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Reading Signs and Symbols with Abdelkébir Khatibi

Reading Signs and Symbols with Abdelkébir Khatibi

From the Body to the Text

(p.237) Chapter Ten Reading Signs and Symbols with Abdelkébir Khatibi
Abdelkébir Khatibi
Rim FerianiJasmina Bolfek-RadovaniDebra Kelly
Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers the ways in which Khatibi’s practices of reading contribute to theories of meaning through his thinking on the deciphering of signs and symbols and of making sense of the world, and of the worlds of the text, in their multifaceted forms. It takes as its starting point what Khatibi terms, in his introductory essay ‘Le Cristal du Texte’ in La Bessure du Nom propre, ‘l’intersémiotique’, migrant signs which move between one sign system and another. Khatibi takes as his own project examples from semiotic systems found within Arabic and Islamic cultures, from both popular culture, such as the tattoo, to calligraphy and the language of the Koran, from the body to the text and beyond – including storytelling, mosaics, urban space, textiles. His readings reveal the intersemiotic and polysemic meanings created in the movements of these migrant signs between their sign systems. For Khatibi, this ‘infinity’ of the ‘text’ is linked also to a mobile and migrant identity refracted in the multifaceted surfaces of the crystal (hence the title of the essay – ‘Le Cristal du Texte’) rather than in one reflection as in a mirror. Moving from these concerns of Khatibi with which he develops his radical theory of the sign, of the word and of writing, the chapter goes on to propose new readings of a selection of other writers with a shared, but varied, relationship to their Islamic heritage. These are writers working with and through that heritage – and importantly, as for Khatibi, including the Sufi heritage – and whose writing is also resonant with Khatibi’s intersemiotic theoretical and cultural project concerned with the individual and the collective, the historical and the contemporary, the political, the social and the linguistic.

Keywords:   Khatibi, postcolonialism, decolonisation, transnationalism, transcolonial, aesthetics, sociology, Islam, Maghreb, Morocco, travel, stranger, art, sign, literature, philosophy, translation, bilingualism, Mediterranean, language, performativity, Palestine, alterity, Derrida, Hassoun, Segalen, Tanizaki, Japan, semiology, carpet, spiritual, poetics, ethics

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