Breaking the Protectorate of Silence: Violence Against Women in 1990s Algeria

Dr Anissa Daoudi's research examines how language and translations shape memories, public narratives, and enhance campaigns for transitional justice..  

In 2005, President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika implemented a new amnesty law as part of the administration’s Charter for National Peace and Reconciliation following the Civil War that devastated the nation throughout the 1990s. The law offered a broad amnesty to security forces, state-armed militias and armed groups, all of whom have committed crimes under international law as well as grave human rights abuses. Furhter, the policing of public discussion of these atrocities has created what Daoudi calls a “protectorate of silence”, as these measures have made it impossible for survivors to access justice. 

Daoudi’s research examines how language and translations shape stories and memory. Focusing on the experience of women survivors of sexual violence and rape committed during the Civil War, and working closely with civil rights activists at an NGO in Algeria, Daoudi’s research has shaped the transitional justice fora for female survivors.

Disrupting “untranslatability”

“Untranslatability” is typically understood as the inability to translate memory or experiences into words, and is routed in the idea that there is always ‘something lost in translation’. For Daoudi, “untranslatability” is far more complex and applies to more than words alone. She is the first to consider “untranslatability” in the Arabic context and in so doing explores the inseparable link between culture and language, where words carry different and sometimes conflicting meanings that originate in day-to-day lives.

The power of testimony

Daoudi’s research expands the concept of “untranslatability” and transform its limitations into opportunity. Daoudi argues that the process of documenting trauma through speaking, and translating this into literary and visual arts can offer a survivor a new interpretation of their experience which can help them overcome obstacles to healing, and provide a new way to articulate their memories.

The unheard stories of survivors

Daoudi began working with the NGO Djazaiourna in 2016. The NGO are invested in building a safe community for women who have been affected by both the violence of the Civil War, and the subsequent policing of how that violence is remembered. They offer training and education services designed to equip survivors, particularly women, with new skills with which they can support their families in a post-conflict Algeria.

On 1st November 2017, Daoudi and Djazairouna hosted the first writing workshop. Female survivors of sexual violence were given a safe platform to speak about their experiences; for many this was the first time. Artists, authors, psychologists and documentary film makers were invited to listen to the women and translate their stories into artworks. The women’s experiences were thus documented and stored in the growing archive held by Djazairouna.

The workshop helped to spark a stronger community amongst the women involved with Djazairouna; the opportunity to share their experiences has fostered a form of solidarity that has emboldened many to begin to join protests and anti-amnesty action. The shame that many reported to attach to their memory has been broken down.

These stories are essential to the campaign for political and legal reform in Algeria; the women represent a large group of people who have been unable to speak about their trauma and therefore seek justice. The integration of true experiences into popular culture contributes to the changing narrative about the Civil War.

Project team

The Leverhulme Trust logoDr Anissa Daoudi 
Project funded by: A Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2018-19). 

Outputs

  • Anissa Daoudi. Sexual Violence in the Middle East and North Africa. Trilingual Special Issue (in Arabic, French and English).  Boundary 2O. Duke University Press. July 2018. (Editing the Special Issues and including 2 articles).
  • Anissa Daoudi. “Algerian Women and the Traumatic Decade: Literary Interventions”, International Journal of Language and Trauma. 2017, Vol.5, No1.‎ (Peer-reviewed Journal article.
  • Anissa Daoudi, Polylingualism in Algeria between ‘Soft Power’, ‘Arabisation’, Islamisation and ‎ ‎‘Globalisation”, International Journal of North African Studies. 2017.
  • Anissa Daoudi, The Protectorate of Silence: Testimonies against Amnesia of the Algerian Civil War (1990s).  Monograph in progress.
  • Anissa Daoudi.  Unheard Voices of the Algerian Civil War (1990s): the Role of Testimonies in Transitional Justice, in Literature, Democracy and Transitional Justice: Comparative World Perspectives. Legenda Books 2020 .

Engagement and resources

Transnational Feminist Research Talks

First event (20/03/2021): Professor Luise Von Flotow (University of Ottawa, Canada) in conversation with Dr Anissa Daoudi (Modern Languages, Arabic and Translation Studies).

This first major event in the academic year part of Translation Studies Research ForumArabic Studies and of our Forging Links research stream will benefit from the intellectual exchange with the theorist and translation scholar Professor Luise Von Flotow. As part of decolonising Translation Studies as well as Feminism, Professor Von Flotow and Dr Daoudi will engage transnationally with postgraduate students and scholars from the Global South, for example, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Spain, Argentina and many more.

This talk begins with a short description/discussion of how locally positioned the early examples of “feminist translation” were, how intermingled with friendships, alliances and shared political motivations. It moves on to discuss how politics of ‘gender’, and more importantly, ‘intersectionality’ have diversified and fragmented work in the field, and how transnational approaches (De Lima Costa and Alvarez 2014, Castro and Ergun 2017, Flotow and Farahzad 2017, Flotow and Kamal 2020) have been brought to the fore in recent years. A few current studies in transnational feminist translation (Yanez 2020, Alsharekh forthcoming, Kamal Mansour 2020) will serve to further expand on the question of how ‘feminist otherness’ has an impact on the work of translation: from selection to translation to dissemination and reception (Flotow 2017/2019).

Outcomes and links to material

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Dr Anissa Daoudi

Violence against women: narratives, translations and languages - Anissa Daoudi