Dr Charlotte Legg’s research explores the settler colonies of the French and British Empires in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a special focus on the power dynamics and racialized category of 'whiteness' constructed from them. Her newly published book, The New White Race, specifically explores the role played by journalists in shaping the power dynamics of settler colonialism in Algeria between 1860 and 1914. Developing the existing historiography on French Algeria, the book engages with settler colonial theory in an attempt to bring some of the insights of this field - which has more often focused on the territories of the British empire - to the study of the French colonial empire.
The New White Race explores the construction of gender in settler colonial Algeria and demonstrates how settler journalists contributed to the definition of settler manliness by writing about and physically enacting behaviours that they perceived as opposing both degenerate Muslim masculinity, and effeminate metropolitan masculinity. Processes of common gender identification thus worked to overcome differences of social background, nationality and linguistic group amongst settler men, and provided a basis for a racialized conception of settler community as a form of regenerated physicality.
The book also engages with the diverse linguistic heritage of settlers in Algeria allowing for a more detailed examination of language contact in a settler colonial setting, and breaks down assumptions regarding the 'monolingualism' of colonising groups. This in turn allows for a more nuanced understanding of the hierarchization of languages by colonising groups, and how indigenous peoples intervened to disrupt these hierarchies. The book provides an analysis of bi- and multilingual publications in French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic to illustrate these points.
Since completing this book, Dr Charlotte Legg has been focusing her research on studying French perspectives on the settler colonies of the British empire between 1850 and 1914, in an effort to understand how whiteness constituted an emotional regime characterised primarily by fear and longing.
You can order the book here.