Influenced by feminist perspectives on urban and architectural studies, this essay examines the relationship between premodern Muslim urbanism and gendered relations, an issue that has received little attention in Hispanic cultural studies to date. This discussion will center on two particular features of domestic architecture and city planning typical of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Algiers: the location and nature of street-facing windows and the communicable rooftops. Focusing primarily on Christian writers such as Antonio de Sosa, Miguel de Cervantes, and Lope de Vega, Velasco explores how their accounts document the ways in which women in Algiers could find unexpected and illicit ways of turning the high windows and the communicable rooftops to their advantage. Despite the constraints presented by an urban design and domestic architecture intended to segregate the sexes and control behavior, women in early modern Algiers (many of whom were recent immigrants from Spain) found ways to utilize their built environment to observe and navigate the world around them, gain access to a public domain commonly reserved for men, and sustain networks with other women in ways that might bypass traditional spatial, social, and personal restrictions and limitations. Through female-only gatherings and other forms of camaraderie that made use of traditional Islamic urbanism, Muslim women in Algiers found ways to challenge long-standing dichotomies of male/female, public/private, interior/exterior, visible/hidden, and chaste/lustful.

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