Gendering Pied-Noir memories of the War of Independence
In the five decades since Algerian independence much has been written about the histories, identities, memories, and experiences of the European settlers of this former colonial territory. The majority of this output has been generated by pieds-noirs now residing in France and channeled through the associations that form the bedrock of the community’s longstanding political and cultural mobilisation.
Representations of the past offered by pieds-noirs have typically elided differences between members of settler community, whether in terms of gender, class, religion, cultural heritage, or political affiliations. Downplaying diversity in both the colonial and postcolonial eras in favour of representations centred on homogeneity and unity has been a deliberate strategy designed to strengthen the lobbying position of pied-noir associations as they pursued recognition and recompense from the French state. Yet this flattening has also been mirrored in academic research, which has primarily focused on public, externally directed actions and narratives rather than on the internal composition and complexities of the pied-noir community.
Seeking to restore some of that detail, this paper will consider the roles played by female pied-noir activists within associations where they have served as both ancillaries and leaders. It will explore the kinds of narratives they have employed to frame the past and to legitimate their activism in the present; the nature of the campaigns they have both supported and directed; as well as the relationships they have forged with other female activists within and beyond their own community.
In addition to highlighting the distinct contribution made by women to the collective memory and mobilization of the pied-noir community, this paper will reflect on the extent to which we can speak of a distinctive female voice within pied-noir activism and the broader implications of this for the ways in which memories are worked through by specific individuals and groups.
On colonial legacies: An Algerian obsession in police practices, immigration policies and laws on citizenship (c. 1960-2010)
In July 1962, the independence of Algeria did not put an end to the Franco-Algerian wars. From this date to the present, wars of memories have framed diplomatic relations and played a big part in every issue intertwined with this colonial past. But all the legacies of the Algerian were are not controversial. High-ranking civil servants have impelled some of them without public debates. Some others became public problems through the demonstrations and the claims of Algerians descendants in the early 80s. From almost twenty years, the postcolonial turn put new lights on these legacies even if few policies and administrative practices are currently directly connected with this colonial past. Through the cases of police practices, immigration policies and the reforms of laws on citizenship, this paper is an attempt to propose a history of colonial legacies grounded in the ways French bureaucrats tackled an unexpected and unwanted trend: the number of Algerian immigrants rose after 1962 and the independence of Algeria made visible some new intertwined links between France and Algeria.
Sans Frontière and dissident memories of Algeria, 1979-1986
It is now well established that the magazine Sans Frontière, advertised as France’s first widely-circulated newspaper for immigrants by immigrants, was an important intervention in early 1980s France. The key personnel involved in Sans Frontière were veterans of the first generation immigrant worker struggles of the period after 1968, such as the Mouvement des travailleurs arabes and the first sans-papiers movement of 1972-1973, and would go on to play crucial roles in later cultural initiatives such as the immigrant history association Génériques and the founding of the Cité national de l’histoire de l’immigration – making Sans Frontière an important vector of minority memories from past to future.
But what was the role played specifically by the history of the Algerian war of independence in this memory transmission? This paper will use Sans Frontière, and in particular its regular life history feature Mémoire Immigré/Mémoire du Peuple, to shed light on this and related questions. Since many of the leading founders of Sans Frontière were Tunisian or Moroccan, did specifically Algerian memories play a more marginal role than might be supposed? And which Algerian memories were highlighted? What historical line did Sans Frontière take in relation to then emerging revisionist narratives of the Franco-Algerian conflict such as those by Mohammed Harbi, those concerning the followers of Messali Hadj, or those regarding the role of women in the war, that questioned different aspects of official FLN nationalist history? To what extent did Sans Frontière succeed in creating a transnational dissident space for circulating and debating marginalised or multidirectional memories of the conflict?
Uses of Frantz Fanon in Algeria from 1962 to nowadays
Emmanuel Alcaraz (Paris-Nanterre & IRMC-Tunis)
The object of this research is uses of Frantz Fanon in Algeria, but also in Tunisia developing a comparative approach from four cases studies: Blida where Fanon was a psychiatrist at the hospital in colonial times before joining the National Liberation Front, Tunis where he was commited for the Algerian cause working at the hospital Charles Nicolle and looking after the wounded soldiers and the Algerian refugees, he was also journalist for al moudjahid, the NLF’s paper and an embassador in Subsaharian countries for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, Aïn Kerma in Algeria where is Fanon’s grave and Algiers where his figure was evoked within museums in Riadh El Feth.
This work was led with interviews, observations and with field archives. It is a question of knowing if the reappropriation made by the Algerian society of Frantz Fanon’s memory involves an a posteriori rebuilding of his work by associating him only with a culture of revolutionary war which was served to legitimize the Algerian nationalist project after 1962 but also the Algerian diplomacy in Sub-saharian Africa after 1962.
Indeed, in times where Algiers was Mecca of revolution, Fanon could be used like an intellectual reference for the Algerian government policy which supported subsaharian national liberation movements in Guinée Bissau, in Angola, in Mozambique and towards National African Congress. Rediscovering Fanon today in Algeria is a necessity in a country concerned by subsaharian migrants coming from Sahel, which generate questions about condition of black people within the postcolonial Algerian society in the lights of Frantz Fanon’s work. Moreover, Fanon’s thought is mainly a theory of political, economic, social and individual liberation, which is rediscovered after the Arab spring in 2011 and which represents a danger for Arab counter-revolution represented by military forces and islamists.
In search of hidden memories: Algerians and the First World War
Dónal Hassett (Bristol)
n his seminal text ‘Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning’, cultural historian Jay Winter identifies the First World War as the moment that ‘brought the search for an appropriate language of loss to the centre of cultural and political life’. While Winter and many of the scholars who have followed him have extensively studied the resulting intersection between public and private commemorative practices in Europe and the White Dominions, the history of postwar mourning in colonial contexts has received much less attention.
This paper traces the intersection of public and private grief in the context of colonial Algeria. It considers how both the structure of rule in colonial society and the practices of colonial historians have combined to prioritise the public politics of commemoration over the personal experiences of grief in analyses of the legacies of the war in Algeria.
By examining the power dynamics that shaped the nascent culture of commemoration in colonial Algeria, it explains how the personal experiences of Algerian victims of war and their family were sacrificed on the altar of the political expediency by the partisans, the critics and the fierce opponents of colonial rule in Algeria. It suggests at least one way in which we might be able to recover some, albeit highly mediated, narratives of the personal struggles of those who lived through the war. Finally, it asks what lessons the story of post-Great War memory in Algeria might hold for those studying the legacies of the other conflicts that have shaped the country’s history?
The Algerian Bilāliyya ritual, dīwān, as an affective 'site' of memory
Tamara Turner (Max Planck, Berlin)
Moqedm Jalūl Moṭam of the main Bilāliyya zāwīya in Saida said in a 2013 interview, 'With the independence of Algeria, dīwān vanished'--'Raḥū!' Many other ritual experts echo this sentiment, citing the post-Independence displacement and destruction of the villages nègres or grāba, particularly in towns like Saida and Mascara, where such changes are said to have had a dramatic impact on the cohesion of communities.
While today dīwān rituals are still widely and regularly practiced in Algeria and while the dīwān 'tradition' is attracting more general interest, the popular discourse of disappearance and loss is, I will argue, much more than a nostalgic speech act from the older generations about this historical moment. Rather, the history of dīwān itself is one of displacement, loss, trauma, and rupture and its ritual enacts this.
Dīwān developed out of the trans-Saharan slave trade, primarily during the Ottoman period, and has always enfolded complications of memory and forgetting. Dīwān rituals, typically six to nine hours long, are structured by dozens of song suites that recount histories and personages of saints, the Prophet, the Soḥāba, and ancestral sub-Saharan personalities, most often of Hausa origins. Quite importantly, these song-stories are embodied through the trance that the music precipitates. Especially in these latter songs, dīwān ritually performs shards of memory that coalesce through ritual objects, scents, texts, and a particular musical 'Hausa groove'.
With this background in mind, and drawing from extensive anthropological fieldwork as well as anthropological literature on trauma, suffering, and ritual, this paper asks how these dynamics of ancestral memory and rupture negotiate the place of dīwān in post-Independence Algeria. How did post-Independence shifts in social mobility and identify affect ūlād dīwān and can ritual speak to the further displacement of ūlād dīwān after Independence?
France as palimpsest: Mapping Algeria in Leïla Sebbar’s Mes Algéries en France (2004), Journal de mes Algéries en France (2005) and Voyages en Algéries autour de ma chambre (2008)
Joseph McGonagle (University of Manchester)
In the wake of the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Algerian War, the 2000s in France were striking for the proliferation of works across visual culture that sought to probe both the colonial and postcolonial links between France and Algeria. This paper examines a key example: the important trilogy of books by a leading French writer of Algerian heritage, Leïla Sebbar, which weave together an immersive collection of images and text in her exploration of the public and private links that continue to bind both countries together.
Her books Mes Algéries en France (2004), Journal de mes Algéries en France (2005) and Voyages en Algéries autour de ma chambre (2008) constitute Sebbar’s most sustained engagement to date with visual culture and her highly personal but also wide-ranging exploration of the legacy of French colonial history arguably provides significant insights into our understanding of the specificities of Franco-Algerian links.
Across these three richly illustrated works, Sebbar probes the diverse connections that continue to join France and Algeria together in the present-day era via the very personal and idiosyncratic journey she undertakes though the shared history of both countries and of her own childhood in Algeria and adult life in France.
This paper will argue that, by shaping a space for a polyphony of voices, testimonies and experiences to be heard, Sebbar’s trilogy vividly demonstrates how colonial history has indelibly etched both metropolitan France and French society and how deeply imbricated postcolonial Algeria and France remain.
Comics and post-memories of the Algerian War: The case of the ‘pieds noirs’
Tramor Quemeneur (Paris)
To present day, about a hundred comics on the colonial Algeria and the Algerian War of decolonisation have been published. Artists such as Cabu, Siné or Wolinski, who rejected colonisation and the war in which they participated, created the first drawings, pages and books during the war itself. At the beginning of the 80s, the first comic book concerning the Algerian War was published by an author who was a former soldier (Une éducation algérienne of Guy Vidal and Alain Bignon). The number of comics increased then regularly, especially from the end of the 90s. The collection of the books of Jacques Ferrandez, Carnets d’Orient, remains the reference.
Globally, those comics can concern a dramatic and revealing event of the war, as the repression of October 1961 or the one of Charonne in February 1962, or they can also deal with a specific ‘memory group’ of the Algerian War: the soldiers, the Algerians, the Algerians of the French army (the ‘harkis’), the 'pieds noirs’ etc…
From the beginning of the 2000s, a new kind of comic has emerged, written not by persons who lived during the Algerian War but by authors born after it. Those authors told the life of their parents or grandparents in colonial Algeria and the war, what the researcher Marianne Hirsch called ‘post-memory’.
Sons of ‘pieds noirs’ constitute the most important group of those authors. What are those comic books and who are their authors? What kind of post-memory do they tell about? I will show that those authors frequently go back on their familial scars, with the will to cicatrize a painful and contentious memory.
On realism of the archives: Contemporary Algerian artists confronting history
Fanny Gillet-Ouhenia (Université de Genève)
Since the past two decades, Algerian contemporary artists of different generations, itineraries or backgrounds have invested the history of their own country by using different methodologies of research: archive investigations in public institutions and within private frame or interviews with actors and witnesses of relevant events. Those collected information are thereafter featured in artistic apparatus mixing multidisciplinary practices (film, photograph or drawing).
Visual, writing and oral documents thus become sources intended to re-present, identify and testify a part of historical – and sometimes autobiographical – reality. As such, archives are perceived as authentic proofs on which the artists rely to offer alternative narratives in a post-civil war context where legitimacy and its 'glorious history' are challenged by social emergence of individual memories.
In terms of visual culture, integration of documents in artistic works is a mean to question the symbolic operation at stake in the construction of collective imaginary. On the other hand, the search of veracity expressed by and through the seemingly legible and comprehensible nature of documents tends to reconnect with a certain tradition of realism and longstanding debate in art history: what aesthetical form should art take to represent social antagonisms? For placing history at the core of their preoccupation artists are basically signified a form of political responsibility.
Through interviews with the artists and an analysis of their work this communication will problematize the political process of the use of the archive in Algeria.
The battle of walls. Algiers 1961-1962
Karim Ouaras (University of Mostaganem & CEMA, Oran)
Focusing on the last years of Algeria’s War of Liberation (1954-1962), my paper examines how and why graffiti explode during periods of struggle, social crisis, and unrest. Most graffiti during this period dealt with the colonial and anti-colonial order. Walls in Algiers were “home” to (counter) revolutionary graffiti and a field of battles between the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the Secret Army Organization (OAS). Since these walls were engaged in struggle with words and signs, which translated claims, protests, and violence into public space, they became a documentation of the revolution and a way of keeping the (counter) nationalist flame burning. Graffiti constitute evidence that a revolution took place, and are one of the most effective, efficient, and original tools for documenting times of crisis, conflict, struggle, and war.
In this presentation, algérois graffiti are approached as a revolutionary narrative helping to address political opinions and memories on the Algerian revolution. For example, the political slogans ‘Algerian Algeria’ claimed by the FLN and the ‘French Algeria claimed by the OAS were followed with intensive graffiti writings in public sphere in 1961-1962. The inscriptions conceived by the OAS covered the walls and even the roadways of Algiers as soon as this organization was created in 1961. Graffiti writings were used by the militants of ‘French Algeria’ to spread their ideology and propaganda among the European populations living in Algeria at that time. Graffiti writings were also vital for the militants of the Algerian Algeria claimed by the FLN, as a means of resistance and rebellion against the colonial order.
The aim of this paper is to show the ways in which graffiti were related to key traumatic events that have occurred in contemporary Algeria, specifically the Algerian War of Liberation. It explores OAS and FLN graffiti at the end of the Algeria War of Liberation, and the role they played against or in favour of the Algerian revolution. My attempt is to understand what is involved in graffiti writings and go beyond the words and signs.
The ever-present War of Liberation
Abderrahmane Moussaoui (Lyon)
The memory of the War of Liberation, 'the revolution' as we will call it here in Algeria, is part of the collective imaginary because it is not a symbolic capital exclusively in the hands of those who hold power. The latter are not the only ones authorised to use the War of Liberation as a source of legitimisation: their opponents equally make claims on it. The sacralisation of the war is such that, more than half a century after it began, passions run high at the first suggestion that the event might be analysed beyond an ideological perspective. The war is 'revolution' which was unprecedented and remains unsurpassable.
In the confrontation between the regime and its Islamist opponents, both accuse the other of being harkis, or the stooges of France, whilst glorifying themselves as the true descendants of the martyrs who died in the struggle to liberate Algeria. The war is present everywhere. The primary reference, the founding reference is this sacralised place/moment which is the War of Liberation.
The war is so present in discourse and political practice that it is constantly referred to in explanations of tragic current affairs. It is the classificatory paradigm which autorises the person who uses it to glorify him or herself and discredit and denounce anyone whose discourse, intentions and practices are considered to be in contradiction with this monumental referent.
Those in power, in the same way as their opponents, consider themselves the best defenders of a land wrenched from colonial rule at a very high cost, and believe that they can detect, in an almost obsessional way, the signs of a presence or a return of colonialism in new forms.
‘Révolution’ in the Awres. Memories, belongings and imagined communities of three Algerian Generations, 1954-2018
Andrea Brazzoduro (St Antony's, Oxford)
This paper will present materials from my ongoing fieldwork conducted among the Shawia, the Amazighs (Berbers) from the region of the Awres, in the South East of Algeria.
It will focus on the complex and conflicting relationship between the memories of the war for independence from France and the reference to the Amazigh dimension among three generations of Shawia.
How is the belonging to the Shawia ‘imagined community’ performed in contemporary Algeria? In order to answer this question, the paper will make a methodological shift, taking advantage of the heuristic potentials of oral history, and therefore considering memory not only as a burden but also as a choice.
Building on ethnography and interviews conducted since 2007, this paper will focus on ‘historical imagination’ aiming to reconsider memory as both a legacy of the past and as desire – as 'memory of the future'.
Generation independence:The sovereignty of the skies (1967) & The long history of a short-lived statue (1970)
Natalya Vince (IHTP, Paris & Portsmouth)
This session will include the screening of two documentary shorts (c. 20 mins) which are part of a larger project in which men and women from across Algeria talk about the 1960s and 1970s. This period is often absent from discussions of Algerian history and memory, with far more attention paid to the anti-colonial struggle 1954-62 and the civil violence of the 1990s.
Each portrait will explore a moment in which an individual life story intersected with the processes of post-independence state-building – from the construction of monuments, to bringing air traffic control into Algerian hands, to operating energy infrastructure.
Far from the stereotypical image of the Algerian state as a single-party monolith, in which ideas were imposed from above and dissent crushed, these histories “from below” reveal the importance of individual initiatives, the significance of personal and familial networks and the constant negotiation of the limits of what it was and was not possible to say and do.