Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Terms of a Relationship

The situation of the Francophone African woman writer is one of ultimate colonization, and as such, encompasses nearly every term we have discussed regarding colonialism. For what was a woman but a person conquered by man, and what was francophone Africa but an area conquered by France? As her nation has had to fight for its independence of rule, she herself has had to fight for her independence of voice.
Beyond the obvious and aforementioned radical bilingualism of the subaltern women who used their apprenticeship of the colonizers language to free themselves from the bondages of conquered silence, othering, dehumanization, and hegemony also apply to the situation.
An inherent aspect of woman’s subaltern status is her alterity. Alterity, or “othering,” is the implied separation of groups, marking some people as different, incomprehensible… “Other”. The African woman (and even here, I other them), is separated, in nearly every way, from the African man, and in many ways, from the women of the colonizing power. With a domestic domain that hardly ever crosses the path of the man’s exterior domain, and social norms that deny her the freedom of access of the women of the colonizer, she is naturally separated, and naturally othered. This is the first step in dehumanization, the denial of humanity to a group of people. In this case, that group, the “Other’s Others” (according to Odile Cazenave), is the colonized African woman. Seen by young men as either love interests or vehicles for pleasure, like in Ben Jelloun’s The Last Friend, and by older men as keepers of the household who can be easily replaced by younger women, like in Bâ’s So Long A Letter, she has been denied time and again as an equal to her male counterparts, who themselves have been denied as equals to their colonizers.
An integral and defining part of colonialism is hegemony. The political, cultural, economic, and social domination of one group by another, it is one of the most insidious aspects of the colonial relationship. Yet, it could also be one of the woman’s saviors. Only through France’s domination and implementation of its language through the education system did the woman gain a means of spreading her voice to the world. Through hegemony, she found her society smothered, and her veil lifted.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way you have framed this so far. Hegemony as the savior for women is an extremely interesting argument, not to mention a very controversial one as well I imagine. As for the Othering, I chuckled a bit when you said you had othered while writing about othering, but it is so true... we do it on a daily basis on such a subconscious level, it is a little frightening to think of how something so subconsciously natural can be so detrimental to a group of people. I look forward to reading your future posts about this :)