Introduction
in Burning the veil

This chapter provides a general contextualisation and interpretive framework to set the scene for the more detailed investigation that follows. The term 'emancipation' is used in the sense that it was used constantly during the Algerian War by the colonial government and military. The French emancipation agenda was built on a Eurocentric cultural model of domesticity through which Muslim women would reach true freedom by a modernisation process that would 'westernise' them in every respect. It is argued that the French army had a much stronger motivation to deploy a discourse and practice of liberation than the Front de libération nationale, which assumed a more reactive position. In the drive to bring Algerian women on side, the military had come to share one of the key ideological beliefs of Algerian nationalism, the view that women and the family constituted the last remaining bastion of religious, cultural and social identity.

Burning the veil

The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62

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