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Incorporation of women’s stories of hardship, exile and heroism to offer a new interpretation of war and conflict through women’s eyes in Djebar’s Fant
Djebar revisits past events that were traditional in her novel by use different techniques that effectively decenter the version of history related to colonizers. She goes on making space for the participation of the ladies in the national independence struggle. Djebar starts by presenting colonial history at that period in the form of diaries, published accounts and letters of French officials and soldiers, searching among them to discover places where ladies bubble up towards the surface as well as recording their participation despite the determination of history to erase their existence and contribution. In addition to realizing moments in which those who colonized are forced to face the endangered existence of ladies revolutionaries, Djebar takes the words of ladies freedom fighters by themselves. She translates them to French from Arabic. Recording the ladies' stories in various sections of the novel that had a title "Voices," Djebar matches forward to trouble the split that existed between the written and the spoken, suggesting the traditional history limitations and the richness found in her culture's oral traditions. Considering the invasion of the French of the year 1830 and the 20th century War of the Independence of Algeria, and adding her own autobiography, Djebar had to complicate the linear history notion, bringing forth an alternative view towards the interdependence of the national and the personal, the present, the past and the future.
The 20th Century intellectual movements, including the Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and the Derridean deconstruction, have taken the move far away from the eighteenth and the nineteenth century universal subject notions, contesting the "I" unified and putting fractured, multiple positions instead of it. Theorists like Irigaray, H. Cixous, Spivak and some others are interested in female theorizing subjectivity in all its multiplicity and diversity in answer to phallocentric that goes on figuring subjectivity as a female consciousness and masculine as lack. In "Subaltern Speak?", Spivak theorist summarizes her constructing project a new model of subjectivity of female, a project that Djebar decide to undertake in L'Amour : "My readings are, moderately, an inexpert examination and interested, by a postcolonial lady, of the repression of the fibric, a constructed narrative of ladies' consciousness, thus lady's being, thus lady's being good, thus the good lady's desire, thus lady's desire" . Djebar gets into her own life and voice story with the voices and stories of Algerian ladies revolutionaries, replacing the existing silence and the version of the colonizers of history with a true celebration of women expression and experience. Speaking not on behalf of her subaltern sisters, Djebar talks to them while emphasizing the real nature of the women expression. Djebar understands various ways in which her story is linked to the forgotten testimonies of other ladies: "Can I, 12 years later, ask for the revival of the stifled voices? And then speaks on their behalf? Shall I never get dried streams? What spirits are moving to be conjured up when met in the love expression’s absence ('love' received, love imposed), I observe the reflection of barrenness as well as my aphasia". In narrating their stories, the women revolutionaries together with Djebar decide to reclaim not only their collective and individual voices, but also their bodies.
Sidonie articulates the subjectivity intersection and body which occurs in projects involved in autobiographical: "When a particular lady approaches the writing scene and the autobiographical 'I,' she doesn’t engage the subjectivity discourses through which the common human subject has secured culturally; she also tends to engage her cultural assignment complexities to an absorbing embodiment. Therefore, the autobiographical subject takes away a history of the body together with her as she bargains the autobiographical 'I,' for its practice is one of the many cultural occasions occurring during the history of the body that intersects the subjectivity deployment ". Djebar's veil treatment, her escape from cloistering, and her access to writing and academia suggests that the body of a female is a locus of power, knowledge and rebellion that threatens the quo of male privilege status: "The number four language, for every female, old and young, half-emancipated or cloistered, stay behinds that of the body:
The body that male cousins' and neighbors’ eyes need be blind and deaf, because they cannot fully incarcerate it, the body that, dances, in trances, in fits for hope, or vociferations and despair, rebels, as well as unable to write or read, looks for some not known shore as destination for its love message.(Djebar 180). The picture of the dismembered hand at conclusion of the novel suggests the relationship between voice and body, embodied as well as subjectivity experience.
The narrative of Djebar together with the women freedom fighters also forms the narrative of Algeria and it’s journey from their colonial master as well as subjugation to an independent nation. Djebar's message captures nationalist mechanisms by replacing history that was written by their colonial master with that of heroic women. The re-writing the history is a major step in the bid of nationalism. Moving women from margin to frontline of her rewritten history, Djebar records women's historic duties as revolutionaries as well as makes the argument that they demand status as complete citizens in the newly formed nation. Danielle Marx draws relationship between Djebar's body, voice, subjectivity and nationalism themes as they connect to Djebar's political agenda of feminism: "The amputated hand signifies Algeria, maimed by a foreign history written by foreigners. But, perhaps very importantly for Djebar, it’s a representation of Algerian women curtailed in their thirst to express themselves or write. The domineering images in the novel (abduction as well as rape) effect the representation of Algeria, which eventually becomes the female body and the final analysis. If the history of the French conquerors had been written on the body, it is from this that those behind the decolonization of the individual have to be written: be they gentlemen or ladies. A nation whose women have assisted liberate bears a duty to recognize concerns and issues of women's oppressions. Djebar's project looks forward to bring women back to their rightful position in the newly formed nation, to hear their voices talk and be listened to as full stakeholders in the project of nation-building and decolonization.
Innovative ways through which the lives of women under French occupation are reconstructed in Fantasia by Djebar
The storyteller’s description of the lives of women under French occupation in Algeria is one of its own. Of particular relevance is the memory of rape incidences carried out by French soldiers. She says that the threat of rape was stepped when Algerian men took away to make up with maquis. No woman was an exempt from the threat. Many testimonies concerning sexual violence were avoided and enjoyed non publicity for reasons of saving the women’s identities as sisters, mothers and wives ‘immediately we young women noticed the French approaching we never hesitated to stay inside. The old remained in the houses looking after the children; we rushed to take cover in the undergrowth. If the found by the enemy we never said a word’ (1985: 206-207). The story narrator is finds herself in a dilemma of speaking what seems unspeakable, taboo and unbearable. Rape was not mentioned, was respected and it was swallowed until there was an alarm for it. The author aimed at helping women reconcile their past and identities by challenging this legacy. If forgetfulness could testify to women’s alienation right from their identity and bodies and disclose their lack ability to bear the trauma of violence, memorizing become satisfying as well as identity forming.
Woman has also been presented as aggressive, in a state of fulfillment, fearless, single-minded and actively involved in resistance; for instance, remembrance of a 13 year old herds girl going with her brothers to the maquis, which was made to shoulder the burden of funeral and mourning of a brother who was assassinated in her sight. Other incidences are that of a mother who persevered the French soldiers’ tortures without a whimper, that of little sisters, extremely young to comprehend, but undergoing the message of anguish. There were those who offered food and shelter to the mûdjâhidîn, ferried weapons to the rebels uphill, took part in the struggle, received imprisonments, murdered and were tortured, and even them that made flags and uniforms. They provided nursing services to the wounded, reported, and also collected money.
Grandmother and women fought silence and lethargy with dances more than word. Upon dancing most women became undisputedly queens of the city and thereby forgetting the largely unforgettable history they encountered. They drew their daily strength from the eyes of their spectators. Any discussion about the war and its memories remain painful. There are many instances of torture. Cherifa, for instance, is subjected to electric chocks after defying the colonial power with hunger strikes. Lla Zohra, have her house and farm severally burnt down and eventually she is also set a blaze (Assia, 1993). Her hair caught fire and child started crying in fright. ‘Mother, the fire’s eating you up! The fire is eating you up!’ she hurled herself into water and that was how she lost her hair.
From narrating the suffering they underwent, subaltern women became empowered and consequently took control of the pain they suffered. In this sense, making personal memory.