Gender on the market: Moroccan women and the revoicing of
Kapchan, Deborah A.
The following review appeared in the October '96 issue of CHOICE:
Kapchan, Deborah A. Gender on the market: Moroccan women and the revoicing of tradition. Pennsylvania, 1996. 325p bibl indexes afp ISBN 0-8122-3155-4, $42.50; ISBN 0-8122-1426-9 pbk, $19.95
Kapchan's splendid ethnographic study of women's performance genres in Beni Mellal, Morocco, is an outstanding contribution to gender studies and to the understanding of Middle Eastern society. Its contribution to the already substantial literature on Morocco is greater than the book's title might imply. Through the idiom of social performances, Kapchan paints a vivid picture of the changing domains of household and family. In its examination of women's discourse, her study stands with Lila Abu Lughod's much acclaimed Writing Women's Worlds. Kapchan's book offers a rare insight into changing public roles of women, as illustrated by the movement of women into previously male domains of the market and public performance. She focuses on the speech, aspirations, and behavior of female vendors, herbalists, and musicians--the shikhat. Through their voices, readers can sense the interplay of religion, family, and even the search for economic advantage. The writing is personal yet objective, and quite apart from the study's ethnographic substance, the reader gains an appreciation of the author's approach to fieldwork. This book will be useful to a broad audience, including those concerned with discourse analysis, the anthropology of gender, and the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. Upper-division undergraduates and above. - D. G. Bates, CUNY Hunter College
The following review appeared in New Cultural Studies
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. In Morocco the last decade has seen a dramatic increase m women's public visibility and a major reorganization of the sexual division of labor. Beginning with women's emergence into what has been defined as the most paradigmatic of Moroccan male institutions -the marketplace (suq)- the book elucidates how gender and community relations are experienced and interpreted in women's aesthetic practices.
In the verbal and non-verbal social performances presented here--marketplace oratory, body-marking, ritual behavior, gossip, storytelling, live and mediated entertainment--discourses of religion, morality, and kinship vie with those of self-interest, capitalism, and commoditication. Gender on the Market compellingly demonstrates that Moroccan women challenge some of the most basic cultural assumptions of their society--assumptions about honor and shame, privacy and modesty, obligation and hospitality, and especially about power and authority.
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