This dissertation examines the scholarship, literature, and photography of scholar Fatema Mernissi, writer Leïla Sebbar, and photographer Lalla Essaydi. As women born in North Africa, these artists risk being subsumed in a female "eastern" or "Arab" identity, in which gender and birthplace are understood as the dominant categories through which their works are studied. However, their lived experiences, as reflected in their art, go beyond the binaries produced by these classifications and extend to pluralistic positionalities including, but not limited to, nationality, education, ethnicity, class, race, gender, sexuality, and linguistic and cultural influences. While these intersecting categories are crucial to my work, I seek to push them a step further to see how Mernissi, Sebbar, and Essaydi express these various positionalities through multiple and intersecting textual, visual, and embodied mediums. In Chapter One, through a study of three central tropes in Essaydi's Converging Territories-veiling, writing, and space-I identify Essaydi's "converging territories" in order to examine the artist's practice of interweaving mediums and establish it as essential to her process of creation as well as to her position as artist. Chapter Two focuses on Sebbar's historical novel La Seine était rouge. In recreating a history for October 17, 1961, I contend that Sebbar forms a multimedia methodology that not only recuperates memories of the events of the Paris Massacre, but also presents a means by which to reclaim historical events more generally. In the third chapter, I engage with the Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa's notion of the "frontera" as a framework through which I consider representations of the harem put forth in Mernissi's Dreams of Trespass and Essaydi's collection Harem. I argue that Mernissi and Essaydi dismantle the historical, cultural, and gendered borders of the harem-a female Moroccan frontera-and re-appropriate it as a critical and collective feminine space of artistic production. Finally, I propose that Mernissi, Sebbar, and Essaydi's tissage-a combining of mediums-provides an innovative model for intellectual production that encourages academics to participate in creative and multimedia practices in order to reimagine the possibilities for our own scholarship.
Table of Contents
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About this Dissertation
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