ABSTRACT

In laying bare corporeal resistance strategies and bodies, wartime torture uncovers complicated power relationships, often structured around stereotypical ideas about gender, sexuality, race, and nationality. At times, the body of the tortured is constructed as hypersexual or perversely sexual (which itself becomes a convenient justifi cation for more torture, or torture in the fi rst place), and at others the body becomes a passive site onto which the torturer may project anxieties about their own gender or sexuality. Intersecting with constructions (or deconstructions) of both masculinity and femininity may be a shoring-up of nationality and culture, particularly during “civilizing missions” that position the other as inferior. Taking the 1960 legal case of Djamila Boupacha, a young Algerian woman who was brutally raped and tortured by the French military during the French-Algerian War (1954-1962), as my point of departure, this chapter investigates how gender, sexuality, and nationality fi gure in this physically and psychologically damaging act and in its subsequent representations. Although torture had been commonplace during this long war of decolonization, Boupacha’s case is unique in the attention it received, particularly from public intellectuals in France, prompting accusations such as that of Gisèle Halimi (1990), who stated that the interventions may have been less

than pure. For some political activists and scholars, Boupacha’s story has functioned as proof of the existence of torture during the war, whereas for others it has been taken up as a convenient opportunity to oppose governmental policies, if only then to reaffi rm French nationality. Still others have made her into a symbol of the dangers of colonialism and unchecked militancy, and a select few have used the story in an attempt to give her a public voice. Here, I use Boupacha’s case to show how gender and sexuality fi gure in the torture scene, taken up by all sides to project an image of her that helped bolster national identities and fulfi ll political goals.