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Music and the Gendering of Colonial Space in Karin Albou’s Le chant des mariées


This article examines the multifaceted role of music in Franco-Algerian director Karin Albou’s Le chant des mariées [The Wedding Song] (2008). The film soundtrack juxtaposes ‘traditional’ Tunisian folksong, German punk rock, and religious chants in order to convey the solidarity between Jewish and Muslim women in colonial Tunisia. The film reflects a current tendency in Franco-North African cinema to regard the colonial past as a time of interfaith harmony in contrast to the rising sectarian tensions and communitarianism in contemporary France. Extending the work of Will Higbee, Phil Powrie, Anahid Kassabian, and others, I show how Albou’s use of both incongruous and supposedly authentic music contributes to the depiction of colonial Tunis as a vibrant, multicultural and feminine space, while simultaneously calling attention to the difficulties of reconstructing the past and the complex (Western) agendas that inevitably accompany such projects. Albou’s film challenges canonical narratives of colonial North Africa and works against the visual objectification of women, but its strategy of representing women through music ultimately compromises their political agency and voice.

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