Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition

By Deborah A. Kapchan | Go to book overview

Introduction: The Dialogic Enterprise of Women in Changing Social Contexts

The market: its pure product is relentless displacement -- of traditions, beliefs, values, and natural objects, and it is through language that this awesome reconfiguration of humanity takes shape; it endlessly recon- figures the planetary landscape and reunifies the human species within a highly differentiated frame of frames that lies concealed from us and, alternately, openly defies us to understand it.

-- Rose ( 1991:112)

A woman sits on a mat laid on a rocky dirt hill in a marketplace at the foot of the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Before her are five piles of minerals and herbs, including dried sea urchins, some roots, and a blue fluorescent rock that is chipped for use. It is market day and she has come to do business. About a dozen people surround her, a few of them men. She caresses a small hedgehog and offers her audience samples of homemade remedy: black pellets, a mixture of ground animal parts, herbs, olive oil, and honey. By the reaction of those who have thrown the concoction from their palms into their mouths, it is not disagreeable to the taste. Her sales pitch is loud; she is competing with other herbalists in the vicinity, including men with microphones:

"Here you are, sir. Take this hedgehog and slaughter it," she said, holding the animal in the air. "Here, here is real medicine of truth, taken from a book. And whatever is in books doesn't contain lies. Here you are. Just bring a hedgehog and slaughter it. I beg of you, whoever is dizzy or sick with hemorrhoids, the ill person who has a sick uterus, whoever has a cold or who feels his shoulders tense or has a stiff back. Bring a hedgehog like this one. Take the hedgehog and slaughter it. And when you slaughter it, from its belly take out its intestines, take off its legs, and leave the hedgehog with its needles, with its bones, with its head, with its meat, and with its blood, because that is what the book said to do. Take this hedgehog and fry it in a clay pot until it burns. When the hedgehog is cooked, take it and put it in the heart of a mortar and pound it until it becomes a powder. That

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