Literary and political strategies in a literary field : The case of Tahar Ouettar Article - 2020

Tristan Leperlier

Tristan Leperlier, « Literary and political strategies in a literary field : The case of Tahar Ouettar  », Sociological Review, numéro spécial Intellectual Strategies of Engagement (Amine Brahimi, Marcos Gonzalez Hernando, Marcus Morgan and Amine Perez, eds.), 2020, pp. 1032-1048. ISSN 0038-0261


This article aims to show the relationship writers have with politics, especially in historical circumstances where the literary field enjoys little autonomy. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, I use the notion of strategy as a middle point between deterministic and ’rational choice’ explanations of political stances. For writers, politics can be the continuation of literature by other means. The case under study is the shift of Algerian writer Tahar Ouettar from the left to supporting Islamists during the 1990s civil war. I argue that an explanation of this shift should not rely solely on social provenance, or on opportunism, but rather on his ’strategic’ attempt to regain a central position in the Algerian literary field. In a civil war context where all literary acts are perceived as political, it was his competition with other main writers such as Rachid Boudjedra, who happened to be anti-Islamist, that led him to support the opposite side. Beyond just the writer’s relative position in the Algerian literary field, the specific structuring of the field (bilingual and transnational) also helps to understand the strategies developed by this writer.

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