Multicultural solidarity : performances of Malḥūn poetry in Morocco




Magidow, Melanie Autumn

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This dissertation investigates malḥūn poetry and its roles in contemporary Moroccan society. It challenges modernist approaches to malḥūn that focus on structures and overlook functions, contingencies and interdependencies. I propose an approach informed by performance studies and Bakhtinian dialogism. This study relies on three types of primary sources: printed collections, oral performances, and interviews. Oral and written examples of malḥūn range across the past five hundred years. However, this study places priority on the various actors involved in malḥūn today: poets, singers, musicians, editors, scholars, politicians and fans. This dissertation demonstrates how the heteroglossia of malḥūn performances affects Moroccans as they negotiate identities and re-imagine Moroccan society. Performers' poetic devices and interpretations of the genre facilitate a process of representing and "voicing" social groups within contemporary Moroccan public discourse. I specifically address voices of stability that reinforce social structures of authority ("centripetal") and voices of diversification ("centrifugal") that re-envision diversity in Moroccan society. Artistic innovations, such as theatrical productions of a narrative malḥūn poem, make space for rethinking Moroccan identity. I argue that malḥūn poetry functions dialogically in contemporary public discourse to provide a space for Moroccans to negotiate social identities. This dissertation demonstrates how one cultural genre forms social identity, engaging contemporary theory and debates of issues ranging from performance and identity to heritage and social effects of art and literature.



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