Algeria is often seen as a major instance of women’s emancipation in the Middle East of the mid-twentieth century. Whereas the scholarly focus has often been on colonial policies, French views, or the female participation in the war of independence, this article looks at the impact that new bodily practices, such as scouting and sports, had on gender relations within Muslim Algerian society during the last three decades of French rule. It contrasts the reformist discourse of the Islamic islah movement on women’s “emancipation” and education with the aspirations of young women themselves who started to challenge patriarchal authority.

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