Marianne et le Marabout: The Creation of Multicultural Identity in the Work of Slimane Benaissa

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Dr. Anne Larsen, Hope College

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The play Marianne et le Marabout (1993) by Algerian playwright Slimane Benaïssa is representative of the difficulties faced by the majority of Algerian immigrants living in France today. Although there is surely a similar experience faced by all Maghreb immigrants, there is a unique relationship between France and Algeria, resulting from a complex history of colonization, war, decolonization, and assimilation. Although France continues to become inhabited with more Magrheb immigrants as a result of decolonization, there is a fundamental racism that exists toward said immigrants. The celebration of a hegemonic French national identity and thus the devaluing of other cultures leave the identities of Algerian immigrants fragmented. In this study I analyze how the dramaturgy of Slimane Benaïssa deals with the difficult task of personal and cultural identity formation, specifically amongst Algerian immigrants who find their roots in Algeria and their family or work in France. This study proposes that Benaïssa’s play Marianne et le Marabout emphasizes three essential elements which explain the fragmented identity of these immigrants: religion, exile from the homeland, and language. Through the exploration of these three elements and a content analysis of their presence in Benaïssa’s work I show how Benaïssa forges a common identity among Algerian immigrants, thus combating the fragmentation and sense of exile or disconnectedness most feel upon leaving their homes and taking up residence in the banlieue of France’s major cities.

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