Past Event

Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 - Judith Surkis, in conversation with Stephanie McCurry, Karuna Mantena, and Emmanuelle Saada, moderated by Camille Robcis

October 8, 2020
5:00 PM - 6:15 PM
Buell Hall, 515 W. 116 St., New York, NY 10027 Maison Francaise
During more than a century of colonial rule over Algeria, the French state shaped and reshaped the meaning and practice of Muslim law by regulating it and circumscribing it to the domain of family law, while applying the French Civil Code to appropriate the property of Algerians. In Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930, Judith Surkis traces how colonial authorities constructed Muslim legal difference and used it to deny Algerian Muslims full citizenship. In disconnecting Muslim law from property rights, French officials increasingly attached it to the bodies, beliefs, and personhood. Surkis argues that powerful affective attachments to the intimate life of the family and fantasies about Algerian women and the sexual prerogatives of Muslim men, supposedly codified in the practices of polygamy and child marriage, shaped French theories and regulatory practices of Muslim law in fundamental and lasting ways. This sweeping legal genealogy of French Algeria elucidates how "the Muslim question" in France became—and remains—a question of sex. Judith Surkis is Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is the author of Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 (Cornell, 2019) which has been awarded the Association of Middle East Women's Studies 2020 book prize; Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870-1920 (Cornell, 2006), and is currently working on a project, The Intimate Life of International Law: Childhood, Development, and Decolonization. Stephanie McCurry is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History at Columbia. Karuna Mantena is Professor of Political Science at Columbia. Emmanuelle Saada is Professor of French and History at Columbia. Camille Robcis is Associate Professor of History and French at Columbia. Event co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, NYC Consortium for Intellectual & Cultural History and the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

Contact Information

Fanny N. Guex