The Muslim Veteran in Postcolonial France

The Politics of the Integration of Harkis After 1962

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author: Sung Choi
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During the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), France mobilized tens of thousands of native Algerian soldiers, known as the harkis, for counterinsurgent operations directed against their own countrymen of the National Liberation Front. As recruits for the French army, the harkis were given French status, which was then revoked when Algeria gained its independence. France later accepted the harkis as veterans and “repatriates,” only to confine them in camps until the 1970s. The abuse of the harkis has been noted as a “forgotten” episode in French postcolonial history. This article argues that the harkis were far from having been “forgotten,” and in fact were considered important throughout the Fifth Republic as a powerful counterpoint to the more problematic immigrant Algerian population in France. The harkis represented the key tension in postcolonial France between the notion of an irrevocable civil status and a national identity that favored a Eurocentric culture.

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