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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Family and Legal Ties Between France and Algeria after Decolonization

Judith Surkis, Rutgers University

March 10, 2020 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 211 Dickinson

Center for Collaborative History; Program in European Cultural Studies; Humanities Council

The Modern Europe Workshop (MEW) is a workshop series for Princeton students and faculty interested in the study of modern European history. The series provides current Princeton University graduate students and outside scholars an opportunity to present their research and discuss problems and trends in modern European history broadly construed. Workshops may involve either lectures or pre-circulated papers.

Judith Surkis is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University. She specializes in Modern European History, with an emphasis on France and the French Empire, gender and sexuality, and intellectual, cultural, and legal History. Her research and teaching range across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examining questions of sex and citizenship, colonialism and postcolonial migration, as well as critical theory and historical methodology.

Surkis’s new book Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 is forthcoming from Cornell University Press in December 2019. The book shows how colonial law framed Algerian religious difference as a form of sexual difference and how Algerians worked within and against this legal frame. Progressively detached from land, the French colonial construction of Muslim law was bound to the bodies of Algerian persons and their families. This legal genealogy of French Algeria elucidates why “the Muslim question” became a sexual question– and why it remains one, still today. She has also begun work on a new project, The Intimate Life of International Law: Children and Sovereignty After Decolonization which examines how population movements tested the boundaries of postcolonial sovereignty by focusing on international family law conflicts. Taking the case of the children of binational couples as a point of departure, Surkis examines postwar transformations in kinship, women and children’s rights, feminism, and global legal orders in a shared analytical frame.

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