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Global Africa and The Humanities Series

  • Brahim El Guabli
  • Williams College
  • Abstract Title: “African Desert Feminism: Eco-Feminist Insurgency against Human and Ecological Death”


Ecofeminism has established a strong link between the oppression of women and disregard for the environment. This paper seeks to demonstrate how texts that are not normally read as ecofeminist articulate a feminist position vis-à-vis the ecological devastation that takes place in the Sahara. By creating desert worlds in which women play crucial roles in caring for human and non-human subjects in their communities, ecofeminist works push against notions of the desert as a dead and empty space, where a “necrological” onslaught on people and the desert biome unfolds. Drawing Aziz al-Ansary’s Hirz tālā (Tala’s Amulet, 2015) in conjunction with Mbarek Ould Beyrouk’s novel Le Tambour des larmes (2015) (translated as The Desert and the Drum in 2018) and the deeply feminist Amazigh anzār ritual (rain seeking rituals by women), I argue that literary and ritualistic practices in and about the desert contain myriad forms of an indigenous ecofeminism. Although these works are not explicitly ecofeminist, the paper demonstrates that the logic underlying them consists of a writing against human and ecological death, opening up space for various forms of liberation and questioning of hierarchical authorities by a combination of women-led actions and awareness of the damage done to the environment.

Brahim El Guabli is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature at Williams College. Brahim’s research interests encompass Tamazgha (the broader North Africa), the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. He probes questions of trauma and memory, and the way aesthetics enable various forms of coming to terms with violent pasts. His forthcoming book is entitled Moroccan Other-Archives: History and Citizenship after State Violence. His journal articles have appeared in Interventions, The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, Arab Studies Journal, and The Journal of North African Studies, among others. He is co-editor of Lamalif: A Critical Anthology of Societal Debates in Morocco During the “Years of Lead” (1966-1988) (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming) and Refiguring Loss: Jews in Maghrebi and Middle Eastern Cultural Production (Pennsylvania State University Press, forthcoming). He is completing a second book entitled Saharan Imaginations: Between Saharanism and Ecocare.

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