Popular Postcolonial Masculinities: Gangsters and Soldiers in Maghrebi-French Cinema

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This article explores the relationship between popular Hollywood and postcolonial masculinities, through the Maghrebi-French films Days of Glory (2006) and Outside the Law (2010). I focus on how the films foreground the place of Maghrebi-French men in France and French history, at the expense of women, by mimicking more popular and universally familiar versions of masculinity: namely, the gangster and the soldier. What does it mean when Fanon’s (1961) ‘new Algerian man’ meets Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Godfather (1972)? This question is answered through readings of the films that take into account the films’ specific (anti)colonial histories and postcolonial presents, and their cultural intermediation between seemingly disparate gender and race paradigms. By exploring the ways in which these films reimagine French colonial histories of World War Two and the Algerian War of Independence, this article raises questions about the synchronistic appropriation of film genre that allows for subordinated and racialised masculinities to be both empowered by, and disruptive of, hegemonic forms of masculinity. Popular, in relation to cinema, is understood as commercial and accessible (Bergfelder, 2015; Faulkner, 2016), and thought of as a kind of ‘taste’ (Bourdieu, 1984) that appeals to broader publics with the cultural capital to engage with it, whilst the postcolonial, normally circulated in cinema networks associated with ‘art’ and the ‘auteur’, is characterized by financial and artistic independence, experimentation and niche audience markets. This article, through reading these films’ construction and contestation of masculinities, analyses the productive tensions that emerge between popularly entertaining men and postcolonial political men, and asks how bringing them together might challenge dominant masculine forms, and disrupt boundaries between popular culture and the postcolonial more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-174
Number of pages22
JournalGender, Place & Culture
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020



  • Postcolonialism
  • Masculinity
  • maghrebi-french cinema
  • Popular culture
  • Film

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