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The Algerian-French Colonial Encounter in the Context of Surveillance, Discourse, Gender and the ‘Mysterious’ Veil

by Aleksander Hammo

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“The veil represented the ultimate hurdle for FCA – it was the most important gender identifier, it was a manifestation of the immorality of Algerian men who ‘imprisoned’ Algerian women, and most importantly, it defied the vision of the panopticon and positioned the French to project their insecurities onto the mysteries hidden behind the veil (Fanon 37; Abu-Lughod 35). One particular event makes resounding Stoler’s thesis that the image of the fragile native woman in need of saving is invoked as a mechanism to ossify colonial dominion (59). During the immense political instability of the May 1958 coup in Algiers, the Generals of FCA facilitated a public de-veiling of Algerian women by pieds noirs women (Abu-Lughod 33). Fanon argues that de-veiling represents the manifestation of macho-colonial sexual energy; de-veiling meant omni-penetration of the watchful and predatory colonial gaze (46). Behind the veil was the ultimate oriental dream. “

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