Literary Amazighities: Multilingual Approaches to Amazigh Literatures

Friday, April 26
9:00am – 6:00pm
The Oakley Center

Literary Amazighities seeks to highlight the rich ways in which an illustrious group of accomplished creative writers and academic scholars engage with Amazigh literatures in their literary and scholarly output. As Amazigh literature is increasingly gaining ground both in its homeland of Tamazgha and in the diaspora, it becomes all the more important to listen to creative writers in order to understand how Tamazight and Amazigh identities inform or cross-fertilize their works, beyond the language of writing. From the oral tales to the novel, Amazigh identities have found their way into written works published in Tamazight, Arabic, Dutch, English, French, and Spanish, making Amazigh literatures a multilingual enterprise that emerges from almost all the locations in which Tamazghans—both those who identify as Amazigh and those who do not; those who speak the language and those who do not—produce literature.

The  horizons of Amazigh literary studies remains that Amazigh language and literatures should be taught and fully integrated into our academic culture. The teaching of Amazigh language and literatures will rehabilitate the mother tongue of millions of Indigenous Imazighen and enable them to take pride of their contribution to their diverse societies across Tamazghan societies. This said, the Amazigh literary landscape also straddles in a landscape characterized by  layers of multilingualism and transnationalism. Tamazghans, both those who identify as Amazigh and those who do not, have always written in different languages. Even as the ongoing “Amazigh renaissance” has lifted up Amazigh literature and culture and contributed to changing attitudes towards the language, self-identifying Imazighen are writing in a variety of languages that they enrich with their with their experiences and worldviews. Literary Amazighities is our endeavor to reflect the complexity of this landscape and chart a path for a cutting-edge understanding of the push and pull between the need to normalize the study of Tamazight and its literatures and the equally important task of probing the multilayered contexts in which Amazighity is continuously engaged, refigured, and regenerated.

The symposium will feature distinguished literary figures, including Abdelkader Benali, Lahcen Zaheur, Laila Lalami, Lynda Koudache, and Rachida Lamrabet in individual one-hour-long sessions to discuss their conception and practice of Amazigh writing. These writers have engaged with Tamazight and Amazigh identities in their writings from different locational, linguistic, and even generic positions, which, taken together, complicate the landscape of this literature and its boundaries. Each one of these prominent speakers will address how their literary experience engages with Tamazight as an idea, an identity, and/or a language or all of these together in their creative writing. These individual-writer-focused sessions will be a gateway into understanding how Literary Amazighities work and function in Tamazight and in other languages.

A scholarly panel will also examine the state of Amazigh literature today. Our colleagues Aomar Boum, Lahoucine Bouyaakoubi, Mariam Taher, and Paul Silverstein will together lead an interdisciplinary panel on their own engagement with Amazigh literature in their work. Ranging from literary analysis and translation to historical research and ethnographic fieldwork, these scholars’ work on Amazigh literary sources will shed light on a literary geography that extends from Morocco to Siwa and to a significant part of sub-Saharan Africa.

Amazigh literature cannot be but plural and ecumenical. It is plural in its reflections of Amazighities, plural in its languages, and plural in the forms of existence it carves out for Tamazghans in the globally hierarchized literary world. It is only being able to foreground this plurality, which has since the 1970s been also anchored in writings in Tamazight, that we will be able to appreciate the intricate and complicated ways in which the study of the literatures of Tamazgha could be reframed through the cruciality of Amazighities.

See the conference site for more information.