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Gender on the Market

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

Deborah A. Kapchan
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Gender on the Market
    Book Description:

    Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1996 Gender on the Market is a study of Moroccan women's expressive culture and the ways in which it both determines and responds to current transformations in gender roles. Beginning with women's emergence into what has been defined as the most paradigmatic of Moroccan male institutions-the marketplace-the book elucidates how gender and commodity relations are experienced and interpreted in women's aesthetic practices. Deborah Kapchan compellingly demonstrates that Moroccan women challenge some of the most basic cultural assumptions of their society-especially ones concerning power and authority.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0243-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Transcription and Transliteration
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments: Possession by Three Spirits
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. Introduction: The Dialogic Enterprise of Women in Changing Social Contexts
    (pp. 1-26)

    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...

  8. Part One: Women in the Market

    • 1. In the Place of the Market
      (pp. 29-49)

      When I first went to Beni Mellal in 1982 there were plenty of women in the marketplace. Apart from the vendors of wool, eggs, bread, and chickens, however, women were primarily buying rather than selling. The scene is different today. There are now so many women marketers in Beni Mellal that they have had to set up their goods outside the market walls. There is no room for them within. Women have also begun to hawk herbs in the ḥalqa, the performance section of the marketplace. Their role as herbalists and their elaborate oratory in the suq mark a feminine...

    • 2. Shṭara: Competence in Cleverness
      (pp. 50-71)

      To get to the suq you have to cross three neighborhoods, transverse two empty lots where sheep graze on garbage and shrubs, and cut through the oily streets of the industrial quarter, where black-handed mechanics work on truck engines and repair motor bikes.

      I met the Ḥajja and Rquiya, another neighbor, right in front of our house and we set off, my tape recorder in a straw basket on my shoulder. At seven in the morning the streets were already busy—produce-laden donkeys, tethered fowl, pedestrians on their way to and from the marketplace. we made our way through the...

    • 3. Words of Possession, Possession of Words: The Majduba
      (pp. 72-102)

      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...

    • 4. Words About Herbs: Feminine Performance of Oratory in the Marketplace
      (pp. 103-137)

      The frequency of oaths, proverbs, blessings, and scripture in Moroccan oratory make it a formal or ritualized language like those historically associated with tradition and rhetorical power.¹ Yet despite its highly stylized form, the pragmatic revoicing of this oratory by women opens the interpretive possibilities of traditional speech events. Formal language in the informal setting of the suq does not limit meaning; rather, by embodying words and gestures customarily performed by and for men, women orators create a multivocalic and hybrid discourse in a context of heteroglossia. By appropriating the authority vested in public discourse, women marketers challenge traditional notions...

    • 5. Reporting the New, Revoicing the Past: Marketplace Oratory and the Carnivalesque
      (pp. 138-150)

      In 1935, Roman Jakobson noted that all art is influenced by an overarching principle, what the Russian Formalists called the “dominant” (1971 : 82), a structuring orientation characterizing a work or even an entire epoch. Although a narrative may have many functions and embody several forms, an internal hierarchy exists which determines the relative value of its components. The dominant of poetic language is the aesthetic function—its form. Poetry is oriented toward the sign, while prose narrative is directed toward the referent.¹ “Poetic evolution,” says Jakobson, “is a shift in this hierarchy.”

      Marketplace oratory is only sometimes poetic. It...

  9. Part Two: Gender on the Market

    • 6. Women on the Market: The Subversive Bride
      (pp. 153-180)

      The increased earning power of women in the economic market is introducing fundamental changes in ritual life and the social values it expresses. The Moroccan bride negotiates between relations of reciprocity (between two families who are merging their destinies by mingling their bloods) and relations of commodity, expressed in the bride’s ability to “make good” and goods in the material economy. Ritual, in representing an intensification of social relations and values, provides a potent example of social change. The bride may still be considered a gift between families, but her packaging has changed considerably; and the packaging affects the contents,...

    • 7. Catering to the Sexual Market: Female Performers Defining the Social Body
      (pp. 181-211)

      Nothing illustrates the recent changes in the relative status of women and men in Moroccan society so fully as the altered position of the shikha, the female performer. As women who commoditize their voices and bodies in contexts of public celebration (both outdoors at saint’s festivals, and indoors at wedding celebrations) shikhat (pl.) are often associated with the marketplace. In fact, women without moral scruples may be compared to shikhat who are “lost in the suq.”

      I first met Mouna at Khadija’s wedding. She was the lead singer in a group of four women and two men. These women all...

    • 8. Property in the (Other) Person: Mothers-in-Law, Working Women, and Maids
      (pp. 212-234)

      When Khadouj was still pre-pubescent (in the early 1920s), her soon-to-be mother- and sister-in-law came to her house for a tattooing ritual. The sister-in-law held Khadouj down while the mother tattooed her wrists, ankles, and chin with a needle dipped in ashes to enhance her appeal. She was thus made the domain not only of her husband but of his entire family, and most particularly of his mother. The tattoo, meant to beautify, also marked her as property long before the consummation of the marriage. As a promised article of exchange between two families in a tribal village in the...

    • 9. Terms of Talking Back: Women’s Discourse on Magic
      (pp. 235-274)

      It was a hot day and the sellers in the cloth market were standing around with nothing to do. They began yelling at the few women who were in the market gossiping, saying that if the women didn’t shut up, God would give them a “women’s war.” Well, one woman present didn’t like the attitude of the man who said this and she decided to show him what female revenge was.

      She went to a cemetery and waited until a family came to bury their dead child. When the mourning family left, she unburied the child and put it in...

    • 10. Conclusion: Hybridization and the Marketplace
      (pp. 275-279)

      The significance of this study is not in recognizing that daily life is comprised of small-scale displacements, replacements, and hybridizations of cultural forms (as opposed to the dramatic paradigm shifts that Kuhn describes 1962); nor is the attribution of responsibility for such processes to the market new (Appadurai 1990; Hannerz 1987). Rather, the study illuminates how incremental changes leading to larger paradigm shifts take place discursively and in relation to the marketplace, indicated by subtle transformations of both speech genres and larger conceptual categories.

      It is evident that new notions of community are asserted in the genre of bargaining. For...

  10. Appendix 1: Discourse of the Majduba
    (pp. 280-289)
  11. Appendix 2: Discourse of the ‘Ashshaba
    (pp. 290-296)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 297-298)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-320)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 321-322)
  15. Author Index
    (pp. 323-325)