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Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 6.2 (2006) 33-53

To Be Singularly Nomadic or a Territorialized National
At the Crossroads of Francophone Women's Writing of the Maghreb
Valérie Orlando

The terms "postcoloniality," "alterity," "nomadism," and "deterritorializing," as Homi K. Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak have brilliantly shown us, are familiarly used to represent the non-Western, nonwhite European, Othered novel of our era. The increasingly fluid theories and concepts that form postcolonial studies have generated several debates (certainly in the past ten to fifteen years) in which the term "postcolonial" has morphed into new meanings. The result of the deconstruction of the Western literary canon is that Others' literatures are now taught as integral, necessary components of literary programs. In the case of francophone literature from the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia), the time has passed when authors from this former French colonized region were, as Réda Bensmaïa states, "scotomized," "blacked out" in the American academy, as lesser works of little merit. Nevertheless, these novels have found "their way into the American curriculum" (2003, 19).

In the deconstructed era of world literature, many of the theories inherent in postcolonial literary studies have led to what Christopher Miller suggests is a powerful "conundrum" where the postcolonial francophone literary world is divided between "nationalists and nomads" (1998, 6). He explains that the nomadic group, composed of scholars who use a fluid theoretical framework (that is, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Edouard Glissant, Peter Hallward) to examine postcolonial texts of the francophone [End Page 33] diaspora, seeks to subvert "all binary modes of thought" 1 in order to favor a singular model, or what Edouard Glissant refers to as the Tout-Monde, where "you hear these languages of the world meet . . . which makes for huge unplanned detours" (Glissant 1993, 20). In contrast, the "nationalists" are headed by academicians favoring close, historical readings of postcolonial novels. These scholars strive to depict the postcolonial text as a product of the "history of nationalism" and its independence movements. In this venue, postcolonial literature is the direct commodity of nationalism, perceived as having produced an after-colonialism in which to write. Miller's observations about the split between nationalists and nomads bring to light some interesting thoughts about how we critique postcolonial literature in general and francophone literature in particular (Miller 1998, 7).

This study seeks to determine which camp (if either) is more favorable to women authors of the Maghreb who write in French. Analyses of several works by women from this region through each lens will propose a unique space that is different than that espoused by these two divergent analytical models. While nomadic constructions are useful for heroines in novels, such as Moroccan/Belgian-Beur Leïla Houari's Zeida de nulle part (1985) and Algerian-exiled-in-France Malika Mokeddem's L'Interdite (1993) and La Transe des insoumis (2003), that search physically and metaphorically in two spheres without rooting themselves in either, many other texts by women call for new paradigmss through which to explore the postcolonial condition influencing the sociocultural spaces inhabited by women of the francophone Maghreb. Certainly contemporary Moroccan women authors writing in French are sociopolitical activists currently influencing Moroccan society. These authors include Siham Benchekroun (Oser vivre! [Dare to Live!], 2002), Aïcha Ech-Channa (Miseria: Témoignages [Misery: Testimonials], 2004), and Linda Rfaly (Grain de folie [Grain of Madness], 2004), among many others. This article establishes these authors' space as one that grounds the female- authored francophone text from the Maghreb in a new feminine literary realm that proposes original dialogues and discursive measures by which to articulate these women's unique experiences both in and outside their homelands.

What is the difference between the nomadic and the nationalist novel? The nomadic novel posits identity in a third space of negotiation between past and present, in between French and Maghrebian cultures and beyond colonial and postcolonial binaries. Novels that promote nomadism as a [End Page...


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