Geographies of Space: Spatial Impositions, Circularity and Memory in Malika Mokeddem's Les Hommes qui marchent and Le Siecle des sauterelles
Brenda J. Mehta

The Algerian writer Malika Mokeddem has won much international acclaim for her novels set at the very gateway to the great Algerian desert, the home of her nomadic ancestors. Born in the oasis settlement of Kenadsa on the imperceptibly-traced border between Morocco and Algeria, Mokeddem's ancestry includes the mixed-race Saharian tribe of the Doui Menia nomads from the southwestern region of Kenadsa. Her novels represent the problematics of racial, geographical and cultural interstitiality whereby in-betweenness becomes a space of resistance, ambiguity and exile as reflected by the author's personal situation as an Algerian immigrant writer in France.
An appreciation of Mokeddem's work depends upon an understanding of the treatment of space in her novels in which spatial configurations embody a network of colonial, patriarchal and gender ideologies that highlight, sustain and disrupt spatial binaries that include the antithetical positioning of tradition/modernity, urban/rural, writing/orality, colonial/postcolonial, among others. In other words, how is space imagine and imagined in the narrative text as a means of constructing cultural knowledge when confronted with loss and dispossession? How does the geography of space provide a reading of 'meaningful forms' that inform cultural production and a particular ontology of human existence and the universe? How are traditional Islamic architecture, natural landscape and mnemonic ritual imbued with the meaning-loads of memory to reveal a "graphic" sociology of lived-out cultural experience? This study contends that the interplay between spatial interrogations, postcolonial feminist critique and cultural praxis unearths the palimpsest-like 'geo-positioning' of spatial mapping that sediment and fragment the text at the same time through hierarchies of spatial difference wherein liminality conversely contests 'otherness' and marginal representation through the resurrection of ancestral memory, oral tradition and circular movement. The architecture of words in the novels constructs architecture of cultural forms and vice-versa to reveal a blue print of 'narrative as spatial design' that establishes the complexities of space, subjectivity and culture as primary referents of influence in Mokeddem's writings.


A Global Feminist Travels: Assia Djebar and Fantasia
Jennifer B. Steadman

Travel serves as a powerful tool for Assia Djebar in Fantasia, An Algerian Calvalcade (1985), operating as a trope for her recovery of Algerian women's history, which involves literal and metaphorical journeys through archives, Algeria's battle-scarred countryside, and through her own experience of her homeland as both colonized and newly independent. Travel and travel writing also provide Djebar with a set of generic conventions that she can exploit and manipulate to replace texts that produce Algeria as a commodity with a nuanced and complex portrait that emphasizes individual and national agency. Ultimately, travel functions as a model for global feminist praxis for Djebar; her journeys to collect and present women's voices allow them to be heard and the women themselves to become shapers pf discourse and agents of political change. Analysing travel in Djebar's Fantasia offers a new critical lens through which to assess the author's considerable textual and political achievement.


Writing the Nation of the Beauty Queen's Body: Implications for a 'Hindu' Nation
Huma Ahmed-Ghosh

Beauty pageants are not a new phenomenon in India. What is new is the national attention they receive and the frequency with which Indian women are crowned at these pageants internationally. The question raised here is why this phenomena? Why is there this sudden obsession or pre-occupation at the national and transnational level? What are the local and national implications to this phenomenon? Ahmed-Ghosh's focus is on the imaging of these women as symbols of national pride being manipulated by a nation. Beauty queens are used as a symbol to convince the world at large that India has arrived on the global stage as a modern country on its path to development, capitalism and consumerism. A second agenda at the national level is more conservative: beauty pageants are condemned while the conservative ideology of "family values" is perpetuated through sacrificing mothers and suffering wives in television serials. Through interviews with young women aspiring to be models and successful participants in Indian society, this paper discusses the gendering of nationhood by the new imaging of women in India.


Migrations: A Meridians Interview with Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak was a fellow in residence at the Five College Women’s Resource Center based at Mt. Holyoke College, Massachusetts, for the 2002-2003 academic year. In addition to being a scholar of gender and sexuality in the social sciences, she is an accomplished and award-winning novelist in her home country of Turkey, authoring Pinhan (winner of the 1998 Mevlana Prize in Turkey), The Mirrors of the City, Mahrem (‘Hide-and-Seek,” winner of the 2000 Turkish Novel Award—the equivalent of the Booker Prize in Turkey), and The Flea Palace (a critical and commercial success selling over 15,000 copies in the first two months of it publication. At the time of the interview Shafak was working on her fifth novel, her first written in English, The Saint of Incipient Insanities, an excerpt of which was included later in this issue. In this interview, Safak shares her thoughts on nationality, migration, what it means to identify as a “woman of color” in the U.S. context, Turkey’s ambiguous positioning between East and West, issues of sexuality, mysticism, the role of the artist in society, the history of feminism in Turkey and her fiction. This interview was conducted via email in Winter/Spring of 2003 with Meridians editor Myriam J.A. Chancy.


An Assyro-Babylonian Pregnant Goddess (an Excerpt from a novel, The Saint of Incipiant Insanities)
Elif Shafak

The Saint of Incipient Insanities is a comic narrative about a group of young people, mostly foreigners in Boston, and their never-ending quest for happiness and belonging. The two central characters are Ömer and Gail who come from utterly different cultural and religious backgrounds and yet attempt to fly together. They resemble the great mystic Rumi's lame birds — the stork and the crow — who paradoxically find the strength to fly in the very union of being lame. The author explores the themes of love, friendship, religion, nationality, belonging, xenophobia, homophobia, culture and exile. As the story unfolds, the characters in the novel will constantly challenge each other's preconceived identities, and in turn, find their own prejudices contested. As a newcomer, Ömer is not supposed to feel at home in Boston, yet he displays uncanny skills of adaptation, thanks to his hyper-exposure to American music and popular culture while growing up in Turkey. On the other hand, Gail remains unhoused in her native Boston not only because of her gender politics and her unquenchable spirituality but also because the contexts in which she seeks to affirm her being are themselves made of shifting sand. In the course of the novel, the author seeks to render a lucid critique of "deracination" as a terminal, existential condition - underlying the paradigms of personal identity in this period of pervasive globalization.


A Meridians Report on MADRE: The War on Iraq

On March 8 2003, Amrita Basu, director of the five-college Women’s Research Center in South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA, chose to celebrate International Women’s Day by inviting the organization MADRE to present at Mt. Holyoke College. MADRE is an international women’s rights organization that works in partnership with women’s community-based groups in conflict areas worldwide. In the 1990s, the group took up a range of human rights issues in other regions, particularly regions which had suffered from the effects of repressive policies instituted by the United States government. To date, MADRE has raised over $20 million dollars in humanitarian aid for the groups with which the organization works. The following is a report of the presentation conducted by MADRE at Mt. Holyoke, complimented with additional research compiled by the Meridians staff, and written by Managing Editor Elizabeth Hanssen.


Departures from Karachi Airport: Some Reflections on Feminist Outrage
Ambreen Hai

This essay revisits an experience –my encounter with an airport border control official as I was leaving Pakistan—that occurred in October 2000. At first, this otherwise trivial incident seemed to me illustrative of several postcolonial and feminist concerns, such as the regulation of national and gender identities at sites for border crossing, or the patriarchal oppressiveness of state power and practices. But as I retold the story, I began to realize that there were additional dimensions that called for something else, that required me to examine, though not altogether repudiate, my initial indignation. This encounter then became a cultural text calling for a somewhat different critical analysis, lending me to reflect on feminist (and postcolonial) outrage, on how we might complicate our gender-based reactions, and how such feminist politics may be responsible practiced. (Much of this essay was written before September 11, 2001. I have not returned to Pakistan since then and can only imagine that airport security has greatly increased.)


Diving Into Audre Lorde's "Blackstudies"
Angela Bowen

In the mythic "Blackstudies," one of Lorde's longer poems of the 1970s, she relates an experience of a time in the 1960s during her pedagogical debut in Mississippi, in the midst of the heady period of black social and cultural change. A life-changing episode provides grist for the poem which arises years later from a deep pit of pain, suppressed until she could resurrect and distill it, recreating it as a well "from which true poetry springs."1
"Diving Into Audre Lorde's 'Blackstudies'" combines an analysis of the poem and her conversation with Adrienne Rich a decade after the events occurred, in which Lorde explains the genesis of the poem. Lorde's purposeful process of interweaving her personal and political philosophy of poetry and pedagogy, rooting them in a relentless self-scrutiny-and committing herself to sharing the outcome of the scrutiny-aids her in advancing her truth-in-poetry.
It is surprising that "Blackstudies," her psycho/sociological study in
fear, has received no previous critique since its publication in 1974,
four years after a battle that she and her colleagues at John Jay
College had waged with the administration over the necessity for and
implementation of a Black Studies Department-and the subsequent battle with those same colleagues over who should head the newly-won department. Thus, "Blackstudies" is informed as much by the struggle at John Jay College as by her Tougaloo experience. Furthermore, although her lesbianism remains omnipresent throughout the poem, unspoken yet felt-validating and empowering a pervasive heterosexism in much the same way that Morrison declared the black presence to be always already there within white American literature, though often unspoken, validating and empowering a ubiquitous racism-Lorde would not bring it to the surface for several reasons.
The analysis interweaves Bowen's interpretation of "Blackstudies" (presented in plain text) with sections from the Lorde/Rich conversation and occasional additional Lorde works (presented in italics).