Malek Alloula

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Malek Alloula in 2013

Malek Alloula (1937–2015) was 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, which 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 in Oran, Algeria.[7] Having graduated from the École Normale Supérieure, he further studied literature at the 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; divorced in 2005.[8][9] He was the director of the Abdelkader Alloula Foundation, which honors his brother Abdelkader Alloula, a notable playwright and stage director who was assassinated by members of Islamic Front for Armed Jihad.[1][10]

From 1999, he is the partner of the Belgian stylist Véronique Lejeune.


Photographf of an "Arab Woman with the yachmak" published in The Colonial Harem

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

Most of his essays and prose, infused with poetic touches, speak about Algerian culture, Algerian-Beber culture, food, and his childhood memories of his father, teachers, and friends. Among his various publications, the most influential is Le Harem Colonial (The Colonial Harem), which analyzes a collection of postcards displaying "exotic" images of Algerian women, photographed by French colonists and sent back to France. According to Alloula, this was done as a sign of conquest; he asserts that the postcards visually represent power relations between colonized and colonizer. The book provides commentary on the images, especially those depicting eroticized "scenes of Algerian women" during the French colonial regime. Between 1900 and 1930, French entrepreneurs produced postcards of Algerian women and circulated them in France. According to Alloula, this constitutes a French colonial projection of a world that never existed. He declares that, "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." Alloula's book 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, but rather orphans and prostitutes who were asked to pose for the photographer. Alloula denounces the voyeuristic perspective of the French on Algerian women; he claims the images are not representative of the real Algerian women, but rather of Western fantasies of the Oriental female and her inaccessibility in the forbidden harem.[1][2][3][4][5][6][11]


  • Dans tout ce blanc Rhubarbe, Auxerre, Barzah Algiers 2015
  • 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 (poems)
  • 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][12]


  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" (PDF). Retrieved June 15, 2012. Le Harem Colonial: Images d'un sous-erotisme by Malek Alloula, an Algerian poet and 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 978-0-7190-1907-4.
  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. ^ Gikandi, Simon (2003). Encyclopedia of African Literature. Taylor & Francis. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-134-58223-5. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  8. ^ "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).
  9. ^ Parekh, Pushpa Naidu; Siga Fatima Jagne (1998). Postcolonial African Writers:A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-313-29056-5.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "inauthor:"Malek Alloula"". Retrieved June 17, 2012.

External links[edit]

Media related to Malek Alloula at Wikimedia Commons