“The Fourth Language for all Females”: Women's Subversive Bodies in Assia Djebar's Fantasia, an Algerian Calcavade
Publication Type
Original research

This article aims to illustrate the dialogic significance of the trance dance, a
discursive scene of women’s bodily expressions, in the Algerian feminism postcolonial novelist
and film director, Assia Djebar’s Fantasia (1985). While Djebar’s literary oeuvre has
been subject to enormous critical readings, this essay focuses on Djebar’s representation
of the female body as a medium of subversive expression in the ritualistic trance dance.
Following the critical lines of psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and postmodern and postcolonial
feminism, we contend that the trance scene is an uncanny, subjective space of
women’s collective voices that undermine patriarchal authority. Women’s movement into
the domestic sphere of the Harem is a retreat into the semiotic, imaginary order and an
escape from the symbolic order that deprives women from their bodies and their expressions.
Thus, we propose that the trance privileges the matriarch’s body/signs over the
phallocentric system of Arab, benign patriarchy, her unconscious over social consciousness,
irrationality over rationality, the ritual over the real, and ultimately the feminine
over the masculine. The dissident practice of periodic dancing gives a space for dancers
to claim dramatic authority and agency over their bodies, that is, to empower themselves
socially and psychologically despite the patriarchal constraints lurking over them.
Keywords: Assia Djebar’s Fantasia, women’s subversive bodies, the trance dance, Arab
patriarchy, uncanny, jouissance, semiotic order

Arab Studies Quarterly
University of California Pluto Journals
Publisher Country
United States of America
Impact Factor
Publication Type
Prtinted only