Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs


Nina Bauwens

Publication Date



The traditional women's hammam, or public bath, is a key space in the Arabo-Muslim societies of Algeria and Morocco. In those two countries, the division between men and women, still important today, is also noticeable inside the public bath, since men and women do not mingle. The question of gendered identity appears. More than a distinction between sexes, it is a social distinction between a man's identity and a woman's identity that is relevant here. It is essential to be able to distinguish to which 'group' each person belongs. Thus, the notions of individual identity, and then of gendered identity are significant. The child, who is still viewed as an asexual being, must become aware of his individuality and his gendered identity. In the bath, the little boy fully understands those identities when he is expelled from the hammam (at approximately six years old, in general). Moreover, this closed space also allows the woman to form her own feminine identity and to create a collective, feminine community. However, since the public bath is closed by walls and doors, can it be an emancipation and liberation space for women or does it remain under men's domination? Thanks to the concept of the panopticon by Michel Foucault and the ideas of resistance and strategy by Michel de Certeau, the hammam appears as an ambivalent space. In the traditional bath, gendered identities are formed, following rules and customs that are still relevant within it, but also thanks to a certain emancipation of the woman who is not surrounded by men. The hammam is a place in which restriction and liberation cooperate.


Hammam, bain traditionnel, bain public, genre, femmes, construction de l'identité, Algèrie, Maroc, traditional bath, public bath, gender, gendered identities, women, constructed identities, Algeria, Morocco

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Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Committee Member (Chair)

Vallury, Raji

Second Committee Member

Putnam, Walter