Assia Djebar: In Dialogue with Feminisms

Assia Djebar: In Dialogue with Feminisms

Assia Djebar: In Dialogue with Feminisms

Assia Djebar: In Dialogue with Feminisms

Excerpt

Ideology 'acts' or 'functions' in such a way that it 'recruits' subjects
among the individuals … by that very precise operation which I have
called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the
lines of the most commonplace everyday police"man" (or other)
hailing: 'Hey, you there!'

The image of Althusser's individual walking along the street only to be startled by this unexpected call conjures up the compelling and compulsive effect of certain ideologies on the individual. Taking his analogy further, Althusser claims that when the call rings out "one individual (nine times out of ten it is the right one) turns round, believing/suspecting/knowing that it is for him", recognising that "it is really 'he' who is meant by the hailing." By this "mere one-hundredand-eighty-degree physical conversion", he becomes a subject. Those who do not respond to the verbal call or ideological wolf whistle, who are not recruited by (the) ideology as "good subjects" are simply relegated by Althusser to the status of "bad subjects."

The first impetus for this book came when I visualised Assia Djebar walking along a street, and in the distance three French feminists trying to attract her attention. Each one in turn calls out. Does she turn around? Is it merely a question of turning around, or walking on unperturbed, or can I fudge Althusser's imagery by imagining her stopping for a moment to talk to her interpellators?

My original intention was to assess how far Djebar had been interpellated by feminist thinking, in order to categorise her, in Althusser's terminology, as a "good" or "bad" subject, a "good" or "bad" feminist. However the analogy of the "ideological" policeman, a figure of authority and power, "arresting" his subject would imply a hierarchical relationship between writer and theorist. The second image, of two subjects talking together on Althusser's street, suggests a more egalitarian relationship:

Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (1969). In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (London: NLB, 1971), p. 55.

Ibid., p. 56.

Ibid., p. 55.

Ibid., p. 55.

My usage of the term "French feminists" is discussed later in this chapter.

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