David Macey: Frantz Fanon: A Biography (2000–)

25 April 2018, dusan

“Born in Martinique, Frantz Fanon (1925–61) trained as a psychiatrist in Lyon before taking up a post in colonial Algeria. He had already experienced racism as a volunteer in the Free French Army, in which he saw combat at the end of the Second World War. In Algeria, Fanon came into contact with the Front de Libération Nationale, whose ruthless struggle for independence was met with exceptional violence from the French forces. He identified closely with the liberation movement, and his political sympathies eventually forced him out the country, whereupon he became a propagandist and ambassador for the FLN, as well as a seminal anticolonial theorist.

David Macey’s eloquent life of Fanon provides a comprehensive account of a complex individual’s personal, intellectual and political development. It is also a richly detailed depiction of postwar French culture. Fanon is revealed as a flawed and passionate humanist deeply committed to eradicating colonialism.”

First published by Picador, 2000
Second edition published by Verso, London, 2012
ISBN 9781844677733, 1844677737
xxii+639 pages

Reviews: Megan Vaughan (London Review of Books, 2001), Peter Lennon (The Guardian, 2001), Mark Christian (Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 2002), Gareth Stanton (History Workshop Journal, 2002), Ciaran Mulholland (Socialist World, 2002), Godwin Kwadwo Osei-Nyame (Research in African Literatures, 2004), Kirkus Reviews (2001), Publishers Weekly (2001), Stephen Howe (New Humanist, 2013).

Interview with author (Theory, Culture & Society, 2011).



Malek Alloula: The Colonial Harem (1981/1986)

30 August 2013, dusan

“Malek Alloula takes the everyday object of postcard and shows how it was a classic locus of Orientalism, which has long been a phantasm of the West: ‘There is no phantasm, though, without sex and in this Orientalism .. a central figure emerges, the very embodiment of the obsession: the harem’. In Arabic, harim means forbidden and thus also refers to the women’s quarters of many Islamic households, which are forbidden to strange men. Embroidering from four centuries of stories concerning the Imperial harem in Istanbul, however, the Western imagination had transformed every harem into a hotbed of sensuality and sexuality. France colonized Algeria in 1830, an operation documented at the time by the artist Eugène Delacroix and later depicted by countless Orientalist artists, led by figures like Horace Vernet and Eugène Fromentin. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the fine art genre of the odalisque, or Oriental nude, was displaced by a flood of popular postcards depicting the algérienne, the Algerian woman.

Alloula, himself Algerian, studied this mass of now-discarded visual material in his classic study The Colonial [Harem] in which he wants to ‘return this immense postcard to its sender’, the French colonizer. He shows how the veiled Algerian woman was a provocation to the European photographer as her light clothing produced a ‘whiteout’ in the bright sun, a technical failure of the photograph to register strong differences of light and dark. The women’s peephole gaze from behind the veil recalls the photographer’s own gaze from behind the cloth of a tripod camera of the period and in a sense ‘the photographer feels photographed .. he is dispossessed of his own gaze‘. The response is to remove the obstacle to the gaze–to obliterate it, in Terry Smith’s terms–by raising the veil: ‘he will unveil the veil and give figural expression to the forbidden’. Thus from the seemingly innocent postcards showing a woman slightly lifting her veil to the popular image of a half-naked Algerian woman, there is hardly a step. The colonial gaze must see and make an exhibition of these women, which is then rendered as the aesthetic. The erotic effect, such as it is, is beside the point in this operation of colonial visualism.” (from Nicolas Mirzoeff, Visual Culture Reader, 2002, pp 475-476)

Originally published as Le Harem Colonial: Images d’un sous-érotisme, Editions Slatkine, Geneve-Paris, 1981
Translated by Myrna Godzich and Wlad Godzich
Introduction by Barbara Harlow
Publisher University of Minnesota Press, 1986
Theory and History of Literature series, Volume 21
ISBN 0719019079, 9780719019074
160 pages

review (Gregory K. Betts, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature)
review (Carlos Shloss, The New York Times)
review (Arlette Gautier, Les Cahiers du CEIMA, in French)
commentary (Jean-Noël Ferrié & Gilles Boëtsch, Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord)



Robert Irwin: Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties (2011)

4 December 2012, dusan

“For many children of the sixties a’journey to the East’was a necessary rite of passage. In an extraordinary memoir Robert Irwin contrasts the contexts of England – the new culture and the hippy trail – with those of Algeria – bombs and guns and mysticism.

In the summer of 1964, while a military coup was taking place and tanks were rolling through the streets of Algiers, Robert Irwin set off for Algeria in search of Sufi enlightenment. There he entered a world of marvels and ecstasy, converted to Islam and received an initiation as a faqir. He learnt the rituals of Islam in North Africa and he studied Arabic in London. He also pursued more esoteric topics under a holy fool possessed of telepathic powers. A series of meditations on the nature of mystical experience run through this memoir. But political violence, torture, rock music, drugs, nightmares, Oxbridge intellectuals and first love and its loss are all part of this strange story from the 1960s.”

Publisher Profile Books, April 2011
ISBN 1847654045, 9781847654045
239 pages

Reviews: Steve Jelbert (The Independent), Barnaby Rogerson (The Independent).


EPUB (updated on 2017-4-8)