Decolonising Language: Towards a New Feminist Politics of Translation in the Work of Arab Women Writers, Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Nawal al Sadawim, and Assia Djebar

Nuha Ahmad Baaqeel


This paper argues that the Anglophone academy’s relative lack of appraisal of Ahlam Mosteghanemi as an Arab woman writer is not incidental. I assert that, for many Arab women writers, authorship is strategic engagement; in other words, they develop strategies that bring together formal experimentation with the social effectivity of authorship. In an attempt to present fully the aforementioned complexities at hand, this paper compares Mosteghanemi’s work with that of two other eminent women writers from the Arab world: Egyptian women’s rights activist and novelist, Nawal al Sadawi, and Algerian writer and historian, Assia Djebar. This comparative analysis is structured into three sections that take up the questions of the politics of literary form, language and decolonisation, and finally, translation. In the critical reception of their work outside their region, Arab women writers all too frequently find themselves caught up in the dynamics of a hegemonic Eurocentric feminism that already constructs them as new representatives of an Orient, one that further stubbornly refuses to dissolve under the action of rigorous critique. I argue that the underwhelming international reception to Mosteghanemi’s writing serves as a reminder that colonialism remains real, even in a world of independent nations, while decolonisation remains on the theoretical horizon in the postcolonial world. It is these two interrelated points that map the wide field of effectivity that is brought into play in the reception of Mosteghanemi as a writer.


Arab Women Writers, Eurocentric, Translation, Authorship, Reception, Feminism Decolonisation, Post Colonialism

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