Africans on the Move: Transnational, Intranational, and Metaphorical Migrations
Using Foucault’s construction that discourse frameworks contested meanings and struggles for power, and taking seriously the feminist contention that women are agents of knowledge who can apprehend reality, name themselves, assert their viewpoint, and to give voice to their concerns, Malik deconstructs “displaced”, a term which is used by local, regional and national state authorities to push the women who have been dislocated from their normal lives and re-located in Greater Khartoum. The words, poems, and imagery of these selfsame women are used to foreground the presentation of the women’s thought, perceptions, presentation of their history and interpretations of their changed circumstances. Engaging in such interpretation illuminated the various ways in which women in these communities made meaning of their lives as well as the struggles that they encountered women on a daily basis.
Malik considers “displacement” as not only connected with and limited to social- economic and natural factors but also as discourse to which those who have been thrown out of familiar terrain and homes by ecological, economic and social crises as well as political decisions have responses. Such responses are derived from knowledge garnered from the experiences of daily life, and they differ in accordance with the individual’s gender, class, and status. Unfortunately, displaced women suffer from the fate of most poor people worldwide in the sense that they are not considered knowledgeable. They are presumed to be voiceless, and others routinely name them, speak for them, and make policies that radically mark their lives without any consideration for their opinion. The interest in discourse as a marker of the voice and knowledge of displaced women also is significant because of the Foucauldian construction of discourse as a framework through which knowledge and social practice are structured, as power.
Malik, drawing upon Foucault’s thought contends that within discourse, one can identify “the power of truth, of knowledge, of knowing and of defining what is truth.” Considering the discourses of the displaced women of Greater Khartoum on their situation then, one can uncover profound truths about the displaced and the experience of displacement that do not enter into the discussions of the powerful state officials and bureaucracy. At the same time, displaced women react to the prevailing discussions on displacement by asserting first and foremost, the power to name themselves, and then to project a counter-hegemonic image of themselves that challenge common perceptions of that they are problems to society, the dregs and the wretched of the earth. These displaced women insist on historical specificity that recognizes that while they may have been displaced due to famine and drought, continued use of the term constituted ahistorical inaccuracy. Thus, these women tell society through stories and songs that they are productive citizens, hard working people who may have suffered from misfortune, but are hardly the source of diseases. Instead, what diseases they were afflicted with, they trace to their residence in Omdurman.
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