he Representations of Algerian Women in Mid-Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Travel Books By British and American Male and Female Authors
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This thesis critiques the images of Algerian women in a number of Western travel writings published between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. It argues that these writings are characterized by a discourse that circulated an image of the Algerian woman which varies between the portrayal of the Moorish woman as a downtrodden victim who was imprisoned, secluded, shrouded, and treated as a beast of burden and the wanton Ouled Naïl woman. The Kabyle woman was an interesting case for the travellers because she, at least on the surface, did not fit any of the readymade moulds crafted by Orientalists for Muslim women whose depiction in the nineteenth century took two forms which oscillated between a voiceless victim and an Odalisque. Through an in-depth critical analysis of these writings and taking my theoretical bearings from postcolonial theories, critical theories and feminist literary criticism, I have reached a number of findings. This work illustrates how these travellers’ narratives invest in the tropes of colonial discourse often deployed to describe the “Other”, and how their inception and reception was conditioned by the imperial ideologies of the nineteenth-century which directed and limited these travellers’ observations in relation to the Orient. The research delineates how Barbara Bodichon’s heroification of Madame Luce of Algiers was her way of inscribing European women in imperial history and that this discursive intervention ignores the indigenous women (and their nation) and relegates them to the margins of her narrative and history. The work further describes how the colony and its women function as a stage for the travellers and their self-representation. Moorish and Kabyle women represent a space allowing these travellers construct, perform and project a capable and knowledgeable traveller identity while endeavouring to adhere to Victorian gender expectations. Despite being an object of Western fascination with the Ouled Naïl dancer these narratives agree that she was outside the European definition of an honest woman and was at the receiving end of an intrusive and often uninvited colonial gaze that objectified and eroticized her. Deconstructing the Western travellers’ gaze and demonstrating how it functions in the context of the lives of the Ouled Naïl dancers, this thesis reveals how this gaze is implicated in the continued oppression of these women.