Fitna, the Bi-Langue, and
the Nomadization of Gender and Sex
in Leila Sebbar

[Published in Re-Imaging Gender. Eds. Mala Pandurang and Anke Bartels.  New Delhi: Pencraft International Press, 2010]

In Transfigurations of the Maghreb, Winifred Woodhull elucidates Abdelkebir Khatibi’s notion of the bi-langue as a discourse which works against the hegemonic monolith of French language, literature, and culture through its resistance to the limits of dualism and binaried identities.  Woodhull views the bi-langue as a “process of unnaming” through which decolonization necessarily takes place and the universalizing and colonizing discourses of language, culture, body, gender and sexuality are dismantled.  Accounting for Khatibi’s deconstruction of Western metaphysics and Arabo-Islamic philosophy and cultural institutions, Woodhull adroitly sums up Khatibi’s theories of the Maghreb pluriel and the bi-langue:

For Khatibi, the effort to pluralize the Maghreb is synonymous with decolonization, a process requiring a double critique of Arab-Islamic institutions and cultures on the one hand, and of the universalizing, colonizing dynamics of Western metaphysics on the other… In Khatibi, the process of decolonization is associated with the bi-langue, a space in which body and language, voice and writing, feminine and masculine sexualities, native and foreign languages, hegemonic and marginalized cultures mingle without merging to form a new unity (p. ix).

Although Khatibi’s bi-langue provides for a liberatory postcolonial reading of culture, according to Woodhull, it nonetheless fails to recognize completely “intractable difference”, the plurality of identities which stretches far beyond any universalizing national or linguistic boundaries.  Woodhall claims that the recent current of French post-structuralism in  North African literary criticism from the 1990’s has resulted in the representation of Maghrebian identity through a theoretical rather than through a historical or cultural vein.  Ultimately, as I read Woodhull’s analyses of Maghrebian literature, I note that what begins as a critique of French post-structuralism and Maghrebian scholarship, ends up evolving a method of isolating theory from history and culture, of distinguishing “Western” discourses from autochthonous “historically” or “culturally” informed discourses of the Maghreb.  It becomes quite clear in her reading of Maghrebian scholarship Woodhull’s assumption that post-structuralism is not discursively informed by Maghrebian culture, history, or language.  Though she claims that French theory “colonizes” readings of the Maghreb, she nonetheless negates the possible inter-cultural and theoretical interstices inevitably emerging from well over a century of colonial ties. Treating theoretical interpretation as if it could be merely excised geographically and sorted into a sterile category of “French” renders Woodhull’s argument void of any historical or intercultural vestiges ineluctably emerging from the colonizing culture’s interactions with the colonized.  In short, Woodhull’s argument is based upon the assumption that post-structuralism is solely a product of French and European culture, denying the necessary inter-cultural inflections that post-structural and postcolonial theory has manifested for well over the past forty years.   Woodhull writes:

The problem is that, in Cixous’s writing as in Khatibi’s, the “link between the “libido of the other” and writing” is made in such a way as to obscure or even obliterate the difference between various manifestations of intractable difference, with the result that various figures of otherness—femininity, Arabness, Jewishness, blackness—circulate indifferently in a space of “immemorial bewitchment” divorced from the particular intersecting histories of these groups (pp. xxiii).

Woodhull’s argument, however, becomes quite confusing, for as one reads her critique of Maghrebian scholarship it is not clear whose theory she critiques.  On the one hand, she mentions—but never specifies—this “body of work” which attempts to “elevate” Maghrebian writing through French theoretical exegesis, and on the other, she indirectly includes Khatibi in this agglomeration of “orientalizing” writers.  Of all the critiques that could be make of Khatibi, a major force of Maghrebian literary and cultural critique, to accuse him of relying solely on “French philosophical and literary norms” that “elevate” Maghrebian literature is quite fantastical given that his work clearly is about negotiating both Maghrebian and Western theories.

The text that Woodhull criticizes most vituperatively of Abdelkebir Khatibi’s is his 1983 publication, Maghreb pluriel.  In this text, Khatibi advances the notion of the bi-langue as a domain in which Western and non-Western discourses interact, review and recast the traditionally dichotomized notions of gender, sexuality, language and culture without reformulating a new, stagnant identity.  For Khatibi, the bi-langue evidences the process of decolonization of the Maghreb through a perpetual analysis and consideration of both Western and non-Western texts.  The bi-langue presupposes the fluid space of destruction, reflection, and recreation in which writers and critics of both the “East” and the “West” must interact and participate critically.  Khatibi  sets out to subvert the hegemonic practices of linguistic and cultural domination by advocating “poetic language” as a force through which one can welcome the foreign, or the other, which, according to Khatibi, exists in every language, nation, culture, and every subjectivity.  His reading of Maghrebian texts gives rise to the possibility of re-examining the epistemological constraints that Western theory has commonly manifested in reviewing non-Western practices and literatures while still accounting for the many contributions that have, to a large degree, enlightened his analyses.  Much of what Khatibi scrutinizes—for instance, the cultural aspects of literature—is exactly what Woodhull claims to undertake in her book.  Yet, these two theorists’ arguments diverge at the moment when Khatibi’s construction of polymorphous sexualities, genders, and bodies is interpreted by Woodhull as a masking of individual faces, of individual experiences, and even the specificity of the woman’s body.  However, to read Khatibi’s work as an attempt to name women’s experience as singular, rather as an effort to forge a poetics of “other-thought” through which post-colonial identities are or might be formed, elides the very core of Khatibi’s argument.  The fluidity of the somatic for Khatibi does not manifest a totalizing obfuscation of identity as Woodhull argues, but instead offers what Khatibi calls “intractable difference”, difference as possibility for uprooting Western hegemony wherein the post-colonial subject might reconstruct herself.

Unlike Lyotard’s definition of “intractable difference” upon which Woodhull also bases her use of the term, Khatibi’s bi-langue is not a space which pervades all representation as homogeneous.   Instead, the bi-langue is a sphere which enables expression and movement, destruction and construction, and where conflicting possibilities might meet, revealing  new struggles, and manifesting new possibilities for discussing  identity that are not encoded as universal or obligatory.  Creating language as the body and the body as language, Khatibi weaves the somatic body and the linguistic as interdependent expressions of identity.  Moreso, he constitutes the somatic body as the social body through which the individual body connotes the community and the community implicates the individual, much like in Islamic theology where the √umma which is the body, the community of Muslims throughout the world which embraces both the singularity of the individual and the collectivity of the masses.  Yet,  √umma is derived from the Arabic word umm, the word for “mother” which makes even more paradigmatic the identity of the individual as both free of the feminine and yet inevitably linked to it.  In discussing √umma, Khatibi underlines the importance of understanding community as comprehensive of all, including the “division in division”: «[L]e nom «Arabe» désigne une guerre de nominations et d’idéologies qui mettent au jour la pluralité active du monde arabe.  Pluralité et diversité, sur lesquelles nous reviendrons—quant à l’élément subversif d’une pensée-autre» (1983, p. 13).The √umma, for Khatibi, is comparable to the bi-langue as it is the conterminous breaking and melding of cultures, languages, genders and bodies.  This metaphor is not uncommon as writers such as Abdelfattah Kilito have also discussed the somatic body in terms of that which pertains to the social body—as that which blurs the edges of identity in which all members of the  √umma (for Kilito, habitat) are indistinguishable.  Creating a poetics of language and the body, the bi-langue maintains the fluidity identity not as a dialectical struggle, but as difference, while maintaining the social body as mutually implicated by the somatic body.

Likewise, Leïla Sebbar’s Le silence des rives takes the “in between spaces” of gender and nationality and subverts traditional identities in search of a non-identity, a seeking of community as nomadic, through a re negotiation of memory.  Sebbar renders identity through the space of exile in this text creating a sense of community that prevails not as a specific topography, but instead that exists as pure space.  Hence, Sebbar’s narrative evokes both a sense of loss (exile) and recuperation through the posturing of nomadic identity as that which is neither here nor there.  Le silence des rives is a novel which negotiates  exile and memory as movements, passages and bodies traverse the pages, but nobody is really “named” aside from generic nominations of “l’homme”, “l’enfant”, “la mère” and “les trois sœurs”.  Taking place in the south of France, this novel interrogates the limits of identity as much as it questions these linguistic, somatic and geographic spaces imprinted on the memory, in language and on the body.  In this novel, fitna functions as that which brings together representation under the rubric of death and rebirth in order to contradict the binaries of naming/silence, birth/death, movement/stasis:  “On dit aussi qu’elles sentent la mort à distance.  Mais il y a la mer entre les deux rives, l’eau n’est pas un obstacle?” (p. 46).  This novel takes place around the rive of a river in southern France which flows into the sea.  It is at this juncture where the river meets the sea, where the characters of this novel are confronted, albeit symbolically, with the métissage of cultures:  France, là-bas, and the Maghreb, l’autre rive.  It is between là-bas and l’autre rive where the characters of this novel search for meaning in an indeterminate space of coming and going, of belonging and not belonging:  “Sur l’autre rive, dans la chambre blanche,l’homme qui marchait le long du fleuve est à l’agonie” (p. 52).  There is a similar dédoublement of the body and language in this text, as we found earlier with Khatibi and Meddeb; however for Sebbar the dédoublement is never immediately evoked as an outburst of energy or a baroque corpus of simultaneous excess and poverty. Instead, the dédoublement in this text evolves slowly amidst the pages full of silences, white spaces, and pensive moments.   Sebbar demonstrates the difficulty of locating identity as she manifests a story replete with characters who slowly begin to inhabit space instead of the earth.  It is this interiorized space of consciousness, spirituality and corporeal relations to spirit which become the loci of nomadic identity.

In this novel, the interlocutors’ identities are unknown—for Sebbar maintains a certain anonymity and androgyny to the narrators.  Though at the beginning of each section of the novel, the narrator briefly changes  and this voice speaks  very little, narrating perhaps a line or two.  The page is overwhelmingly blank and empty, the words are left in an abyss of whiteness.  Then the narration changes to the previous omniscient narrator and the narrative continues as before.  Like the movement between the presence and absence of writing on the page this text likewise manifests a similar struggle between presence and absence.  For instance, there is a constant struggle  between the identities of the characters that remain silent, unevoked, and also a textual drive to name the language of the mother as that space of linguistic and cultural identity:

Qui me dira les mots de ma mère?

Dans la chambre blanche où je suis seul, qui

viendra murmurer la prière des morts?  Et

qui parlera la langue de ma terre à mon

oreille, dans le silence de l’autre rive? (p. 53)

In Sebbar’s narrative, she juxtaposes the geographical rives of difference to the metaphorical limits of language, the body and the community whereby the rive comes to stand for that which leads to the sea, the abyss that borders nations and likewise that which divides peoples.  As these characters walk along the shores of that which looks out towards the Maghreb, Sebbar’s narrative is a conscious negotiation of real and mythical spaces in which identity is inevitably negotiated, often hidden, and sometimes “discovered”.

At the beginning of the novel, it is clear that the characters have no real sense of cultural heritage, no sense of community in their exile of southern France.  For example, l’homme is a person who fundamentally does not care for his native culture or rites as he evidences in his disregard for what will happen to his body after his death:

L’homme qui marche le long du fleuve a répété  si souvent que sa mort, il n’y pense pas, que sa mort ne l’intéresse pas, et qu’on laisse son corps là où il sera sans vie. . . Ils disent qu’il restera toujours une petite place, après la réduction de corps du paternel ou du grand-père, que ‘c’est les femmes qui s’occupent de ces histoires (pp. 55-56).

Sebbar’s narrative focuses upon the body of death as a trope for the community in exile, marking this detachment from not only the rites of death, and from all ritual and spiritual tradition left behind in the autre rive, the Maghreb.  Nonetheless the “body of ritual” is also a dédoublement of signification for it maintains two opposed meanings at once:  the body is a simultaneous presence and absence.  Presence because memory inflects the body with the past recording certain rites of passage—the rites of death and of community—marking its tombs with stones.  And absence because the body in exile is symbolic of that which can never be:  the body of tradition outside the geographical location of tradition.  The body is the fitnic reality of the Maghrebian in France, for the subject has all the memory of the place and rituals of a past community, but has no access to recreating them là-bas.  The contradiction of the contiguous excesses and lacks of meaning is what Sebbar attempts to construct in her narrative, as each character is found to have very little regard for his or her cultural heritage, until the trois sœurs present the possibility of crossing the sea to the “grande maison”.

Like the body lost between signifiers of presence and absence, language in this novel occupies a space of amnesia where characters depend upon one other to remember their mother tongue, to invoke their identity for them.  Language maintains the power to represent; but since most characters have lost their mother (tongue), they are left to translate themselves in the language of the other.  There is one character, however, who remembers the mother tongue, l’homme.  He keeps the community in touch with those “back home” since he is the only one capable of writing letters to the families of those who have long forgotten their native language: «Ses compagnon ont perdu les mots, lui non.  Il écrit les lettres des pères, maris, frères, cousins. . . Il écrit pour la Maison de chacun d’eux, le fils aîné qui va à l’école saura lire la lettre qu’il adresse à tous et à toutes» (p. 62). Sebbar evidences language as paradox of sorts:  language is that which is devoid of memory, dependent upon memory and yet evocative of one’s memory.  And language maintains a hold on the practices of a culture and the memory of a life.  But most of this society retains no trace of their culture and their loss is due their inability to record (ie. lack of language, experience, memory) as much as it a problem of putting language together with memory in the same body.  In this way, Sebbar evidences cultural and linguistic identity as well as memory as nomadic spaces that each character negotiates in attempting to find the words within certain places of identity.  As the three sisters carry out rituals for the fiAid-al-kabir, Sebbar’s narrative elicits a community of people who go through the motions of a tradition almost forgotten—and these performances of culture may very well be the only sense of incorporating the movements of identity into the body.  Indeed Sebbar’s novel is about the link between soul and body—both in their contradictions outside of their homeland, in France, and in their union through ritual and passage:  “S’il a une âme, on peut jeter son corps à la décharge publique, il a la promesse du patron que s’il meurt dans son café, il donnera son corps à la mer, il préfère, mais qui tient ses promesses?”  (p. 101).  The body can be saved from the schism of cultural identity by being left in the fluid waters of uncertainty—waters which bridge two cultures and which evidence the abyss of identity amidst a public body that is in search of itself.  But in the indeterminacy of identity, this body inevitably drowns in the onslaught of meaning.

Sebbar’s text asserts an obsession for the body of death in a gesture of understanding the relationship between the physical world of things and the world beyond, the domain of the spirits. In demonstrating the characters’ growing concerns for the body and spirit of the dead, Sebbar’s carefully constructs the space of nomadic identity:  the domain where identity is no longer connected to the presence of the somatic, but where naming is conferred in the act of crossing boundaries. While the dead body is metonymic of a Maghrebian cultural identity in exile, stagnant and unable to move, it is also the body which catalyzes the possibility for “crossing over” physical and imaginary fields, stretching out onto the threshold of community and space:  “Et cet homme-là, doucement allongé au bord de la rivière, dont elles touchent le corps comme elles n’ont pas touché un corps d’homme, elles femmes et jeunes, prêtes à embrasser, amoureuses, l’homme qui les aurait aimées” (p. 108).  Le silence des rives does not evoke  nostalgia for the social nexus of a community in exile; instead this text demonstrates the individual body in search of a social body, a community, in a world where material presence is valued over the spiritual.  As Michel Maffesoli notes, the physical and social bodies present a paradox:  the crisis of the somatic transforms the physical body into its “opposite”, the somatic form escapes into the social body. In this way, the individual bodies experience crises and it is then when they seek the social corpus as symbolically located in the grande maison.  As dead bodies emerge throughout this story, Sebbar’s narrative evidences that the “dead corpus”  reveals the concrete, physical world as a most unsuitable and unstable reference for identity.  Instead, Le silence des rives searches for a community that is not “earth bound”, that does not depend upon physical presence (or absence).  Community is the shifting of borders and the searching for identity across space, dislocating contemporary politics of identity that rigidly impose a strict adherence between language to the physical. As the bodies that circulate throughout this text remain anonymous, nameless, and unclaimed, the cultural nomadism of this group becomes part of a larger process of self-identity and a communal, dialogic search for a name that may never be found in a geography never revisited.  For Sebbar, community is always a nomadic, spiritual drive within a constantly shifting geography of identity.

Fitna within Le silence des rives is evidenced by the contradictions in meaning and space throughout this text: the body is both real as a physical body and yet also imaginary as a social body.  Likewise, language is also precarious in this text since its power to name both represents certain realities while eliding others. Identity, in Sebbar is conterminously fixed to and free of language and identity and it is this terrain which her novel negotiates.  Sebbar establishes the terrain of identity which is both fixed upon and divorced from language and the body.  Likewise, Sebbar manifests the sacred space of memory through which the characters are able to remember and  idealize their homeland.  The trope for the homeland here is the grande maison, a locus that is both real and fantastical, present and absent.  For the characters in Le silence des rives, the grande maison is a space of being, of belonging, much like the pilgrimage to a marabout, to which they return if only to die.  Several characters evoke their desire to die in their homeland through the symbolic imagery of the grande maison as the locus of a specific cultural signification of “belonging”:

Il se rappelle un homme, rencontré un jour au bain public des hommes.  un parleur pieux qui revenait des Lieux Saints.  Pourquoi vivait-il en terre étrangère à un âge où le malheur pouvait le frapper à tout instant?   Il ne dit pas.  Il glorifiait ceux qui voulaient mourir en terre sainte et assurait que lui, malade, impotent, retournerait sur les Lieux Saints pour y mourir (p. 118).

As maraboutism is a quite common phenomenon in the Maghreb which is about the coming together of the community at a sacred saint’s tomb through a “corporeal sensibility” , we might see how this locus of dying in the “sacred place” would necessarily recast this tradition of marking the sacred from the profane, the belonging from the exile.  This location of the grande maison manifests identity as simultaneously fantastical and real, likewise rendering the body as a physical terrain which must be negated in order to attain any sort of belonging, in order to create the space of community.  As such, community for Sebbar does not occur within the literal “walls” of place, but within the metaphorical limits of imagination through the recreation of language.  This nomadic community of Maghrebian identity in France is composed of people who attempt to recreate this sacred space of ritual amongst themselves at the tomb, the grande maison, which is emblematic of ritual, culture, language, and memory.

The body of identity is a domain which is difficult to assume or know within Le silence des rives—for even Sebbar herself denies her own identity as a “Maghrebian writer”.  As such, identity can only be inferred and rendered through the subject’s position to the world, and how she chooses to free her identity through her relationship to geography and language.  But it is this very intractable quality of language and the body which Sebbar interrogates and reframes here. Sebbar evidences sex, gender, language, national identity and sexuality as fluid entities which move in and out of meaning, while also recognizing an external force, a socially-empowered subversion of fluidity which attempts to fix and name identity.  Within Le silence des rives, Sebbar maintains the linguistic and somatic spaces of identity, like the characters’ names and bodies, as silent, poetic spaces of spirituality.  Though these characters make choices—the return to the homeland, a life of despair, or the voyage to the grande maison—Sebbar’s text confirms identity as that which negotiates the conflicting space of life and death, here and there, and presence and absence.  Upon finding the body of a young woman who has just committed suicide, the narrator states:  “On a retrouvé son corps, il a fallu le reconnaître, elle portait la robe des soirs de fête, transparente et pailletée, ses cheveux étaient encore noués avec long ruban brodé de fils d’or que lui avait offert un client” (p. 131).  Bodies emerge, disappear, and re-emerge in this text in such a way that death comes to seem more and more like a finding of space, rather than an escape from the present.

This narrative manifests death with a certain casualty such that the reader is numbed by the multitudinous corpses being abandoned and found, confused by the inability to inscribed identity, dizzied by the texts circularity between time and place.  The stories being woven cross national territories, corporealities and various forms of exile; hence there is a sense of an imminent loss—that perhaps the body will cease to exist and thus fade away, taking all traces of identity with it.  For each chapter continually interrogates the “langue de sa mère” as each character seeks for an identity of place and belonging that is never found within language.  Paradoxically, Sebbar leaves this question of language and identity completely open.  Like Khatibi and Meddeb, she posits language like the physical body as a central space of conflict and dialogue.  Different from Khatibi, however, Sebbar’s text makes room for the non-negotiations of identity—more than a contentious ground of cultural conflict, Sebbar also evokes the pensive silence that necessarily accompanies any voyage towards identity.  For instance, after the homme finds out that his wife has left him to return to their homeland, he realizes that there will be nobody to care for his body after death.   Thus he writes his son to notify him of his impending death and he sets off for the grande maison.  His desire to leave the earth reflects a haunting estrangement from a sense of place  in exile, là-bas, and likewise represents a profound  fear of losing the body in a country which was never home: “Dans la chambre blanche, sur l’autre rive, il n’est pas seul.  Un homme, assis contre l’agonisant, murmure à son oreille la prière des morts, dans la langue de sa mère.  Il la répète trois fois” (p. 147).  Suicide in Le silence des rives is the metaphor for leaving physical topographies of “belonging”—citizenship, language, culture—in order to recreate new sites of identity in the language of the mother “on the other shore”.

Fitna between the rives is evidenced as the entwining of cultural and religious significations that each character encounters, but yet cannot fulfill.  There is a synapse between that which the characters imagine of the autre rive and that which they really know or demonstrate in their particular, individual là-bas.  It is the grande maison, this imaginary sphere outside of geography, which evokes this mystical space of community, a community which is also not visible.  However, the difference between the memory of one’s own culture and the reality in which one lives in the other’s culture is evidenced in this text as cultural schizophrenia: the characters find themselves lost within their exile, lost within the recuperation of their homeland through memory and thus they struggle to forge a language and space of identity.  In attempting to create this space of identity they must negate the physical realities of geography and rely upon the memories present and absent and upon bodies living and dying. Here, fitna is not evidenced as a baroque tissue of text and body such as in Khatibi’s writing, but rather fitna is evidenced within the quiet, meditative recognition of the splitting of subjectivity, of language, of home, and of identity.  When l’homme walks to the river and enters it, carrying his poetry in his hands, he begins to feel the turbulence of the river entering the sea (pp. 116-117).  It is this quiet yet violent tugging at identity which Sebbar reveals as the fitnic presence in her story.  Here, cultural hybridity is a conflict—a virtual war of identities—struggling to find a space to embody.  She evokes the body as caught up in this turbulence where the resolutions of identity are limited and the paradigms are intricate and not immediately available.  This narrative  examines tradition in the context of exile as it collapses diachronic with synchronic time, silence with language, and presence with absence.

It is this collapsing of diametrically opposed moments that ushers forth the difficulty of finding meaning for each of the characters and for the reader as well.  For instance, words are as much a part of the exploration of identity in this novel as is the silence evidenced on the occasionally blank pages of the text.  As the reader is presented with numerous pages of written text that occasionally evidence the whiteness, the void, of silence or where one sentence will make up an entire chapter, the reader must struggle to find a space for completing the narrative. The characters are certainly dissatisfied with their lives in the là-bas, but none of them can reconcile returning to the autre rive.  Identity remains caught between a mythic, choate vision of utopia as memory on the one hand, and on the other, the barren present of exile in a foreign land.  Neither option seems viable or realistic, yet forging a new space of belonging seems equally difficult project to undertake for these characters.  As this novel straddles the superfluity and the poverty of signifiers,  the subjects of this novel struggle to find a space for installing their identity.  As they find out, identity is to be found neither in the economically deprived homeland, nor in the Western economically-privileged country of exile.  Le silence des rives evidences identity that which remains free of purely geographical constraints, as nomadic.  As nomadism emerges as neither a topography nor a temporality, the leaving of the earth through the metaphor of “suicide” locates the process of negating the physical body and embracing the spiritual as a modality of identity.  Nomadism is a space in which one lives, or as Traki Zannad situates, a “habitus”, and it is through this symbolic recreation of identity that the characters reach the autre rive, which is neither France, nor the Maghreb, but a space of belonging.

Sebbar’s Le silence des rives manifests the metaphoric space of exile that Maghrebians face abroad.  The rhetorical positioning of the search for identity as a type of “suicide” makes this text quite complex.  For the pursuit of identity in Sebbar is not geographical search, but a philosophical and somatic seeking of determinacy through language and memory.  Here nomadism is revealed as the inability to stay là-bas and the impossibility of ever turning back to the autre rive as the subject lives between these geographical and cultural distances.  This dynamic adduces identity as an impossible combination of tasks:  on the one hand, the quest for identity is that which puts life (the body) in peril, and on the other hand, not seeking identity results in a spiritual death. Those who attempt to find the tradition they once lost, die in the attempt to cross the sea, and those who remain indifferent to finding identity spiritually putrefy in the absence of meaning.  The plethora of signifiers for both the characters who “succeed” and barrenness for those who do not evidence nomadism as the fitnic space of in-between being and geography where the empty space, and not a specific geography, is the context for identity.

Charged with simultaneous contradictions, conflicts, and creations, fitna undoes any pretense of intellectual hegemony. Yet, Khatibi’s writing is still understood by critics like Woodhull as an “appropriat[ion] of deconstruction for third world peoples. . . and cultural politics” (Woodhull, xi) rather than being recognized as a reworking of Islamic thought and North African identity through an embrace of the “in between”, the nomadic, the bi-langue. This kind of reaction from Western critics suggests that we ought to examine our own discomfort presented by such discourses which locate a poetics and politics of liberation for women, for instance, that do not coincide with “our” Western ideals of such liberatory issues or even, dare I mention, our need to proselytize the various neo-colonial  discourses of “freedom”.  More directly, we should re-evaluate what we so easily label “Western” and attempt to investigate to what extent colonialism has necessarily influenced French thought and to what extent post-structuralism is as much a symptom of French culture as it is a product of France’s long involvement with Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian and other former French colonial cultures.  Lastly, we ought to look to Maghrebian cultural theory, most of which—contrary to Woodhull’s assertion—does not offer extreme or subversive tactics or poetics as solutions for reshaping the social climate.  Instead,  we might find new ways of reading older texts, older bodies, in order to create newer spaces for newly born subjects. The fact that Khatibi’s poetics of resistance fails to ensure the ideals now fashionable in Western cultural theory does not signify its failure as a project.  It may, on the other hand, reflect the nature of our cultural proclivity of reading a politics of despair into any discourse which fails to resonate the same theoretical conclusions that have “succeeded” in the Western academic scene or which have failed to reproduce social paradigms of oppressive versus liberatory acts.