Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Women’s Studies

Major Professor

Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Carolyn Eichner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.

Keywords

postcoloniality, nationalism, the second world, decolonization, francophone

Abstract

This work is a comparative analysis of the works of the Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko (Field Work in Ukrainian Sex) and the Algerian writer Assia Djebar (Women of Algiers in Their Apartment). Although the lives of Algerian and Ukrainian women were shaped by different historical and social forces, discourses and traditions, common themes exist in their writings because of their common postcolonial background. Both authors examine the relations of women to history in the postcolonial setting, the problem of inscribing women into history, and the double oppression women experienced during colonial times (as colonized subjects and as gendered subjects).

One of their main themes in the works of Djebar and Zabuzhko is that of the body. In their writings, Assia Djebar and Oksana Zabuzhko unite the discourses of female body, pain, and history. Woman’s body, “unseen” by the Algerian and Ukrainian societies, is inscribed into the historic process through pain. The experience unacknowledged before is expressed through details of (sexual) violence and rape that the women of the colonized nation suffered from the colonizers (the French or the Soviets), because the discourse of postcolonial nationalism ascribed to women the roles of chaste patriotic icons.

In my research, I focus on the themes of the female body as a site of (colonial) violence done to a woman, as well as a site of resistance to patriarchal values. The methodology of my research consists in close reading of the texts of Assia Djebar and Oksana Zabuzhko. I analyze the texts providing historical context of women’s condition in Algeria and Ukraine and concentrating on the impacts of French and Russian/Soviet colonialism and nationalism on the lives of women. One of the issues under analysis is that of decolonization, or disengagement from the colonial trauma. I argue that the language chosen by these authors for writing (French by Assia Djebar and Ukrainian by Oksana Zabuzhko) contains a liberating potential.

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