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On the 2nd of September 2004, just as France's children were preparing to go back to school, the "Law 2004-228 of 15 March 2004" came into effect.

Nominally, this law banned anyone from wearing "conspicuous religious symbols" in schools. In practice, however, it was widely understood to specifically target Muslim students and parents, in particular those who wore the hijab.

Girls and their mothers were now forbidden from "conspicuously" belonging to their faith.

Six and a half years later, the "Law of 2010-1192: Act prohibiting concealment of the face in public space" came into effect. This law repeats the pattern established by 2004-228: nominally, it forbids anyone from having their face permanently concealed in public. In practice, however, it was introduced, voted on, and has been enforced as a ban on the burqa.

It became illegal to be too "conspicuous" a Muslim woman in France.

This second law, incidentally, was brought to us by Nicolas Sarkozy, whose most famous speech as President of the French Republic contains the sentence "Africa's mistake was that it didn't sufficiently participate in history."

Only time will tell whether this trend will continue, and increasingly stringent laws on Muslim clothing will be introduced. It seems likely.

Despite the extraordinary amount of public debate which accompanied the introduction of these laws, few people mentioned their striking historical precedent.

In the 1930's and 40's, as France began to transform Algeria into a full-blown settler colony, the French colonists started establishing what they thought would be a long-term system of exploitation of the Algerian population. This system was somewhere between apartheid and the systemic racism we have in liberal democracies today.

An especially important part of this process of "turning Algeria into France" involved the regulation of traditional clothing.

And the first garment the French colonists turned to was the veil.

Before Algeria's transformation into a settler colony, the veil did not have the extraordinary status it is currently considered to have. It was a traditional item of clothing, linked to religious practices as most other aspects of daily life are when one is a practising Muslim. It was not charged with anymore meaning than the fez or the djellaba.

But the French colonists honed in on the veil *in particular* as an aspect of Algerian culture they wanted to undo. Algerian women were forbidden from wearing the veil in spaces they shared with the French occupiers.

The French military held un-veiling ceremonies, which were filmed and broadcast.

What the colonisers were doing when they ripped the veil from the heads of Algerian women was institute a reign of ideological terror.

The reasons why the veil was targeted by the French, the way they exploited its symbolic and corporal importance, and the impact it had on the Algerian population is discussed by Frantz Fanon in his second book: A Dying Colonialism, whose French title literally means "Year Five of the Algerian Revolution".

A Dying Colonialism is the least well-known of the three books published by Fanon during his lifetime. It is, however, very much worth reading. Not only is it a brilliant work of political theory and philosophy, it is also a very valuable historical document, written as it was in the midst of the Algerian War.

Its greatest achievement is the first chapter, which discusses the veil.

When they targeted the veil, Fanon writes, the colonisers were in fact targeting all Algerians, regardless of age or gender. All Algerians were under attack when the veil was outlawed, as it was used to humiliate their culture as a whole.

The maxim circulating among the French authorities, Fanon writes, was "Get the women, the rest will follow."

Beyond the obvious significance of taking away a garment which was made by Algerian women for Algerian women to live according to Algerian faiths and traditions, the removal of the veil radically altered women's ability to exist in their own bodies.

This is what Fanon, who was a psychiatrist in Algeria and thus treated Algerian women, describes:

"One must have heard the confessions of Algerian women or have analysed the dream content of recently unveiled women to appreciate the importance of the veil for the woman's experience of her body. Without the veil she has an impression of her body being cut up into bits, put adrift; the limbs seem to lengthen indefinitely."

"When the Algerian woman is about to cross the street, for a long time she misjudges the length of the distance she needs to travel. The unveiled body seems to escape, disappear into bits. A feeling of being badly dressed, or naked. A sense of incompleteness experienced with great intensity. The anxious feeling that something is unfinished. A frightful sensation of disintegrating."

"The absence of the veil distorts the Algerian woman's corporal schema. She quickly has to invent new dimension for her body, new means of muscular control."

This passage is very reminiscent of Fanon's description -- in his first book, Black Skin, White Masks -- of the way his own perception of his body and ability to control it (what he calls the "corporal schema") was altered when he was called the N-word for the first time.

What I want you to take away from this thread are three different things:

1. Read Fanon.

2. The strategies of racism in liberal democracies are the direct evolution of the racism which was developed during the era of overt colonialism.

3. These strategies, while they distance themselves from physical violence, perpetuate a violence which is just as real, whose effects are just as physical.

Outlawing the veil, first in schools, then in a specific form, and eventually perhaps as a whole, was not a new idea. It was the reintroduction of an old idea in a (barely) new context.

The balieues in which Arabic and Black people live pretty much in isolation, presided over by a white police force, are the direct descendants of occupied Algeria. Re-banning the veil is the logical step to take for these white occupying forces.

From an (especially enlightened) white leftist perspective, the ban on the veil is a symbolic attack on people's ability to practice their faith without shame or government intervention, and an excuse for cops to brutalise Arabic women.

For the women who have to experience it, it is a forced, violent alteration of their very ability to be in a body, which is to say to be anyone at all.

The difference between symbolic and material violence is in the method. The effects of symbolic violence are just as material, because we are our bodies and our bodies are material. The unmaking of our minds is the unmaking of the bodies our minds are.

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@garfiald I loved the wretched of the earth, I'm gonna check that out for sure

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@garfiald guessing that the symbolism of controlling the women of Algeria specifically wasn't an accident either

@garfiald (don't stop ever garf i just oh my god now i need to watch the Battle of Algiers again and i don't know how to find that again now that netflix doesn't ship dvds of ancient out of print films)

@wintgenstein @garfiald i would basically be forever indebted to you, if that was how any of this worked. it's my dream rewatch

that film is basically my introduction to hard revolutionary grounding, before that i was the most wee liberal but i watched that when i was 19 and shit kinda changed in my head

it's a film so powerful i think any modern revolutionary with the tech access should have a copy

@sagebrush @garfiald it's here! youtube.com/watch?v=f_N2wyq7fC also for future reference, your library or school might have access to Kanopy streaming- they mostly have indie films, documentaries, and old stuff like this

@chillgamesh @sagebrush @garfiald can confirm that Battle of Algiers is available on Kanopy. Gonna watch it now

@robotcarsley @chillgamesh @garfiald it's a heavy one and not at all something i'd say you should jump into but if you're ready to really engage it's so ready for you 💚

@sagebrush @chillgamesh @garfiald yeah, I had to take a break or two because it isn't very propulsive. It's a very didactic style without much in the way of inner life for the characters. But I did find it fascinating overall. It reminds me a bit of Ikiru, though the events couldn't be more different

@robotcarsley @chillgamesh @garfiald def think Ikiru is a good comparison, especially for what both films are trying to do; each uses the characters as a balance of either referents to literal specific people (famous or infamous) or set pieces. it can have a sort of dissociated feeling, like you dont know where up and down are anymore for not having that anchor to inner lives - but i think specifically because it aims to dramatize less, it sees less need for that. glad you found it informative!

@garfiald While Muslims are ofc the primary target, the second law has an additional effect that's beneficial to fascists:

Making it illegal to protect one's self from not just getting IDed by the police, but also from teargas & stuff during protests & other actions of civil disobedience.

And given the whole yellow jackets thing going on rn, this effect can't be understated enough.

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