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Orientalizing the Algerian Culture and Denigrating History in Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy

Malika Hamda Boussoualim


This article offers a reading of one of Alice Walker’s famed stories in the novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy that was published in 1992. The story is part of a narrative told by the character Lisette, a French Algerian reflecting about Algerian culture and history. We will read Lisette’s narratives in the light of early colonial texts written by French Algerians or French educated Algerians, which have orientalist attitudes towards Algerian culture and often a denigrating position towards Algerian history. The underlying aim of the article is to show the Walker’s Orientalizing attitude towards African cultures, which she lumps together into a single entity, in the same way as many western writers before her, for whom “Africa” merely represents the exotic or the grotesque. Through a close reading of Lisette's narratives, we will try to show that Walker repeats the same prejudice towards Algerian culture and history adopted in colonial literature.


Possessing the Secret of Joy; French colonialism in Algeria; Orientalizing Algerian culture

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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