Functions of discourse and counter-discourse

This brief excursion - through the privileged lens of feminine expression - into the sheikhat's texts provides a glimpse of the rather transgressive discourse and counter-discourse emerging in parallel with the more or less coherent dominant social dialect. It is clear that, under an apparently contradictory structure of enunciations, a system that calls for a dynamic reading of the songs can be ascertained. It is articulated in several modules, which consist of bipolar and multipolar relations.

At the center of the utterance there is a complaint which constitutes its core. It is the lucid and unhappy report of a malaise attributable to various factors: destiny, social injustice, malicious gossip and the dominance of men over women at one level; at another level - which in itself is a consequence of the first, or a failed attempt at compensation - unhappy love, transgression lived with difficulty, or the torments of alcohol and evening parties.

Attempts at a partial response are woven around these complaints: on one hand there are makeshift repairs in the frame of ancient norms, searching for traditional solidarities, and resorting to the sacred; on the other we find the withdrawal of the limits of custom, indifference toward what is said, and the solidarity of the marginalized amongst themselves.

A counter-discourse, based on hedonism (eroticism, alcohol, gathering of friends), the egalitarian affirmation of desire and decisions in love, and an invitation to transgress, is elaborated beyond these limited responses. This counter-discourse is almost entirely concerned with love and alcohol, and poses only a vague revolt in opposition to the social elements which make up the first level of the complaint: destiny, and social injustice. It is not understood as an ideal for society or a project for the transformation of society. Rather, it is symptomatic of the emergence of certain ideologies: that of individual liberty - from which the frequent use of ana (me) and of the verbs "to want" and "to desire" emerges -, and that of pleasure - free love, access to alcohol and freedom of movement.

This fragile pole of resistance and counter-propositions in the face of sexual segregation and the interdiction of certain behaviors - all the more fragile in that it has a tendency to refer to an existential ghetto, "the people of the mehna", and its sub-culture - is shored up by force of affirmation of a vitality that has now found massive mass-mediated expression.

The profusion of this vital impetus may influence the work "from the inside" on the images created by the listeners themselves, who are caught between different models of identification and subject to exogenous ideological pressures of western origin (images of "liberation" through material consumption, images of the petite-bourgeois couple). Beyond the traditional function of the love songs and complaints - mirror of freely admitted social unhappiness and impasse - would it be possible to create a communication between the now diversified aspirations of "ordinary" women, and the "flowers of evil" - a sort of ambiguous message - of these extraordinary, "deviant" women known as sheikhat?

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