As a ritual act of abandon, performed in the names of heterodox saintly figures, the Aissawa of Oujda manifested many elements of common female stereotypes. Although this discourse of 'otherness' had considerable disadvantages in Moroccan society, women exploited it as much as possible by acting collectively. As a group they were able to give moral support to one another and publicly (if anonymously) voice individual and collective frustration.
Throughout Moroccan, and indeed North African history, religious brotherhoods have provided the institutional structure for incipient political movements. Although I saw no indication that the Aissawa approached that kind of self-consciousness, it nevertheless served as a network and forum for otherwise isolated pockets of women. For fear of repudiation by the men they were dependent upon women's protest and resistance remained an understated and anonymous strategy. Nevertheless, the broadcast of discontent succeeded in crossing the barrier of the domestic into the public realm, and through audition, into male consciousness.
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