Language, filiation, and affiliation in Leïla Sebbar's autobiographical narratives

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This article examines how Sebbar's ambivalent relationship with the Arabic language is intertwined with issues of filiation and affiliation in various autobiographical narratives that span her publishing career, Sebbar, whose mother is French and whose father is Arab, does not speak Arabic and received a Eurocentric upbringing in colonial Algeria. I analyze how a recurrent syntactic similarity and periphrasis across several texts' titles intertwine language abilities and filiations, and demonstrate that they create the filial and linguistic links that were displaced by the French language. In addition, I trace the role that contemporary events, such as the Algerian civil war, play in the variations of a scene which is recounted over time in several texts, in which boys insulted Sebbar in Arabic daily on her way to school. I study how Sebbar's treatment of language and gender issues strengthens her Algerian filiation through affiliation with Algerian women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-135
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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