In this course, we explore cultural production in the contemporary Maghreb. We consider how important dimensions of social and political life are explored in literature and film as well as the role of these and other media in shaping social and political dynamics. We focus on Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, though we also situate these nations in broader regional and global contexts. As former French colonies, these three nations share a multilingual cultural environment in which French coexists with Arabic. Though our sources are primarily in French, we examine material produced in both languages with options to read/watch in translation. Most of the course materials are also available in English translation.
The course begins in roughly 1990, a time of disenchantment when the political leadership brought to power at Independence was replaced or at least challenged. We explore the dynamics of Algeria’s ‘Black Decade’, Morocco’s emergence from the ‘Years of lead’ and, with an eye to more recent developments, Tunisia’s ‘Arab spring’ as well as less punctual and less highly mediatized currents of social and economic life. Our primary focus is on the varied ways in which the arts and cultural media have responded and contributed to change while also revisiting the past and reframing national narratives. The course is interdisciplinary, combining historical, sociological and anthropological approaches with close reading of texts and films.
The syllabus is organized both historically and thematically. We explore questions including aesthetic responses to violence and the theorization of trauma and memory; the changing geography and sociology of migration and the changing landscape of media and publication. Many of our sources explore the meaning of ‘modernity’, often in conjunction with explorations of subjectivity and spirituality, gender and sexuality.