UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Visible female power structures in nineteenth century Algeria Lastiwka, Lanna


In 1856 French photographer Félix Jacques-Antoine Moulin traveled to Algeria to photograph “types” and “personalities.” He documented a unique female relationship based on sociopolitical hierarchies labeling it “Moor and Her Slave.” Other French photographers such as Alary & Geiser, Claude-Joseph Portier, and Alexandre Leroux copied this female archetype in their photographic collections. This female pairing explores how gender, class, and race are constructed in a non-colonial and colonial landscape through the modalities of visibility. Being seen or seeing is signalled by the veil—which also denotes class and gender. The veil as a sign of visibility is first investigated in the intimate space of the household, and then to the public space of the Islamic slave trade. Within these two zones, the veil, through visibility, constructs personhood as captured by photography. However, since the photographs are all staged, French influences and ideology alter and change the visualization of female relationships. This thesis considers not only the differences between women pictured as “Moor and Her Slave” but the similarities that drive a mutual fear of visibility. Through a close reading of racializing assemblage, I will consider how race, specifically flesh, is assembled alongside gender and class in French photography. Focusing on Algerian Arab and black African female couples, the new medium of photography was able to represent the cultural implications of visibility and invisibility within female hierarchies and French perceptions; consequently, revealing the political dynamics mapped onto female bodies.

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