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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 279–293 | Cite as

Gender and colonial transitioning: Frantz Fanon’s Algerian freedom fighters in Moroccan and Caribbean novels?

  • Donna McCormackEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article analyses the ways in which Frantz Fanon’s revolutionary narrative in L’An V de la révolution algérienne is reworked in selected novels of Tahar Ben Jelloun and Shani Mootoo. Focusing on Fanon’s transitional politics, it draws out how these novelists employ gender transitioning to challenge colonial, nationalistic and familial violence. The article suggests that the intersections of anti-colonial rhetoric and familial discourse present in Fanon’s work are reconfigured in these novels through a questioning of assumed gendered, sexual and national taxonomies of belonging. It proposes a notion of community that seeks to avoid the reiteration of colonial and familial violence through a transitional politics and an ethics of becoming.

Keywords

Post-colonial Frantz Fanon Tahar Ben Jelloun Shani Mootoo transitioning 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Frantz Fanon, L’An V de la révolution algérienne (Paris: Editions La Découverte & Syros, 2001 [1959]), 94. All translations from this text are my own.Google Scholar
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    Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), 23.Google Scholar
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    This text will be referred to throughout this article as L’An V.Google Scholar
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    Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (London: Pelican Books, 1970).Google Scholar
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    Max Silverman, ‘Introduction’, in Max Silverman, ed., Frantz Fanons Black Skins, White Masks (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), 11.Google Scholar
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    See Neil Lazarus, ‘Disavowing Decolonisation: Fanon, Nationalism, and the Question of Representation in Postcolonial Theory’, in Anthony C. Alessandrini, ed., Frantz Fanon: Critical Perspectives (London: Routledge, 1999), 161–194.Google Scholar
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    See Homi Bhabha, ‘Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche, and the Colonial Condition’, in Nigel C. Gibson, ed., Rethinking Fanon: The Continuing Dialogue (New York: Humanity Books, 1999), 179–196.Google Scholar
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    Henry Louis Gates Jr, ‘Critical Fanonism’, in Nigel C. Gibson, ed., Rethinking Fanon: The Continuing Dialogue (New York: Humanity Books, 1999), 266, 253, and 267, respectively.Google Scholar
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    Frantz Fanon, Frantz, Les Damnés de la terre (Paris: Maspero, 1969 [1961]). Translated as The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967).Google Scholar
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    I use ‘beside’ rather than ‘beyond’ to evoke Judith Butler’s idea of the need to forge political alliances not by trying to move ‘beyond’ existing bodily and community taxonomies, which she sees as an impossibility, but by constantly re-imagining them through a perpetual undoing of the self in relation to others (Butler, Precarious Life, 23).Google Scholar
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    Fanon, L’An V, 94.Google Scholar
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    Faulkner does briefly mention but does not expand upon the fact that Fanon ‘considers the occupation of land tantamount to the “occupation of its inhabitants”’ (Rita A. Faulkner, ‘Assia Djebar: Frantz Fanon, Women, Veils, and Land’, World Literature Today, 70, no. 4 (1996), 849).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Throughout this article I will follow the pronouns and names used in the novel. I will, therefore, switch between ‘he’ and ‘she’ and Ahmed’ and ‘Zahra’ as appropriate. However, at times, the protagonist exists in a state of ambiguity and I will refer to the character using Ahmed/Zahra’, ‘s/he’ and ‘her/him’.Google Scholar
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    Rebecca Saunders, ‘Decolonizing the Body: Gender, Nation, and Narration in Tahar Ben Jelloun’s L’Enfant de sable’, Research in African Literature, 37, no. 4 (2006) 137. The Istiqlal were the main party fighting for independence from French colonial rule.Google Scholar
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    Tahar Ben Jelloun, La Nuit sacrée (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1987), 6. Translated as The Sacred Night, trans. Alan Sheridan (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2000). All translations from La Nuit sacrée in this article are my own. The narrator is asserting her authority by claiming she is the eponymous hero: the sand child, or the child of uncertain identity.Google Scholar
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    For criticism of Ben Jelloun’s treatment of genital mutilation, see Suzanne Gauch’s Liberating Shahrazad: Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Islam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), especially Chapter 3, andGoogle Scholar
  49. 48a.
    Evelyne Accad’s Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East (New York: New York University Press, 1990), 157–158. I do not have the space to deal with the scene in detail but I would argue, contrary to Accad, that the novel condemns the fanaticism of Zahra’s sisters and exposes the power that the family holds over women. Ben Jelloun has repeatedly stressed in interviews that such a practice does not take place in Morocco.Google Scholar
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    Chandin is taken from his home by the reverend to ensure a ‘bright and prosperous future’ (Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998 [1996], 29)). It is stated that to benefit from the resources offered by the missionaries, such as education, the South Asian-Caribbeans must (publicly) convert to Christianity and leave behind their Hindu heritage (Ibid., 29–32).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 152. The Wetlanders are the colonialists on the island, and Ambrose bought this suit when he was studying abroad in The Shivering Northern Wetlands.Google Scholar
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    Grace Kyungwon Hong, ‘“A Shared Queerness”: Colonialism, Transnationalism, and Sexuality in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night’, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 7, no. vn1 (2006), 89.Google Scholar
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    Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, and History (London: Routledge, 1992), 58.Google Scholar
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    Mootoo, Cereus, 82.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 267.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 268.Google Scholar
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    Fanon, L’An V, 12–13.Google Scholar
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    Shani Mootoo, He Drown She in the Sea (New York: Grove Press, 2005), 260.Google Scholar
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    Fanon, L’An V, 100–102.Google Scholar
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    Mootoo, He Drown, 178.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 122.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 94.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 238.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 260.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 251.Google Scholar
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    For a critique of hybridity, see Aijaz Ahmad’s ‘The Politics of Literary Post-Coloniality’, Race and Class, 36, no. 3 (1995), 1–20. For a more nuanced view, see Ahmed’s Strange Encounters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. 78.
    Fanon, L’An V, 13.Google Scholar
  80. 79.
    Mootoo, He Drown, 182. The reference to Africa as a ‘country’ rather than a continent must be placed in the context of Uncle Mako telling a story of forced displacement that he ‘himself could make no sense of (Idem.).Google Scholar
  81. 80.
    Ibid., 182. See also Shani Mootoo in conversation with Robert Gougeon, Audio Blog @ The Writer’s Cafe, available at http://www.writerscafe.ca/book_blogs/writers/shani-moo too_he-drown-she-in-the-sea.php, accessed December 2007.Google Scholar
  82. 81.
    Harry says this rather ‘mischievously’ (Mootoo, He Drown, 35) whilst flirting with a white Canadian woman, Kay.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 260.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 315.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 317.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of English, Cavendish RoadUniversity of LeedsUK

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