Algeria: Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics during the Decolonization of Algeria

By Ruedy, John | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Algeria: Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics during the Decolonization of Algeria


Ruedy, John, The Middle East Journal


Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics During the Decolonization of Algeria, by James D. Le Sueur. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. xii + 260 pages. Notes to p. 294. Bibl. to p. 328. Index to p. 338. Acknowledgments to p. 342. $46.50

An incisive and thoughtful work of intellectual history, Uncivil War traces the evolving responses of francophone intelligentsia during the 1950s and 1960s to Algeria's bitter and bloody struggle for independence. Arguing that the war continues to have lasting significance for intellectual history and the discussion of Otherness, the author focuses primarily upon the identity politics it generated for the French and for Algerians. Basing his work upon copious amounts of written material produced during the war and also upon interviews with a number of participants in the debates - Germaine Tillion, Jacques Berque, Pierre Bourdieu and others - James LeSueur manages in several important areas to cast new light upon one of the most dramatic chapters of the 20th-- century process of decolonization. In this study LeSueur deals not only with the hurdles encountered by French intellectuals and a considerably adjusted sense of the French self that emerged therefrom, but also with the maneuvers the French went through to preserve their own sense of intellectual legitimacy. Additionally, he addresses the agonizing conflicts faced by North African intellectuals (e.g., Albert Memmi, Jean Amrouche, Mouloud Feraoun, and Paul Daniel). Questions of Algerian identity, already made difficult by a century and a quarter of colonial domination and cultural interaction, LeSueur argues, were greatly complicated by the intellectual debates of the war years. Answers produced then continued to plague that country from the moment of independence to the 1990s when this work was written.

One of the first predicaments the war handed to the French intellectual community was the validity of mostly unchallenged assumptions about the superiority of French culture and the benefits France's civilizing mission had conferred on colonized peoples. Early on, Jacques Soustelle of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, who never gave up on those assumptions, split off from his confreres and went on to become Governor General of Algeria. After the Philippeville massacres of summer 1955, he became infamous for setting in place many of the repressive security methods that came to taint France's reputation as civilized. Albert Camus, a colon who in 1956 received the Nobel Prize for literature, determined to maintain his silence regarding the Algerian struggle, which greatly compromised the stature of one long considered a radical free-thinker. A substantial majority of French intellectuals in the post-World War II period, however, were leftwing, and with the exception of Camus and a few others, most engaged in a critical rethinking of their own intellectual identity within a crumbling empire and began progressively to align themselves with the anticolonialist movement. But in so doing, many were forced to face up to difficult issues related to the Cold War dialectic, as well as the paradox of an imperialist Soviet regime's advocacy of anti-colonialism.

LeSueur shows that the great majority early in the conflict moved toward addressing what they saw as legitimate Algerian concerns and encouraging policies of reconciliation. Chapter 2 deals mainly with the foundation in November 1955 of the Comite d'Action des Intellectuels contre la Poursuite de la Guerre en Afrique du Nord.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Algeria: Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics during the Decolonization of Algeria
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?