Intimate Matters: Negotiating Sex, Gender and the HOme in Colonial Algeria
Perrier, Aurelie Evangeline
Based on archival research in France and Algeria, my dissertation looks at the politics of gender and sexuality in nineteenth and early twentieth century Algeria (1830-1914) with a special focus on the city of Constantine. My basic hypothesis is that colonialism was a fundamentally gendered enterprise that deeply transformed the meaning of masculinity, sexuality and domesticity on both sides of the imperial divide. These transformations, I argue, were shaped both by explicit state policies that reflected concern with the definition of racial categories, and by the series of daily interactions that took place between French and Algerians, often beyond the gaze and control of the French government. As both a micro history of Constantine and a history of the French empire, this dissertation seeks to integrate the everyday life stories of Constantine's non-elite (poor whites as well as colonized men and women) with broader gendered processes occurring throughout Algeria and the French empire.The first section of my dissertation examines the impact of military conquest and early colonial experience on the construction of French and Algerian masculinity. I show that the "primitive" masculinity of Arabs in fact provided an inspirational model for Frenchmen worried about the emasculating effects of civilization, urbanization and modernity. Meanwhile, the French occupation destabilized indigenous conceptions of male authority, notably by weakening the local economy and generating a crisis of masculinity.The second section of my dissertation scrutinizes the particular kinds of illicit sexual arrangements that flourished in colonial Algeria. I examine what the colonial state as well as the Algerian male elite sought to encourage--a state-controlled system of prostitution--while I emphasize the ways in which ordinary people of all races and stations engaged in sexual relationships that transgressed the moral boundaries of both bourgeois French society and traditional Muslim society.The final section explores the colonial state's policies vis-à-vis female emigration and its effort to fashion a new domestic culture at the turn of the century. By inciting Europeans to create a true domestic hearth along bourgeois norms and by "feminizing" the empire, the goal was to signify the moral superiority of settler society. Meanwhile, government attempts to build sanitized homes for indigenous families emerged as a strategy to co-opt and manage colonized populations in the early twentieth century
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