Toxic White Masculinity: Literary and Cinematic Representations of Terrorism and Antagonistic Masculinities in Colonial Algeria and 9/11 United States

  • Author / Creator
    Mabrouk, Miriam
  • My thesis explores the ways in which the re-enactment of an aggressive white masculinity that is heteronormative, militarist, and aggressive, one that is also race- and class-specific, is the cornerstone of the neo-liberal world order in Western Europe and in the U.S. My project turns to literature and film in order to examine how white masculinity is constructed against the terrorist Other, within a colonial context, in French Algeria, as well as during the chaotic neo-imperial aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. My project expounds on how white hegemonic masculinity is maintained and challenged in Ce Que le Jour Doit à la Nuit (2012) and The Battle of Algiers (1966), as well as Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. My thesis asks the following central questions: How do cultural representations of masculinity influence and determine our understanding of terrorism? What does the representation of gender indicate about the interactions between colonizer and colonized, and between the US and its enemies? The first half of the thesis examines the dynamics of masculinity, as mediated in two cinematic representations of the French colonisation of Algeria. Chapter one traces the unequal power dynamics between Algeria and France through the juxtaposition of the main male French and Algerian characters in Ce Que Le Jour Doit a la Nuit. Macroscopically the hierarchical structures and the conflicts that arise between these characters reflect the relationship and power discrepancies between the two nations and the way in which France employs its hegemony to feminize the land and establish a masculinist order that subjugates and exploits Algerians. Chapter two focuses on the infamous Battle of Algiers, a campaign of guerrilla warfare that lasted between 1956 and 1957. Pontecorvo’s mediation of the historic The Battle of Algiers more 3 explicitly deals with the clash between French and Algerian powers. My analysis is focused on torture and its imperative role in constructing a vindictive and violent masculinity. The second part of the thesis shifts into the post-9/11 context in order to examine the toxic construction of a masculinist milieu of white hegemonic identity formations. Chapter three elaborates on Mohsin Hamid’s representation of a hyper masculine environment, which creates antagonistic masculinities. Hamid’s novel reveals how white hegemonic masculinity unleashes a protest counter-hegemonic masculinity, as seen via the antagonistic relationship between the novel’s Pakistani protagonist and his American interlocutor. The final chapter turns to Don DeLillo’s Falling Man to analyze these competing masculinities within a U.S. national context. He foregrounds the rupture brought about by September 11 between various expressions and formations of masculinity resulting in identity crises. Keith’s dysfunctional masculinity which is manifested through his fetishistic obsession with poker, stands testament to the emergence of a new masculinist order. The latter requires a different masculinity that is neither nostalgic nor vindictive and reactionary. These discourse analyses, relying on postcolonial gender theories, foreground the inextricable link between masculinity and colonialism and neo-imperialism. My investigation shows that masculinist milieus are imperative to the maintenance of gendered hierarchies and the dominance as well as violence of colonizers in imperial contexts.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Tomsky, Terri (English and Film Studies)
    • Tinic, Serra (English and Film Studies)
    • Simpson, Mark (English and Film Studies)
    • Mahdavi, Mojtaba (Political Science)