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Old 09-01-2013, 08:15 PM
Location: Sydney, Australia
159 posts, read 182,139 times
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One of my favourite musicals is the 1926 Broadway (and only three years later Hollywood) box-office hit The Desert Song, which is set in Morocco and has an utterly hilarious and slightly racist/Orientalist plot involving the ''Red Shadow,'' the supposedly-Moroccan leader of a local rebellion who's revealed to actually be the new French governor's timid son in disguise. He, of course, gets together with the heroine in the end.

This musical (in my opinion), despite the catchy songs and soaring music, has a plot very typical of desert romance novels where the heroine meets a North African or Middle Eastern guy and is both repulsed and attracted to him but eventually falls in love with him after many complications.

Here's a clip: John Boles in 1929 as the Red Shadow/Pierre Birabeau in the first movie version of The Desert Song

I've always had issues with the Orientalist/borderline racist way Middle Eastern and North African Arabs are depicted in these novels and in Western popular culture generally. So a while ago, I came up with the idea of a historical fantasy novel (with magic inspired by North African folktales and the Arabian Nights, of course) set in a country based on Algeria(more sources on it than Morocco) in a 1920s steampunk world and deconstructing The Desert Song. It's going to be a bit more literary than anything I've done before.

In this novel, the Red Shadow is a Bedouin chieftain (fitting with the desert nomad Riffs in the musical) who meets a courtesan from an island based on Martinique, the equivalent of Margot. A character based on Clementina also appears. Azuri also receives a more complex portrayal.

I've managed to find a number of sources on Algeria during French colonialism, and a few travelogues about people who lived with Algerian Bedouins during the time period, but I don't know how reliable these travelogues are, so I'm looking for additional sources in order avoid . Wikipedia says there are a few Bedouins or Bedu in Algeria, but I haven't been able to find out much about them (found out information about Bedouins in the Middle East though) and I think this is because the ethnic group usually referred to as Bedu in Algeria are the Sahrawi people (not exactly the same group as "Bedouins" in the Middle East or Upper Egypt)

Does anyone know of reliable additional sources? One I found was Tribe And Society In Rural Morocco, which contains ethnographic interviews with Sahrawi people. I also found Domesticating the Empire, a collection of essays about French and Dutch colonialism. I'd also love it if those sources also had information on the legal treatment and social status of métis children in Algeria during colonialism. One source I found on Google Books says that mixed-race/ethnicity relationshps in Algeria were historically rare.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Last edited by elnina; 09-02-2013 at 11:30 AM..
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:01 PM
4,654 posts, read 3,707,571 times
Reputation: 1408
You're right,not all the orientalists are reliable sources but there are few exceptions,i would suggest Isabelle Eberhardt and Etienne Dinet.
Both of them lived with the bedouins (bedu) in the algerian sahara,they left paintings,diaries,novels,pictures.

Isabelle Eberhardt biography
Isabelle Eberhardt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Isabelle Eberhardt the movie
Isabelle Eberhardt (1991) - IMDb

Etienne Dinet (also Nasreddine Dinet) biography
Nasreddine Dinet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 03-06-2014, 06:21 PM
4,654 posts, read 3,707,571 times
Reputation: 1408
Btw the word Bedouin or Bedu is the same, has the same meaning,the difference in transcription is due to the pronunciation in the Middle East and North Africa.

In North Africa, Arabic language has also been influenced by different Berber dialects.
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