The place of literary representations of the Sahara desert in Algerian identity-making

Zarzi, Amina (2022). The place of literary representations of the Sahara desert in Algerian identity-making. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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For time eternal, the Sahara Desert has been the cradle of thought and imagination for Muslim scholars and Western travellers. Starting from the observation that interest in desert spaces within the context of North African novels has been non-existent in the English-speaking historiography, or latent at best, this research analyses, compares and contrasts Algeria Arabophone and Francophone representations of the desert in the context of colonial and postcolonial times. By engaging with selected novels of Malek Haddad, Mouloud Mammeri, Malika Mokeddem, Rachid Boudjedra, Sa’īd Khatībī, Yasmina Khadra, and Hāj Ahmad As-Sadīq, this study compares, assesses and disentangles, thanks to the prism of the Sahara Desert, some of the blocks that have altered the shaping of national identities. This thesis is theoretically guided by an original approach based on a confluence of frameworks emanating from Western and non-Western scholars and theorists to provide a robust analysis of Algerian identity interrogations. As the outcome of this literary journey, this thesis posits the ‘knot’ as a concept that informs the ways in which the voices of different authors converge and diverge in their understanding of the desert, highlighting the complexity of such a prism, and the multi-faceted nature of postcolonial identities in their relationship to space, social practices and the imaginary. Besides contributing to the burgeoning field of Desert Studies, this research brings to the fore marginalised voices and cultures and their significance within and beyond a postcolonial nation. By deconstructing the mainstream emphasis on Northern Algeria and highlighting the voices of ethnic minorities through the prism of the Sahara Desert, this research engages critically with the ways in which subaltern voices and marginalised places forge transcultural connections. The comparison of Arabophone and Francophone renditions of the Sahara Desert contributes to transnational studies, expanding traditionally Francocentric and Eurocentric approaches into new linguistic and cultural spheres where the voice of local authors becomes more audible.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: None/not applicable


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