chalaye, Sylvie (2002). Nègres en images. Paris: L'Harmattan.
Chun, Elaine (2004). Ideologies of legitimate mockery: Margaret Cho's revoicing of mock Asian. Pragmatics 14(2/3):263–89.
Chun, Elaine (2009). Speaking like Asian immigrants: Intersections of accommodation and mocking. Pragmatics 19:1738.
Condry, Ian (2001). Japanese hip-hop and the globalization of popular culture. In Gmelch, George & Zenner, Walter (eds.), Urban life: Readings in the anthropology of the city, 357–87. Prospects Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (2000). Présence et représentation des minorités visibles dans la télévision française. La Lettre du CSA 129:1214. Unpublished report, Paris.
Costantini, Alessandro (2011). Bande dessinée franco-belge, petit nègre et imaginaire colonial. La BD francophone 14. Online:
Coupland, Nikolas (2001). Stylization, authenticity and TV news review. Discourse Studies 3(4):413–42.
Coveney, Aidan (2010). Vouvoiement and tutoiement: Sociolinguistic reflections. Journal of French Language Studies 20(2):127–50.
Delafosse, Maurice (1904). Vocabulaires comparatifs de plus de 60 langues ou dialectes parlés à la Côte d'Ivoire et dans les régions limitrophes: Avec des notes linguistiques et ethnologiques, une bibliographie et une carte. Paris: E. Leroux.
Dhume, Fabrice (2010). L’émergence d'une figure obsessionnelle: Comment le «communautarisme» a envahi les discours médiatico-politiques français. Asylon(s) 8. Online:
Doran, Benedict (2004). Negotiating between Bourge and Racaille: Verlan as youth identity practice in suburban Paris. In Pavlenko, Aneta & Blackledge, Adrian (eds.), Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts, 93124. Clevendon: Multlingual Matters.
Doran, Benedict (2007). Alternative French alternative identities: Situating language in la banlieue. Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 11(4):497508.
Errington, Joseph (2001). Colonial linguistics. Annual Review of Anthropology 30:1939.
Fabiani, Jean-Louis (2003). Peut-on encore parler de légitimité culturelle? In Donnat, Olivier & Tolila, Paul (eds.), Le(s) public(s) de la culture, 305–17. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.
Gal, Susan, & Irvine, Judith (1995). The boundaries of languages and disciplines: How ideologies construct difference. Social Research 62(4):967–99.
Goffman, Erving (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. New York: Harper & Row.
Goffman, Erving (1981). Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gondola, Didier (2009). Transient citizens: The othering and indigenization of Blacks and Beurs within the French Republic. In Tshimanga, Charles, Gondola, Didier, & Bloom, Peter J. (eds.), Frenchness and the African diaspora, 146–66. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Gueldry, Michel (2009). The Americanization of France. Yale French Studies 116/ 117:3751.
Hall, Stuart (1991). Old and new identities, old and new ethnicities. In King, Anthony (ed.), Culture, globalization and the world-system, 4168. New York: Macmillan Education.
Hall, Stuart (1996). Who needs identity? In Hall, Stuart & du Gay, Paul (eds.), Questions of cultural identity, 117. London: Sage.
Halliday, Michael (1976). Anti-languages. American Anthropologist 78(3):570–84.
Hanks, William F. (1987). Discourse genres in a theory of practice. American Ethnologist 14(4):668–92.
Hanks, William F. (2005). Pierre Bourdieu and the practices of language. Annual Review of Anthropology 34:6768.
Hargreaves, Alec G. (2009). Beyond postcolonialism: Globalization and postcolonial minorities in France. In Mudimbe-Boyi, Elisabeth (ed.), Empire lost: France and its other worlds, 3746. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Hirji, Faiza (2009). ‘Somebody going to get hurt real bad’: The race-based comedy of Russel Peters. Canadian Journal of Communication 34(4):567–86.
Hymes, Dell (1975). Breakthrough into performance. In Ben-Amos, Dan & Goldstein, Kenneth S. (ed.), Folklore performance and communication, 1174. The Hague: Mouton.
Jaspers, Jurgen (2011). Talking like a ‘zerolingual’: Ambiguous linguistic caricatures at an urban secondary school. Journal of Pragmatics 43:1264–78.
Jennings, Jeremy (2000). Citizenship, republicanism and multiculturalism in modern France. British Journal of Political Science 30:577–98.
Keslassy, Eric (2012). Une Assemblée nationale plus représentative? Institut Diderot Online:
Kuisel, Richard (1997). Seducing the French: The dilemma of Americanization. Berkley: University of California Press.
Lemke, Jay (2000). Across the scales of time: Artifacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems. Mind, Culture, and Activity 7(4):273–90.
L'Hamon, William T. Jr. (1998). Raising Cain: Blackface performance from Jim Crow to hip-hop. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lopez, Yoann (2010). Les questions noires en France. Bordeaux: Université Bordeaux dissertation.
Macé, Éric (2008). Étude de la perception de la diversité dans les programmes de télévision: Rapport de l'Observatoire de la diversité dans les médias audiovisuels du Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel. Online:; accessed September 2014.
Mbembe, Achille (2005). La République et l'impensé de la race. In Bancel, Nicolas, Blanchard, Pascal, & Lemaire, Sandrine (eds.), La fracture coloniale: La société française au prisme de l'héritage colonial, 139–54. Paris: La Découverte.
Mbembe, Achille (2009). The republic and its beasts: On the riots in the French Banlieues: Can France reinvent its identity? In Tshimanga, Charles, Gondola, Didier, & Bloom, Peter J. (eds.), Frenchness and the African diaspora, 4754. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Miller, Carolyn (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech 70:151–67.
Mongin, Olivier (2006). De quoi rions-nous? Notre société et ses comiques. Paris: Plon.
Mufwene, Salikoko S. (2008). Language evolution: Contact, competition and change. London: Continuum Press.
Murray, Graham (2006). France: The riots and the republic. Race & Class 47(4):2645.
Ndiaye, Pap (2008). La condition noire. Paris: Folio.
Noudelmann, François (2008). La voix et la couleur de peau. Online:
Prévos, André J. M. (2001). Postcolonial popular music in France. In Mitchell, Tony (ed.), Global noise, 3956. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.
Quemener, Nelly (2013). Stand-up! L'humour des minorités dans les médias en France. Terrains 61:6883.
Rampton, Ben (1995). Crossing: Language and ethnicity among adolescents. London: Longman.
Sedel, Julie (2009). Les médias et la banlieue. Paris: Ina éditions.
Silverstein, Michael (1993). Metapragmatic discourse and metapragmatic function. In Lucy, John (ed.), Reflexive language: Reported speech and metapragmatics, 3358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Silverstein, Michael (1996). Monoglot ‘standard’ in America: Standardization and metaphors of linguistic hegemony. In Brenneis, Donald & Macaulay, Ronald K. S. (eds.), The matrix of language: Contemporary linguistic anthropology, 284306. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Silverstein, Michael (2003). Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication 23:193229.
Smith, Jacob (2008). Vocal tracks: Performance and sound media. Berkley: University of California Press.
Tetreault, Chantal (2013). Cultural citizenship in France and le bled among teens of pan-southern immigrant heritage. Language and Communication 33(4):532–43.
van den Avenne, Cécile (2007). Petit-nègre et Bambara: La langue de l'indigène dans l'oeuvre de quelques écrivains coloniaux en Afrique occidentale française. In Perrot-Corpet, Danielle (ed.), Citer la langue de l'autre: Mots étrangers dans le roman: de Proust à W. G. Sebald, 7795. Lyon: Presse Universitaire de Lyon.
Vanderschelden, Isabelle (2005). Jamel Debbouze: A new popular French star? Studies in French Cinema 5(1):6172.
Vigouroux, Cécile B. (2013). Francophonie. Annual Review of Anthropology 42:379–97.
Vigouroux, Cécile B. (2015). How one reads whom and why? Ideological filtering in reading vernacular literacy in France. In Stroud, Chris & Prinsloo, Mastin (eds.), Language, literacy, diversity: Moving words. London: Routledge, to appear.
Wacquant, Loïc (2008). Urban outcasts: A comparative sociology of advanced marginality. Malden, MA: Polity.
Weaver, Simon (2010). The ‘other’ laughs back: Humour and resistance in anti-racist comedy. Sociology 44(1):3148.
White, Hayden (1980). The value of narrativity in the representation of reality. Critical Inquiry 7(1):124.

Genre, heteroglossic performances, and new identity: Stand-up comedy in modern French society

  • Cécile B. Vigouroux (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed