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“Re-imagining the Maghreb beyond Mashreqi and colonial mediation: Morocco as a case study

 

The Maghreb strand of MULOSIGE put together a panel for the World Congress of Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), held in Seville (Spain), 16-20 July. Entitled “Re-imagining the Maghreb beyond Mashreqi and colonial mediation: Morocco as a case study,” the panel explored new theoretical and methodological tools to grasp Morocco’s complex cultural, literary, and historical specificities as well as its connection to wider ‘significant geographies’ including Europe, the Islamic West, and the Arabic-speaking world. The panel attracted a large number of people and responses, especially with regard to the much-debated (especially in the Hispanophone academia) ‘decolonial’ turn. Most of the papers put the literary sources and criticism at the centre, and suggested that to decolonise (to ‘provincialize Europe’ as well as the Arab East, and the nationalist and androcentric perspectives), we need less scholarly meta-categories and more of a critical engagement with Moroccan literature and critics. The discussion also revolved around the notion of literature, in particular in relation to history and particular localities (what is literature in northern urban Morocco in the mid-18thcentury?) and the need to expand our often Euro- and Arabo-centric conception of Moroccan literature by letting the available sources ‘tell us’ what the literary panorama (at a certain time and place) looked like. The panel was also useful to create new contacts with European (especially Spanish), Maghribi and Arab as well as US scholars, and a special issue coordinated by Karima Laachir will come out of it.

 

PAPER PRESENTERS:

Karima Laachir (Senior Lecturer in Literary and Cultural Studies: SOAS, University of London)

Itzea Goikolea-Amiano (postdoctoral fellow in MULOSIGE: SOAS, University of London)

Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla (Professor or Arabic Literature in Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Ana González Navarro (Ph.D. student in Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

CHAIR and DISCUSSANT:

Eric Calderwood (Assistant Professor, Comparative and World Literature Department, University of Illinois)

Abstracts of the conference papers:

Karima Laachir: MULTILINGUALISM AS A FRAMEWORK TO STUDY THE MAGHREB: MOROCCAN LITERATURE AS A CASE-STUDY  

The contemporary ideological divide between diverse members of the Moroccan intelligentsia has become dangerously embodied in the linguistic divide (mainly Arabic/French), which has serious repercussions on the cultural and political sphere.  Arabic has come to represent regressive/Islamist forces and French, progressive, secular, westernised and democratic ones: an arbitrary opposition which obscures the complex realities on the ground. The paper seeks to demonstrate how, in multilingual contexts like that of Morocco, literary tastes and practices defy linguistic divides and offer a more nuanced understanding of the co-constitution of languages and cultures in the way, for example, authors draw on multilingual sources and influences.  It examines closely how postcolonial novelists from Morocco incorporate various literary models/genres including local oral narrative forms and how this incorporation stems from a lived experience of multilingualism and its wider practices of reading/writing that go beyond linguistic and cultural divides.

Itzea Goikolea-Amiano: (RE)WRITING MOROCCAN LITERARY HISTORY FROM THE LOCAL

The study of Moroccan history and literature are ‘caught’ in the midst of pervasive dichotomies (modern vs. traditional, oral vs. written, local vs. global, secular vs. religious) that are problematic and unproductive. They, as well as the discussions that aim at deconstructing them, distract us from actually focusing on literature.

In this paper, I propose the local realm as a vantage point from which we can assess diverse and multilingual literary forms, themes, spaces, circulation, history, and memory. I look at fatawa (legal opinions), khutab (Islamic sermons), poems and prose from manuscripts produced in northern Morocco on occasion of one of the founding moments of  Spanish colonialism in the mid-19th century, and I suggest that it is from looking at the existent literature and its heterogeneity that we should begin to (re)write the 19th-century Moroccan literary history that is still, largely, to be researched and written.

Gonzalo Fernández-Parrilla: DE/RE)CONSTRUCTING MOROCCAN LITERATURE: LANGUAGES, SPACES, GENRES AND CANON IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

In Morocco, the process of establishing a literary canon was, as it usually happens, linked with national awakening under colonialism. The first works devoted to Moroccan literature conceived as a national literature are, in fact, inseparable of the program of the nationalists and the anti-colonial movement. In 1938 the Tangier polymath ʻAbd Allah Kannun tackled for the first time the whole history of Arabic literature in Morocco in al-Nubug al-magribi fi l-adab al-`arabi (Moroccan Genius in Arabic Literature). It was the intention of this work to draw attention to the long and continued Arabic literary tradition of Morocco and to underline the contributions of its people to classical Arabic literature and Islamic heritage vis-à-vis the colonizers, but also vis-à-vis the the nahda formulations of the Mashriq that had disregarded Morocco. By then, and for many decades, Moroccan literature could only be considered in Arabic. Since then there has been many changes and negotiations as for the place of other Moroccan literatures in the national canon, such as Amazigh, or as for the place of literatures written in the language of the colonizers within the national configurations. The culture of the Sahara (and literature in darija) also emerge as a crucial element in constructing a new Morocco where linguistic and cultural minorities occupy now a prominent place, as reflected in the amended constitution of 2011. This paper attends to these shifting paradigms of Morocanness through histories of Moroccan literature.

Ana González-Navarro: MOROCCAN GYNOCRITICS: TOWARDS A DECOLONIZATION OF THE MOROCCAN LITERARY CANON?

In the last decade of the 20th century, the Moroccan intellectual field saw the birth of a new phenomenon. A group of female critics addressed the literary production of Moroccan women writers; it was the beginning of Moroccan gynocriticism. The development of this intellectual discipline has contributed to the reconsideration of women writers within the Moroccan literary canon. This paper focuses on the pioneer work of Rachida Benmassoud, especially on Al-mar’a wa-l-kitāba (1994, Woman and writing). Benmassoud’s literary criticism focuses on the relationship between woman and writing and through her work, she challenges the masculine, nationalist and paracolonial Moroccan literary canon, promoting the recognition of women writers. The aim of this paper is to examine to what extent female literary criticism, through its feminization of the canon can also offer a framework for its decolonization and a better grasp of the changing and plural Moroccan identity through its literary field.