I wrote an essay for The New Yorker about Malek Alloula's The Colonial Harem. This is a book I often teach, so it felt good to spell out how I understand it to be relevant to today's current political situation -- and what I think it reveals about photography, women as props for war, and how to look at photographs taken to do violence.
It starts like this:
"When French colonial armies arrived in Algeria in the early twentieth century, they were accompanied by photographers. France had occupied Algeria since 1830—the occupation would last until 1962—and these photographers wanted to take pictures of Algerian women as they’d imagined them: lounging in harems, smoking hookahs, trapped in the prison of their own homes, topless, sexually available. But when they reached the country, they encountered women whose bodies could not be seen. Veiled from head to toe, with only their eyes visible, Algerian women were inaccessible to the photographers’ gaze."
To read more, please visit The New Yorker online.