Sophia Mo

Sophia Mo


Sophia Mo is a fifth-year PhD candidate specializing in postcolonial theory, transnational anticolonialism, translation theory, and feminist theory. Currently, her research focuses on Algerian history and literature in the mid-twentieth century. Interrogating the place of women in the construction of postcolonial communities, her dissertation examines women’s journalistic writings in Arabic and French during the Algerian Revolution (1954-1962) and the first post-independence regime (1962-1965). By bringing to the fore the understudied work of female journalists in constructing the Algerian nation and establishing links to other national liberation movements, Sophia challenges the masculinist historiography of the Algerian anticolonial struggle.

Sophia’s doctoral work is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, and several research entities at Columbia: the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL), the Humanities War and Peace Initiative, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS), and the Department of French and Romance Philology.

In addition to working as a researcher, Sophia is also an educator, translator, and activist. Her writing and teaching is informed by her experience living, working, and studying in France, Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan. After completing her PhD, Sophia hopes to start a second research and translation project on the politics of language in the development of feminist periodicals in the Caribbean and North Africa. Another long-term project she plans to continue, in collaboration with other PhD students in language departments at Columbia, is the creation of an anti-racist language pedagogy framework. This project is funded in part by one of Columbia’s Racial Justice Mini-Grants.


“ « Une vraie femme-pour-l'action » : La construction d'une authenticité révolutionnaire féminine pour l'indépendance algérienne,” in Expressions maghrébines, June 2021, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp. 61-78.

Translation from French to English of “The Memory of Slavery, Twenty Years after the Taubira Law” by Myriam Cottias, Yale French Studies, Number 140, January 2022.


Elementary French 1 (FREN 1101, Fall 2017 & Fall 2020, Instructor of Record)

Elementary French 2 (FREN 1102, Spring 2018, Instructor of Record)

Introduction to French and Francophone Studies I (FREN 3420, Fall 2019, Instructor of Record)

Islam and the Modern World (HIST 3622, Spring 2020, Teaching and Program Assistant)

Third-year Grammar and Composition: Representations of the Self and the Other (FREN 3405, Summer 2021, Instructor of Record)


President of the Graduate Student Association of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, 2022

Coordinator of Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) Dissertation Colloquium Series, 2020-2022

Undergraduate Teaching Task Force member, French Department, 2020

ICLS Graduate Conference Fundraising Co-organizer, 2018

Representative of the French Graduate Student Association (FGSA), 2017-2018


B.A. in French, International Relations, and Economics (Wellesley College, 2014, summa cum laude); M.A. in French (Columbia University, 2018); M.Phil. in French (Columbia University, 2020)


Sophia's dissertation is a transnational feminist intellectual history of Algeria’s war for liberation (1954-1962) and its first post-independence regime (1962-1965). During this time, the Front de libération nationale (FLN) integrated itself into a global coalition of revolutionary movements that self-identified as part of the “Third World” and provided mutual material and ideological support. Female freedom fighters, especially those who attained international fame after planting bombs in the European quarter of Algiers, featured prominently in the discourse portraying Algeria as a pioneer in the anticolonial struggle. However, their intellectual work as intermediaries in building the Algerian nation and strengthening its alliances remains understudied. More present in scholarship are studies of how women were transformed into national symbols of both modernity and tradition, and thus instrumentalized in nation-building.

Analyzing an extensive periodical archive in Arabic and French, Sophia explores how female journalists working for FLN publications wrote women into the global history of anticolonialism. In close readings of these periodicals and the literature, film, theoretical texts, and interviews they reference, she argues that female journalists’ writings were a space of cultural diplomacy in which they maneuvered their social, political, and cultural positions strategically to navigate patriarchal norms. Not only did they represent Algeria as a leader of the Third World, they also represented the liberation of Third World women as a necessary means to an end in the project of national edification. At times reinforcing official state narratives and at others subverting them, they represented women in and beyond Algeria as the protectors of a cultural authenticity uncontaminated by colonialism. Cultural authenticity was as such not a top-down project imposed by male leaders, but rather a malleable concept that female FLN journalists helped to shape and used as a unifying force in the context of the global struggle against colonialism.