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Voices from the Margins: gendered images of 'Otherness' in colonial Morocco

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The main goal of this essay is to study a book- El Marroc sensual i fanatic - of travel writings written by a Catalan woman traveller, and to put it within the context of the recent scholarship that relates, on the one hand, travel narrative with Orientalism and gender and, on the other, geography and colonialism. The contradictory nature of the contents of the book leads us to challenge the notion of simple 'Othering' as presented in Said's works where the heterogeneity of colonial power is neglected in a totalising dichotomy between the colonising Self and the colonising Other. The contemporary Spanish official discourse was indeed pro-colonial and paternalistic and often drew on notions of shared history and geographical proximity in order to legitimise an 'altruistic' colonial presence. The author's position is very different from this official discourse, but is deeply ambivalent. Her ambivalence arises from her gender which allows her to live the last Spanish colonial adventure as an outsider, and also from her positioning in Spanish politics. The confrontation between different cultures and traditions is sharply delineated in her accounts on Moroccan women, the primary aim of her travel. The (cultural) impermeability of the Others, with whom she would like to identify deeply, yet with whom she cannot really communicate, forces her to construct her own vision of the identity of these Others, projecting her own view of (Western) feminism. The essay demonstrates the importance of focusing on narratives that come from the margins (and particularly from female authors). These provide new perspectives which can destabilise established conceptions of the colonial relationship and, at the same time they can broaden the conceptual and factual history of our disciplines.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1998-11-01

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