Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

New Perspectives on Communal Memory, Intergenerational Identity, and the Algerian War in Contemporary France

Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

New Perspectives on Communal Memory, Intergenerational Identity, and the Algerian War in Contemporary France

Article excerpt

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON COMMUNAL MEMORY, INTERGENERATIONAL IDENTITY, AND THE ALGERIAN WAR IN CONTEMPORARY FRANCE FROM EMPIRE TO EXILE: HISTORY AND MEMORY WITHIN THE PIED-NOIR AND HARKI COMMUNITIES Claire Eldridge Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016 (xiv + 337 pages, bibliography, index, maps) $110.00 (cloth)

HERITER 1962: HARKIS ET IMMIGRES ALGERIENS A L'EPREUVE DES APPARTENANCES NATIONALES Giulia Fabbiano Nanterre: Presses universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2016 (266 pages, bibliography, illustrations, maps) €23.00 (cloth)

Since the 1990s, official silences in France surrounding the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962) have increasingly been lifted, and sensitive archival collections have been brought to light by historians such as Benjamin Stora and Raphaělle Branche. Yet given the ensuing "memory wars" that have implicated not just academic research but also the current political landscape in France and Algeria, scholars have approached the question of memory and the war with great care, reluctant to be drawn into a contentious mire. Some have looked to explain the role of memory (and forgetting) in historical processes of identity-making by exploring nonstate and nonofficial actors. But questions of representation remain: it is difficult enough to speak of coherent groups such as harkis (Algerians who supported or worked for France during the Algerian War, and their descendants), Algerian immigrants (who often arrived later and under different circumstances than did harkis), and pieds-noirs (French settlers and their descendants who returned to France from Algeria during and after the war). Still less certain are we of which representatives may speak authoritatively on behalf of these groups and of their relationship to the memory of the Algerian War since its conclusion in 1962. If scholars are not to favor the voices of a select few prominent spokespeople, where might they look for alternatives?

Monographs by historian Claire Eldridge and ethnographer Giulia Fabbiano reveal the fruits of nonlinear and multidirectional approaches to memory and identity in France. They build on but also go beyond the study of "memory sites," which since Pierre Nora's Realms of Memory (Columbia UP, 1984-1992) has centered mostly on state-recognized institutions and events. Eldridge's From Empire to Exile examines the activism of harki and pied-noir groups from Algerian independence until today, comparing how each group of stakeholders and their de facto representatives have interacted with the state, the national media, and the academic world (as well as with one another) to produce a particular vision of history as a basis for communal identity. This work integrates underexplored sources, such as the archives of local advocacy associations, television programs, and the works of prominent spokespeople, to show how harki and pied-noir "genealogies of memory" were, even during periods of official "silence," distinct but interconnected (18). Fabbiano's Hériter 1962: Harkis et immigrés algériens a l'épreuve des appartenances nationales (Inheriting 1962: Harkis and Algerian Immigrants Facing the Test of National Belonging) presents an intimate ethnographic analysis of daily negotiations of memory and identity in the French communities of Mas Thibert and Barriol, problematizing the strict separation often presumed between harkis and immigrés. Through oral interviews with local community members of all generations, Fabbiano privileges the local layers of "fragmented belonging," deftly illustrating a process far more nuanced than debates at the national level usually allow. While each work features a decidedly different body of sources and methodology, they both make their mark by demonstrating that it is not so much memory itself, but rather the processes of creation and contestation of memory, that have come to be such an important part of identity among immigrés, harkis, and pieds-noirs in contemporary France.

Eldridge's monograph is organized chronologically, alternating chapters between a focus on pied-noir and harki activism. …

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