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PUBLICATION: The Pregnant Man. Power, Birth, and the Feminization of Existence by Mohammed Jouili

The Pregnant Man. Power, Birth, and the Feminization of Existence (in Arabic) is the title of a new book by Professor Mohammed Jouili, an associate member of LASPAD and deputy editor-in-chief of Global Africa. Published by Afrique-Orient, this book was recently presented at the Rabat Book Fair in Morocco (May 9-20, 2024).

In this work, the author analyzes ten African and Arab versions of a popular female-centric fairy tale. This tale narrates the story of a barren woman who, after many difficulties, manages to obtain the fruit of pregnancy (in other versions, a citron, an egg, or a small fish). She hides this fruit in a safe place, but her husband, hungry upon returning home, finds and eats it. A few days later, he finds himself pregnant with all the symptoms of pregnancy. In most versions of this tale, the woman forbids her husband from leaving their home until his delivery to avoid scandal. He gives birth discreetly (according to various versions, either alone or with his wife's help), far from the village, under a tree. He gives birth to a girl, whom he abandons under the tree before returning home. Birds find the baby, feed her, and protect her until she grows up and marries the son of a Sultan or King.

It is no coincidence that in all versions of this tale, from North Africa to Yemen and Oman, the pregnant man never gives birth to a boy, always a girl. According to Professor Jouili, this is explained by the desire of the anonymous women who created and narrated this tale to feminize their social existence. The subtitle of the book is inspired by the great Andalusian Sufi Ibn Arabi, who valued femininity, stating that "woman carries the scent of divine creation."

Readers of Mohammed Jouili's work may be intrigued by the unusual theme of a pregnant man. What nature denies, imagination creates! Are these stories told to amuse? Yes and no, because behind the grotesque image of male pregnancy lies a very serious subject, which is the focus of this book. As in myths, this Afro-Arab tale of the pregnant man, studied and analyzed by the anthropologist, contains an essential truth and reveals a significant ideological and social, even existential, issue: the battle of the sexes for power.

Mohammed Jouili, a Sorbonne graduate, is a research director in cultural anthropology at the Faculty of Letters of La Manouba in Tunisia. A renowned writer in North Africa and the Arab world, he has already published six books on traditional oral tales and is considered the pioneer of the Arabophone anthropological school of popular tale studies, which succeeded the formalist school in the Arab world, founded by the Russian Vladimir Propp.

Given its contemporary relevance and the universality of the themes addressed, this book will be translated into other languages, with Spanish and French translations already underway.

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