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

By Deborah A. Kapchan | Go to book overview

3. Words of Possession, Possession of Words: The Majduba

Bargaining is by no means the only genre of marketplace discourse, nor is it even the most dramatic. Other genres that might be called oratory, artful selling, or doom-saying are not delineated in Moroccan terminology except under the heading of l-hadra dyal suq, "marketplace talk," a form of discourse that embodies many speech genres much as a novel embodies several literary genres ( Bakhtin 1986:61-62). Whereas bargaining is overtly dialogic, the genre of marketplace oratory edges more towards the performance of monologue by attempting to subdue the other "voices" in the market.

Women's public oratory in the Moroccan marketplace provides an example of how a speech genre can be appropriated and hybridized -- with the result that historically dominant conceptions of "public/private" and "male/female" are put into question. In articulating a verbal genre historically practiced by men, Moroccan women orators challenge the moral and political canon that associates feminine performance with the private realm. Although the establishment of feminine authority in public requires alignment with dominant discourses, the feminine revoicing of marketplace oratory also inscribes a feminine presence into a formerly male domain, thereby expanding discursive space ( Frazer 1992:124). This expansion is mediated by both the genre of oratory and the marketplace itself. Women's emergence into the discursive domain of the market requires their complicity to the laws of genre, yet it is their expressive hybridization that ultimately transforms the larger public sphere.


Performance in the Marketplace

There is no word that describes the performance of verbal art in the open- air market; it is neither theatrical event (tǝmtil) nor party (ḥǝfla).1 There is, however, a designated place for it -- the ḥalqa. Literally a circle of people,

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