Transmitting Authenticity: Kader Abdolah and Hafid Bouazza as Cultural Mediators

Sjoerd-Jeroen Moenandar*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Around the turn of the millennium, two public intellectuals became central figures in the nationwide debate on Islam in the Netherlands: Kader Abdolah, a refugee from Iran and Morocco-born Hafid Bouazza. Both authors have self-consciously assumed the role of cultural transmitter, using a wide variety of media and genres to do so: opinion pieces, columns, literary work, translations of poetry, prose and religious texts… In this paper, I will compare the element of autobiography in their cultural mediation. Kader Abdolah presents his Oriental background as a guarantee of authenticity. He constantly frames his texts within his life story, which is suggested to be a pars pro toto for the Orient and to have the aim to convince the reader that his work offers a genuine insight into the Muslim world. Hafid Bouazza, on the other hand, uses autobiography as a guarantee of authenticity as yet another mask in his continuous obstruction and deconstruction of Orientalist and Occidentalist prejudices. On one level, the author presents himself as the exotic Other, while on another, he constantly reminds his readers that his exoticness is nothing but a mimicry of their own exoticist prejudices. There is an interesting paradox between Abdolah’s claims of authenticity and Bouazza’s ridiculing of genuineness on the one hand, and the fact that Abdolah’s cultural mediation seems much more geared to a Dutch target culture, while Bouazza’s seems to strive for an exact representation of the source text on the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-73
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Dutch Literature
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Kader Abdolah pseud. van Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemaghami
    • Hafid Bouazza (1970-)
    • orientalism
    • Life writing
    • cultural transmitters
    • cultural mediators
    • Translation Studies
    • transmission of culture

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