The mobilisation and transmission of memories within the Pied-Noir and Harki communities, 1962-2007
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Focusing on the legacies of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62), this thesis challenges the perception that this was the ‘war without a name’ by exploring the ways in which memories have been preserved, mobilised, and transmitted by those who experienced the conflict, but who have generally operated under the radar of public consciousness. In particular, it examines the pieds-noirs, the former European settlers of Algeria, and the harkis, Algerians who fought for the French as auxiliaries during the war. Finding their lives in Algeria untenable upon independence, both populations migrated en masse to France where they have organised collectively as diaspora communities to challenge the hegemony of official narratives in order to legitimate their own interpretations of this contentious past. The purpose of such an investigation is to re-evaluate the conventional historical periodisation of a ‘forgotten’ war that made a dramatic return to public attention during the 1990s by revealing a continual presence of memory and commemorative activity within these communities. Through consultation of a wide range of sources, including extensive use of previously neglected audiovisual material, the historical recollections of these two communities are reconstructed in detail and examined from a comparative perspective. This thesis also seeks to analyse and historicize the present guerres de mémoire phenomenon whereby as the public profile of the war has risen in recent years, the different historical interpretations held by groups such as the pieds-noirs and harkis have increasingly come into open conflict, particularly over the issue of commemoration with each seeking to see their version of the past enshrined in official rituals and monuments. Finally, the thesis offers new historical context intended to contribute to enhancing understanding of the ongoing process by which France continues to ‘face up’ to its colonial past and deal with the complex contemporary legacies of this era.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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