Rethinking France’s “Memory Wars”

Harki Collective Memories, 2003–2010

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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Since 2005, scholars and politicians have employed a framework of “memory wars” to interpret conflicts over the colonial past in France. The case of the Harkis, Algerians who fought with the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence, and their descendents, challenges basic features of this paradigm. Disputes among children of Harkis about how to interpret the French colonial project in Algeria and their fathers’ motivations for supporting the French reveal the limitations of considering the Harkis and other participants in the Algerian War as unified memory camps, a constituent element of the memory war model. Conceiving of memory debates in terms of a “war” also obscures the ways in which narrating the past can constitute an act of reconciliation and signal a desire for inclusion, as it has for Harki sons and daughters.

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