Contested Borders broadens understandings of dissident sexualities in Africa through examining new representations of same-sex desire emerging in recent francophone autofictional writing from the Maghreb, where long-established traditions pertaining to gender and sexuality are brought into contact with new forms of gender and sexual dissidence, resulting from the inflection of globally circulating discourses and embodiments of queerness in North Africa, and from the experience of emigration and settlement by the writers concerned in France. The book analyses specifically how Franco-Maghrebi writers Rachid O., Abdellah Taïa, Eyet-Chékib Djaziri, and Nina Bouraoui foreground translation and narrative reflexivity around incommensurable spaces of queerness in order to index their crossings and negotiations of multiple languages, histories and cultures. By writing in French, Spurlin demonstrates that the writers are not merely mimicking the language of their former coloniser but inflecting a European language with discursive turns of phrase indigenous to North Africa, thus creating new possibilities of meaning and expression to name their lived experiences of gender and sexual alterity—a form of (queer) translational praxis that destabilises received gender/sexual categories both within the Maghreb and in Europe.
William J. Spurlin is Professor of English, Brunel University, London
Chapter 1: Sexual/Textual Crossings: Toward New Representations of Sexual Dissidence in
Chapter 2: Historical Antecedents: Imperial Crossings and Same-Sex Desire between Men
in North Africa
Chapter 3: Disruption, Fragmentation, and Alternative Sites of Memory: Gender and Sexual
Dissidence as Forms of Decolonisation in Francophone Post-Independence
Literature in the Maghreb
Chapter 4: New Translations of Masculinity and Same-Sex Desire through (Re)Negotiating
Gender/Sexual Borders: Rachid O., Eyet-Chékib Djaziri, and Abdellah Taïa
Chapter 5: Nina Bouraoui: Further Translations of Sexual Alterity through Embodiment and
Intersectional Crossings of Identic, Geopolitical, Temporal, and Generic Borders
Chapter 6: Migration and/as Translation: Cultural Mediation and Negotiation as Ongoing
Struggles for the Decolonisation of Queer Desire
William Spurlin's Contested Borders: Queer Politics and Cultural Translation in Contemporary Francophone Writing from the Maghreb is a rigorously researched and critically incisive account of Franco-Maghrebi writing. Spurlin's intersectional analysis is equally attentive to geography, race, gender, sexuality, and language. Simultaneously invoking, departing from, and moving beyond the critical and creative archive of works from the region, the author's attention to new spaces of dissident sexualities leads to future directions for research in the area. Contested Borders is a must read for scholars in Postcolonial, Middle Eastern and North African, and Sexuality Studies.
Written in Spurlin’s usual deft style, Contested Borders surveys an impressive range of feminist and queer Maghrebian texts, part of the region’s long tradition of writing about same-sex desire. The authors of these texts, living in between radically different languages, histories, and cultures, visit upon those uncomfortable with the globe’s increasing
fragmentation the truths, triumphs, and fragilities of those living beyond essentialized Western categories and indigenous cultural taboos.
Contested Borders is timely and makes an immense contribution to our understanding of queer sexualities in the Maghreb and by extension in Africa. To date, this is the only monograph in English on the Maghreb that brings to our attention important questions of our time: life writing, sites of memory, translation, globalization, and queer theory.