Re-/Righting Her/Story: Renegotiating Gender and Identity in Maghrebian Women Writing

  • Abstract:

    Due to the French colonialism and the amount of acculturation the Maghreb was subjected to, Maghrebians in general and women in particular looked back in anger and embarked on an exasperating and painful journey that led to the flourishing of a hybrid corpus of literature written by women writers who constructed and celebrated an identity trotting the margin of the society. Maghrebian women writers celebrated their “liminality” for being excluded from the public sphere for many years due to various reasons namely patriarchy and colonialism, these women writers have been trying to forge a space for themselves as they needed their voices to be heard and their identities to be asserted. Through the use of the former colonizer’s language, i.e. French, women writers of the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco) aimed to re-right the course of a “his-tory” that excluded them and a society that chained them down. The act of writing is, to use Franz Fanon’s words, an act of “bursting the bounds of the narrow world in which she had lived without responsibility, and was at the same time participating in the deconstruction of colonialism and in the birth of a new woman” (A Dying Colonialism 107). Literature, therefore, became “her-story”, the one which was once erased and silenced whether consciously or unconsciously, became a story to be heard and a power to be reckoned with. Words then became tools of negotiation, survival, and assertion of gender and identity. Thus the Maghrebian women writers’ literary corpus resembled a battlefield of multilayered concepts of self/other, individual/collective, public/ private, center/periphery. Literature has endowed women writers with tools of resistance and empowerment engendering a “rhizome” following Deleuze and Guattari’s model where “culture spreads like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way. The surface can be interrupted and moved, but these disturbances leave no trace, as the water is charged with pressure and potential to always seek its equilibrium, and thereby establish smooth space.”