- Re-hybridizing Transnational Domesticity and Femininity: Women’s Contemporary Filmmaking and Lifewriting in France, Algeria, and Tunisia
Stacey Weber-Fève provides a thorough analysis of female characters’ gendered relationships to the home in contemporary French and Maghrebian women’s cinema and autobiography. This interdisciplinary work brings into productive relation the fields of literary and film studies as well as feminist, postcolonial, transnational, and domesticity studies. [End Page 199]
A clear introduction that will be invaluable to novices and specialists alike summarizes the main contributions of each field and demonstrates the author’s breadth of knowledge. In chapter one, Weber-Fève insightfully positions Algerian writer and filmmaker Assia Djebar not just as a postcolonial feminist writer but “as a postcolonial feminist literary and film theorist” (xlviii; emphasis added). She outlines Djebar’s contributions to feminist film theories of the gaze and to postcolonial feminist practices of reappropriation of the male gaze. This chapter then provides a lens through which to reflect upon works by French writers Annie Ernaux and Simone de Beauvoir, rather than the reverse, in an elegant postcolonial repositioning in chapter two. Unfortunately, the argument for calling the latter two writers transnational was not fully convincing to this particular reader, relying as it did on a somewhat problematic analogy between gender, class, and imperialism. In spite of this, the textual analysis in this chapter is excellent, especially the discussion of Ernaux’s autobiographical “I.” There is a strong connection between chapters two and three, with their common focus on how Ernaux, de Beauvoir, and filmmakers Raja Amari and Coline Serreau treat the feminist themes of “homemaking . . . and making home” (213). The final chapter concludes the book by delineating how Leïla Sebbar and Yamina Benguigui create visual spaces in which migrant women can belong in France.
While the book is an outstanding contribution to the field of transnational feminist studies, it would have benefited from stronger editorial oversight with respect to the cumbersome title, the presence of too many typos, awkward sentence structure, errors of translation in the quotations, as well as the absence of some cited works from the bibliography. The phrases the “re-hybridized subject” and the “2/3 Space of expression” are repeated so often that they become distracting and begin to lose their meaning at times. In spite of these small limitations, the entire book lays out its arguments in very clear and pedagogical terms, all the while developing nuanced and sophisticated analyses. Each study of an individual text is preceded by a very useful contextualizing section, and the author’s original contribution is particularly strong in the close readings of the opening film sequences by Djebar and Amari. This book will be of interest to faculty and students in French and francophone studies as well as film, postcolonial, transnational, and feminist studies.