In A Dying Colonialism, which depicts the Algerian struggle during the Algerian Revolution, what does author Frantz Fanon describe as being the changes that were made in (a) the role of women and...

In A Dying Colonialism, which depicts the Algerian struggle during the Algerian Revolution, what does author Frantz Fanon describe as being the changes that were made in (a) the role of women and (b) family life?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1954 through 1962, the country of Algeria, which had been colonized by France, fought to gain independence from France. The war was particularly violent and gruesome, involving guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and even torture. By 1964, officials estimated the death toll at 1.5 million. In A Dying Colonialism, Frantz Fanon gives a detailed account of how the Arab Algerians changed socially and culturally throughout the progress of the Algerian Revolution. The chapters titled "Algeria Unveiled" and "The Algerian Family" particularly detail social and cultural changes among both Algerian women and family life. As we are limited in space, below is a few ideas concerning the changed role of Algerian women to help get you started.

As Fanon states in the chapter "Algeria Unveiled," Algerian colonial women took part in the revolutionary war efforts. They were likened to resistance fighters and played the roles of secret agents but without any training. They carried grenades in their purses and delivered reports to their insurgent leaders about war activity in areas. At first, married women whose husbands were militants were first approached to help with the resistance as spies; however, widows and divorcees were soon needed. Unmarried women were never chosen to help with the resistance because, in order to be a successful spy, a person has to be alone, and unmarried women were rarely permitted to leave the household all alone. However, soon so many unmarried women were volunteering, and their services were so greatly needed, that the insurgent leaders were soon forced to accept the services of all Algerian women in the role of secret agents.

It also soon became necessary for Muslim Algerian women to stop using their veils. If a woman was captured and imprisoned by the French, she would most likely be tortured to death. So, in order to carry out their secret missions in relative safety, Algerian women soon had to accept the need to look more like Europeans than Arabs. This was, however, for the Algerian women, a huge social transition. Fanon argues that, unveiled, the Algerian woman had to learn new ways to become comfortable with her movements and her body; he even likened being unveiled to the same feeling as being "stark naked" in the streets, as we see in his passage:

She has to create for herself an attitude of unveiled-woman-outside. She must overcome all timidity, all awkwardness (for she must pass for a European), and at the same time be careful not to overdo it, not to attract notice of herself. The Algerian woman who walks stark naked into the European city relearns her body, re-establishes it in a totally revolutionary fashion. (p. 59)

Another change took place when it became known to the French that Algerian women were posing as Europeans in order to act as agents. Once the French became aware of this, Algerian and European women alike were equally in danger of being imprisoned and tortured to death. Therefore, Algerian women started using their veils again, but this time they used them to hide packages and information being carried to the insurgents. What's more, they had to learn how to carry packages and information under their veils while making it look like their hands were free, thereby diminishing the possibility that they would be stopped by the French on the street and arrested.