Synaesthetic Shock: Gender, Politics and the Varieties of Islamic Experience in Moroccan Film by Moroccan Women Filmmakers

Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




M. Gail Hamner


affect theory, cultural studies, feminist theory, film theory, Islam, Morocco

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Since Mohammed VI took the crown in 1999, he has worked to circulate narratives about Morocco’s Islam and the rights it affords women. Insisting on citizens’ liberal subjectivities, he positions women as nodal points by which to argue his stance on civil rights and religious tolerance. These narratives are often strikingly different from deeply-entrenched patriarchal norms and myriad women’s quotidian realities. Here, I position film as a site of resistance to dominant narratives and patriarchal norms. I argue that women filmmakers resist their structural violence not in the dialogue their women characters speak but in how they film them. Through film form, viewers affectively and sensorially experience women’s quotidian conditions of life - religious, economic, political and cultural - that cannot be argued overtly.

My dissertation arose out of ethnographic experience in Fes, Morocco as I worked to make sense of the strikingly different modes of bodily comportment I saw. Sitting in cafés, talking with neighbors, walking the labyrinthine streets of the Medina (old city) and wide streets of the Ville Nouvelle, I felt the pinch of lived reality - sensory, affective and material - for which I had no words. I call it synaesthetic shock: synaesthetic because it flows through what Raymond Williams might term structures of feeling; shock because the multi-sensory juxtaposition produces a salient, affective bodily shift. I aim to develop a method for explicating synaesthetic shock as the bodily reception and recognition of structures of feeling. My project sits at the intersection of religion, feminist theory, film theory and affect theory: I turn to the diffuse quotidian culture and quotidian Islam that come through in independent fiction film far more than religious or political discourse or documentary film.


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