Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

An Exploration of Foucauldian Disciplinary Power in Alain Tasma and Dalila Kerchouche's Film Harkis (2006)

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

An Exploration of Foucauldian Disciplinary Power in Alain Tasma and Dalila Kerchouche's Film Harkis (2006)

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Although Géraldine Enjelvin and Nada Korac-Kakabadse identify the film Harkis as "the most visible representation of the Harkis' collective memory in French society," studies that examine this cinematic work are rather scant (157). Given that many people are still unfamiliar with the tragic saga of the Harkis due to the devastating effects of institutional silence,1 it would be useful to start with a brief historical overview of this disenfranchised group before delving into a Foucauldian interpretation of Harkis. First, the word 'harki' itself "was originally nothing more than an administrative construct during the Algerian War" (Enjelvin "Les Harkis en France" 161). This "nom générique," initially created for pragmatic purposes by the French government to describe an extremely diverse community comprised of many different cultures and languages, should not be associated with a certain "ethnicity" (Hautreux 43; Yates n.p.). Specifically, the Harkis were the indigenous soldiers who allied themselves with the French during the Algerian War. At the end of this bloody colonial struggle, which was finally recognized as a "war" by the French state in 1999, the Evian Accords were allegedly supposed to protect these soldiers and their families from violent reprisals (Enjelvin "Entrée des harkis" 62).

However, the Harkis had no place in the simplistic master narrative created by the Algerian government after independence. In fact, the story of the Harkis was a direct contradiction to the founding myth of a united country that expelled an exploitative, colonial regime. This heterogeneous society was a reminder of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Front de Libération Nationale designed to destabilize the French presence in the region. Even though many Harkis were actually in favor of independence, they joined the French army to prevent their loved ones from being tortured, executed, and raped by the FLN. Furthermore, many Harki peasants enlisted in the French military out of dire economic necessity to feed their families. Despite these evident realities, the Algerian government carefully framed public perception of the Algerian War according to a "Manicheistic dichotomy of the traitor-hero" (van der Schyff 150). Instead of respecting the provisions of the Evian Accords that guaranteed the peaceful reintegration of the Harkis into mainstream society, Algerian authorities encouraged violent forms of retribution against the 'traîtres.' Mohand Hamoumou estimates that over 100,000 Harkis lost their lives during these calculated and politically-motivated massacres (26).

These sinister acts of pure vengeance would compel many Harkis to seek refuge in France. For those who were able to make it to i'Hexagone in spite of restrictive immigration measures, France was far from the 'promised land' that they envisioned before their arrival. Deliberately "hidden from public view" in secluded regions of Southern France in deplorable, makeshift refugee camps where there was often no running water, sanitation, or even electricity, the Harkis were unable to integrate themselves into society as full-fledged citizens (Van der Schyff 151). As opposed to being a temporary solution to the 'Harki problem,' many of these camps were operational for almost two decades. In addition to being a byproduct of racism and xenophobia sustained to segregate the Harkis from the rest of French society, these camps were maintained for such a long period of time because certain people were deriving benefits from their continued existence. As this study will elucidate, the Harkis were exploited by an elaborate, hegemonic system with various layers contrived to keep the Harkis from ever leaving these camps. From a Foucauldian perspective, too many individuals had a vested interest in ensuring the survival of these isolated and dilapidated housing units surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.

II. Contextualization of the film Harkis

The film Harkis paints a vivid portrait of these embedded power structures that reaped colossal profits from human misery. …

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