The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


This paper examines the extratextual materials that reified the novel/film Tea in the Harem as an archive of knowledge about the beur community. I argue that Tea in the Harem was subjected to what I call an anthropological approach to literature, a reading practice which instrumentalizes and subordinates the text to the historical reality which it is said to represent. Though in many ways entangled with the principles of French republicanism, the reception of Tea in the Harem is symptomatic of a more general phenomenon in which literatures of “the other” are expected to rehabilitate, educate, and civilize the majority mind through their treatment of sociopolitically sensitive subjects. Charting the way for a new ethics of reading, this paper interrogates the prevailing value system which all too easily demands of socially marginalized authors an “authentic” representation of their reality, limiting authorial imagination to mere mimesis.