Assia Djebar: Fiction, Feminism, and Anti-Nationalism
New York, NY 10027
When she died in February 2015, Assia Djebar–novelist, translator, and filmmaker–left behind a all the richness of her artistic invention: languages of adventurous sensory exploration, loss, longing, exile, feminist experiment, and political resistance. Despite her virtuosic range, she appeared in Algerian President Bouteflika’s remembrance as a reductive national cipher, having “epitomised the image of Algeria with grace and eloquence around the world.” However, this particular tribute, which narrowly links Djebar’s legacy to that of Algeria’s, does no justice to an artist who continually flouted any predictable relations to the homeland. In translation and other modes of betrayal, Djebar found her calling: chronicling forms of feminism that sprouted within anti-colonial movements and were inimical both to the colonizers and those who inherited power from them.
A formidable interlocutor for theorists of language, poststructuralism, transnationalism, and Islamic feminism, Djebar compels us to stand fast against the uncoupling of anti-colonial and feminist struggles. In this class, we will survey her extensive corpus of work, reading selections from texts including Children of the New World, Red Is the Dawn, Poems for a Happy Algeria, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, A Sister to Scheherazade, So Vast the Prison), and The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry. What do Djebar’s contributions to translation, writing, and counter-history within the nexus of feminism and anti-imperialism teach us about their points of intersection? Why–and through what means–did she bind together questions of nation, patriarchy, war, empire, memory, language, identity, the feminine, and the political as inter-related sites of critique? What do her unsettling interventions demand on us as ordinary political actors? By situating Djebar within a complex and abundant genealogy of artists, writers, and philosophers, we will explore the conversations across cultures and schools of thought in which her voice, singular and resonant, still dwells.
Course ScheduleSaturday, 2-5pm
September 16 — October 07, 2017