Les Contrebandières: Woman as Smuggler - article by Chemseddoha Boraki, translated from the French, introduced and annotated by Gareth Stanton

Stanton, Gareth and Boraki, Chemseddoha. 2001. Les Contrebandières: Woman as Smuggler - article by Chemseddoha Boraki, translated from the French, introduced and annotated by Gareth Stanton. Women: A Cultural Review, 12(2), pp. 176-191. ISSN 0957-4042 [Article]

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The summer of 1999 marked the end of an era in Morocco. For the majority of the Moroccan people political power had rested in the hands of one man for their entire lives. That man was King Hassan II and he was now dead. While he was a monstrous tyrant in the eyes of some, for many he was to be deeply mourned as a man who represented a link in a royal chain that could be traced back to the prophet Muhammed and as such was the embodiment of the faith, the Commander of the Faithful. It was to be Hassan's task to bring Morocco into the modern world, and sultan became king. This arduous task, however, necessitated a blunt and brutal approach to crush tribal dissidence and proletarian insurrection. Nonetheless, as his son Muhammed VI was inaugurated, the legacy of Hassan's passion for a united kingdom was evident in the political landscape. Before his death Hassan had made some amends with the demons he himself had unleashed. Prisoners of conscience were being freed, oppositional voices were being heard and new democratic structures were slowly being put in place. In effect, the ground had been laid for his son to take the nation in new directions. One of these was an increased attention to the position of women in Moroccan society. As her brother was being prepared for his new position in life, Lalla Meryem, Hassan's eldest daughter, was receiving wide coverage in the press for any number of initiatives and pronouncements. That such a highly placed woman should speak out was not simply the timely intervention of a dutiful daughter. To those familiar with Morocco, names such as that of Fatima Mernissi and Zakya Daoud will already be familiar. Both these writers had been asking difficult questions about the position of women in Moroccan society for several decades. Films such as Jillali Ferhati's Reed Dolls (1981) and The Beach of Lost Children (1991) played a similar role in questioning the society's treatment of women. In fact Moroccan fiction, right at its inception, in Driss Chraibi's first work Le Passe´ simple (1956), had sought to understand the dynamics of patriarchal family life and the role of the mother, a theme that echoes in the writing of Tahar Ben Jelloun. More recently the independence struggle has been seen from the perspective of a woman in the fascinating account of the period given in Leila Abouzeid's semi-autobiographical novel Year of the Elephant , which was excerpted in this very journal, or her more recently translated memoir Return to Childhood . So Lalla Meryem's intervention was perhaps not so surprising. What was more surprising was the appearance, at the same time, of reviews of an avowedly feminist collection of essays in newspapers such as Le Matin du Sahara , a paper widely seen as the mouthpiece of the government. The book was a collection of articles edited by Aïcha Belarbi and entitled Initiatives fe´minine . It was published by the small Casablanca publishing house Editions Le Fennec and is the latest in a list of publications about Moroccan women that stretches back to Portraits de femmes , published in 1987. That such a publication can achieve such a review speaks as much for the potential for change in Moroccan society as the pronouncements of the new king. Women: a cultural review would like to introduce the collection to English-speaking readers by translating one of the chapters in the book. Chemseddoha Boraki's 'Les Contrebandières' takes up the intriguing economic theme of smuggling in northern Morocco. Through the use of memory, literature and observation it interrogates both the role of smuggling in a country such as Morocco and the part played by women in that particular trade. Its conclusion demands that the image and position of women within Moroccan society be profoundly rethought.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2015 15:34

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 15:11

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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