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Hachad Finds Multicultural Perspective an Advantage

By Angela Modany

Naima Hachad; photo: Vanessa Robertson

Photo: Vanessa Robertson

For Naïma Hachad, one thing often leads to another.

As citizen of both France and Morocco, Hachad has lived in both countries, speaking Moroccan Arabic and French in her multicultural household. Her particular background and her undergraduate studies in English led her to think more academically about difference. “I realized how rewarding multilingualism can be and how as one acquires a new language one also gains different perspectives on the world and the self,” the World Languages and Culture professor said about her interest in teaching French and Francophone cultures.

While an exchange student at Vanderbilt University, Hachad discovered the importance and the extent of Francophone and postcolonial studies, a field that was still marginal in France. She also realized the connections between her research in African American studies and Francophone cultural productions marked by the experience of slavery and colonialism. “W.E.B. Dubois, Zora Neal Hurston, and Langston Hughes’ texts led me to read Francophone literary texts from the Maghreb and the Caribbean and pursue a doctorate in French and Francophone studies after my MA in English and American studies,” said Hachad.

Hachad’s past and current research was inspired by her experience as a student in France and the United States as well as by her readings of major Francophone thinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries such as Jacques Derrida, Abdelkébir Khatibi, and Edouard Glissant. “These philosophers and poets have given me the tools to read and analyze artistic and literary forms derived from representations of identity and memory in the Maghreb and the Caribbean.”

Hachad’s interests and research projects in the Caribbean and the Maghreb have resulted in several published articles in which she explores representations of the body, landscape, history, and collective memory in literary texts and visual arts from these regions. For example her article “Victor Anicet,” coauthored with Valérie Loichot, addresses the politics of “restitution” in the works of this contemporary ceramist and painter from Martinique. It investigates his mixed-media piece titled Restitution as a site of memory, restoration, reinvention, and healing.

Another of her articles, published in Revue des sciences humaines, looks at importance of imaginary and actual Francophone landscapes. Hachad explained that this analysis is done though a dialogue she created between Martinican Edouard Glissant and Moroccan Abdelkébir Khatibi around the various meanings of the sea in their works: “They are very close theoretically speaking, but one comes from a culture that is haunted by the memory of slavery and deportation; so the sea is a tomb, a place where the bodies of those who didn’t make it were left behind,” she said. “And for the other, the sea is a place where the characters of his novels venture in order to get rid of all the constraints, cultural or political, and where they reinvent themselves.”

Hachad’s interest in contemporary struggles and transformations in the Maghreb as well as the language they have generated are explored in her article entitled “Dégage! C’est la révolution.” It analyzes slogans and gestures of the Tunisian Revolution and the role of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and Al-Jazeera in its instigation and propagation.

In her most recent article, forthcoming in June 2013 in Francosphères, Hachad analyzes the depiction of the veil and the Arab and Muslim female body in the works of U.S.-based Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi.

Hachad has also been conducting research for the past two years on “forms of the embodiment of the past and ideas of filiation, transmission, and disintegration in contemporary Francophone literature and visual arts of Morocco and the Moroccan diaspora in the U.S. and in Europe.” Much of this research will be explored in the book that she is currently writing and which is tentatively entitled: The Body that Manifests: Death, Silence, Violence and Memory in Contemporary Moroccan and Moroccan Diaspora’s Visual Arts and Literature.

Hachad’s research interests go hand in hand with her passion for teaching and sharing her most recent findings with her students. “Thinking of my students and my courses strengthens my inquisitive nature. I ultimately want to make my students aware of how learning French and understanding Francophone cultures can be personally and professionally enriching,” said Hachad.