The Concept of Otherness in time of War In Djebar’s modern Arabic Novel: La Femme sans Sépulture or The Woman without Grave
This research seeks to assess Djebar’s place in the Arabic literature and to underline the aspects of Sufism relevant to her discourse on the otherness of an Algerian war. Her work conveys important aspects of Sufi aesthetics. Assia Djebar is a pseudonym for Fatma-Zohra Imalhayene, the name of the first Algerian female author writing in French and publishing in France. She was elected to the Académie française on 16 June 2005, the highest recognition for a writer in Djebar’s corpus illustrates the key moments of the Algerian history such as colonialism, the War of Independence and the Civil War. These tumultuous years were a time of intimidation for Algerian writers. Djebar is culturally and politically devoted to her nation. The novel studied in this thesis, La Femme sans Sépulture (2002) belongs to a trilogy that includes L’Amour la Fantasia (1985) and Le Blanc d’Algérie (1996). L’Amour la Fantasia shares a vision of colonisation and of a successful cohabitation between the French colonisers and the Algerian people. Le Blanc d’Algérie (1996) is a hurtful report recounting the disappearance of many intellectuals during the Civil War and the issue of censorship of some aspects culture. La Femme sans Sépulture offers a retrospective of the events opposing the French troops and the Algerian population during the War of Independence. Djebar draws attention to sensitive topics such as the role of women as peacemakers in times of social paroxysm, and the instrumentalization of religious practices in wartime to minimise cruelty. Djebar redefines the roles played by maleand female mujahedeens in the movement of resistance. The thesis covers the following points:Djebar and her works are presented in the introduction on the background of Algeria’s political history. Section two describes the philosophical approaches using principles from Sartre and Derrida. I borrowed from Sartre his notions of the existentialist human project and sadism. Derrida’s theory of deconstruction includes the elements of derridean differance, messianism and trace and is suited for the analysis of being and on-being of death related to the presence – absence of a body in war. This is Djebar’s underlying argument as the title La Femme sans Sépulture or Woman without Grave suggests it. I also introduce an Islamic philosopher, Mulla Sadra whose theory of Islamic theist existentialism complete Sartre’s principles. Section three interprets the different aspects of Sufism related to war in the narrative: Sufi passion, Sufi subcultures (occult), human qualities and concept of inbetweeness. Djebar’s portrays of the mujahedeens highlights that their actions are orientated towards a minimisation of violence and a beautification of life. The omnipresent element of passion disrupts the chronology of the events. These are the three goals in Sufism that I define. Section four is devoted to the females’ involvement in leadership and resistance networking. My approach aims at showing that Djebar refuses the disjunction between feminism and Islam and her work seems to imply that female’s commitment side by side with males to defend the nation is not a recent trend in Islam. Section five calls presents the features common to war and sadism using Sartre’s ideas on human natural aptitudes to make suffer described in L’Etre et le Néant. I enumerate the different stages in the process of violence until torture. I scrutinise the traits of characters of the torturer and the victim as well as the modification in their relation. Djebar suggests that torture involves fusion between suffering and pleasure for both characters. The notion of betrayal involved is viewed in the perspective of the martyrdom. Finally in section six, I argue that Djebar blurs the limit between being and non-being of death in war to diminish the power of foreign domination and to situate how Algerian people visualise spiritually the loss of the other, the woman or the man symbolising the nation. Death without a body is an opening for the nation and the certitude of a spiritual continuity and death with a body is the closure of future possibilities. Sporadically, a parallel is drawn with Tahar Djaout’s work The Last Summer of Reason, which offers a merciless description of Algeria during the Civil War and the presence of two trends of Islam, traditional and fundamentalist dividing families and communities. The otherness of war underlined in La Femme sans Sépulture concerns the females’ participation to combat with the men, but also the use of rites and traditional beliefs by the people to take control of cruelty in armed and non-armed fights. Whereas Tahar Djaout depicts a nation decimated by actions perpetrated by people alienated by false dogmas. Two sides of Islam are shown in these works. Although this research is not a comparative study on both authors, it is relevant to refer to Djaout to give a complete picture of the situation in Algeria during these years. Through my research I refer to verses of the Quran that relate to the points of the discussion.
Advisor: Devere, Heather
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Peace and Conflict Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: war; otherness; tenderness; male; La Femme sans Sépulture; Assia Djebar; Jean Paul Sartre; Jacques Derrida; Islam; women and male resistance; Death without grave
Research Type: Thesis