(Gender issues and urban space in some recent Saudi novels)
in La rivista di Arablit, a. VIII, n. 16, dicembre 2018, pp. 87-103.
The urban phenomenon in the Arab-Islamic world is of particular interest, due to the relevance it had in shaping the cultures of the past and to the rapid explosion of ultramodern megalopolis in these countries. The study of urban space permits analysing what main features a city – be it modern or old – must have, beyond any Eurocentric assumption. However, the relationship between gender and the city in the Arabic novel still needs exploring. This article aims at filling this gap by focusing on two Saudi novels, Banāt al-Riyāḍ, by Raǧāʾ al-Ṣāniʿ (Girls of Riyadh, 2005) and Ḫātim, by Raǧāʾ ʿĀlim (Khatam, 2001). Whilst the main hypothesis is that the fictional text is legitimised through its relationship with the city and, conversely, narrations on the city contribute in shaping the urban space, this study scrutinises how gender issues characterise the fictional Arab metropolis. Questions are posed as to what Arabic fiction tells us about the way the city is lived and imagined, and how gendered subjects re-interpret their unstable identities through peculiar modes of inhabiting the city.
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