Malek Alloula

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Malek Alloula (born 1937) is an Algierian poet, writer, editor, and literary critic.[1] [2][3]

He is chiefly notable for his poetry and essays on philosophy. He wrote several books, notably a French publication entitled Le Harem Colonial, translated into English as The Colonial Harem, was generally well-received. The author analyses colonial photographic postcards of Algerian women from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, arguing that the postcards do not accurately represent Algerian women, but rather a Frenchman's fantasy of the "Oriental" female.[1][4][5][6]


He was born in 1937 at Oran, Algeria. Having graduated from École Normale Supérieure, he further studied literature in University of Algiers and La Sorbonne, Paris, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on Denis Diderot, a French philosopher and writer.[1]

He married Assia Djebar, an Algerian filmmaker and novelist, in 1980; both live in Paris, France.[7][8] He is currently acting as the director of the foundation Abdelkader Alloula Foundation in honour of his brother Abdelkader Alloula, a notable Play writer and stage director who has been assassinated by members of Islamic Front for Armed Jihad.[1][9]


Having started working as an editor in Paris from 1967, he continued writing poetry, essays on poetics and philosophy in French. As a critic, he spoke against the appropriation of poetry in the service of Algerian revolution, following the liberation of Algeria from France in 1962.[1][3]

Most of his essays and prose, with poetic touch speaks about Algerian culture, Algerian-Beber culture, food habits, and his childhood memories remembering his father, teachers, and friends circle. Among his several publications, the influential one is Le Harem Colonial(The Colonial Harem), a collection of postcards displaying the "exotic" images of Algerian women photographed by French colonists that are sent back to France as a sign of conquest—visually representing power relations between colonized and colonizer in photographs. The book provides the commentary on images, especially images depicting eroticized "scenes of Algerian women" during the French colonial regime—France colonised Algeria between 1830 and 1962 - between 1900 and 1930, French entrepreneurs produced postcards of Algerian women and circulated in France. According to Alloula, it's a French colonial projection of a world that never existed, but instead a "Wanting to possess the Algerian land, French colonists first claimed the bodies of its women, using sex as a surrogate for an extension of another larger usurpation of culture." [sic] The book demonstrates [claims] that these photographs were circulated as evidence of the exotic, backward, and strange customs of Algerians. According to Alloula, the Algerian women used in the images are not actually harem women, instead orphans and prostitutes who were asked to pose for the photographer. Alloula denouces the voyeuristic approach of French on Algerian women; instead, he claims the images as not representing the real Algerian women, but rather the Western fantasies of the Oriental female and her inaccessibility in the forbidden harem.[1][2][3][4][5][6][10]


  • Algérie indépendance.
  • Les festins de l'exil.
  • Alger 1951: un pays dans l'attente.
  • Une enfance algérienne.
  • Rêveurs/sépultures ; suivi de L'exercice des sens: poèmes.
  • Belles Algériennes de Geiser.
  • Villes et autres lieux: poèmes.
  • L'accès au corps: poème.
  • Villes.
  • Le cri de tarzan, la nuit dans un village oranais: nouvelles.
  • Alger: photographiée au XIXe siècle.
  • Approchant du seuil ils dirent.
  • Mesures du vent: poème
  • Le harem colonial: images d'un sous-érotisme.
  • Causses et vallées.
  • Haremsphantasien.: Aus dem Postkartenalbum der Kolonialzeit.
  • Villes et autres Leux: Poèmes.
  • Paysages d'un retour.
  • L'Exercice des sens.
  • L'autre regard.
  • Rêveurs-sépultures: suivi de Mesures du vent : poèmes.[1][2][3][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Malek Alloula [Algeria]". Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "ALGERIA, CONQUERED BY POSTCARD". January 11, 1987. Retrieved June 16, 2012. "Malek Alloula, an Algerian poet who lives and writes in France - French photographed Fatmah and other Algerian women, displaying their images on postcards that were sent back to France with casual or incidental messages. The real message of the cards, according to Mr. Alloula, whose book contains 90 photographic reproductions, was neither casual nor incidental, but was instead a sign of conquest, of Western designs on the Orient, of violence." 
  3. ^ a b c d "Wanted Women, Woman's Wants:The Colonial Harem and Post-colonial Discourse". Retrieved June 15, 2012. "Le Harem Colonial: Images d'un sous-erotisme by Malek Alloula, an Algerian poet ~nd critic, was published in France in 1981 ~ it appeared in its English translation, as The Colonial Harem, in 1986" 
  4. ^ a b Alloula, Malek (1987). The Colonial Harem. Manchester University Press. pp. 1–180. ISBN 9780719019074. 
  5. ^ a b "Photography and the Politics of Representing Algerian Women". Retrieved June 18, 2012. "the scholar Malek Alloula analyzed photographic postcards of Algerian women, which staged erotic images of the "off-limits" harem of the early twentieth century. In Alloula's collection The Colonial Harem, the author points out that the postcards no longer represent Algeria or the Algerian women, but the "Frenchman's phantasm of the Oriental female and her inaccessibility behind the viel in the forbidden harem"." 
  6. ^ a b "Recycling the ‘Colonial Harem’? Women in Postcards from French Indochina". Retrieved June 18, 2012. "Malek Alloula’s influential book Le Harem colonial put forward a reading of such postcards from the early 1900s as perpetuating a harem fantasy through which French male colonists viewed North Africa. This article analyses a selection of postcards of women from France’s Indochinese colonies at the same period, and suggests that Alloula’s thesis does not fit them in a comparable way." 
  7. ^ "Threats against RI atheist teen being investigated". Retrieved June 14, 2012. "In 1981, Djebar married fellow poet Malek Alloula, to whom she remains married today. In the early 1980's, she also began work on her second film, La Zerda ou les chants de l'oubli (Zerda or the Forgotten Songs)." 
  8. ^ Parekh, Pushpa Naidu; Siga Fatima Jagne (1998). Postcolonial African Writers:A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 135. ISBN 9780313290565. 
  9. ^ "Algerian playwright Abdelkader Alloula killed by Islamic extremists". Retrieved June 12, 2012. "Radja Alloula, and friends set up the Abdelkader Alloula Foundation in his memory. His brother, Malek Alloula, is also a noted Algerian writer." 
  10. ^ "What is Orientalism?". Retrieved June 16, 2012. "France colonized Algeria from 1830 to 1962. From roughly 1900 to 1930, French entrepreneurs produced postcards of Algerian women that were circulated in France. While Algerian women are portrayed in these photographs as if the camera is capturing a real moment in their everyday lives, the women are actually set up in the photographer’s studio. As demonstrated in Malek Alloula’s book, The Colonial Harem, these photographs were circulated as evidence of the exotic, backwards and strange customs of Algerians, when, in fact, they reveal more about the French colonial perspective than about Algerian life in the early 1900s." 
  11. ^ "inauthor:"Malek Alloula"". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 

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