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Identifying ‘Terrorists’ in Paris

A Political Experiment with IBM Machines during the Algerian War

Neil MacMaster

The Paris police faced considerable problems in trying to identify migrant workers who, during the Algerian War, provided a support base for the Front de libération nationale. In order to overcome the failings of manual card-index systems (fichiers) the Préfecture of Police experimented in 1959-62 with IBM punch-card machines. The origin of these powerful identification techniques can be traced back to the inter-war statistical services headed by René Carmille. Although such methods were banned after the Liberation because of their repressive potential, they were discretely revived to track Algerians. Although the experiment proved successful, the proliferation of numerous decentralized fichiers continued to make the process of identifying wanted Algerians slow and cumbersome and this enabled FLN clandestine networks to survive intact to the end of the Algerian War. However, while rapidly superceded by true computers, the punch-card experiment was a precursor of contemporary, high-speed "Panoptican" systems and the computer driven" "révolution identitaire".

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“Brothers from South of the Mediterranean”

Decolonizing the Jewish “Family” during the Algerian War

Naomi Davidson

Almost all of Algeria's estimated 140,000 Jews had immigrated to France by the end of the Algerian War in 1962, many of them to the Paris region. Their arrival was a source of ambivalent hope for metropolitan Jewish religious and community leaders. This article demonstrates that the period of decolonization was one in which metropolitan Jewish leaders tried to simultaneously celebrate and efface Algerian Jewish difference. This struggle took place in local religious sites, where French and Algerian Jews were accustomed to a variety of liturgies, melodies, and behaviors. The tensions that erupted when Algerian Jews asserted their right to religious particularism should be read as evidence of the paradoxes of decolonization. While a near-century of colonial citizenship had made many Algerian Jews “French,” decolonization and migration to the metropole made them Arab in the eyes of many metropolitan Jews.

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Colonizing Revolutionary Politics

Algeria and the French Revolution of 1848

Jennifer E. Sessions

This article examines the key role of the French colony in Algeria in the political culture of the Revolution of 1848. Eugène Cavaignac and other army officers with Algerian experience led the state's repression of radical unrest, and their colonial backgrounds became a central narrative trope in debates about political violence in France, especially after the June Days uprising. Following the closure of the National Workshops, legislators adopted a major scheme for working-class emigration to and settlement in Algeria to replace the workshops and resolve unrest. Throughout 1848, Algeria operated as a symbolic and practical field for the struggle between social and political revolution in France.

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A War of Words over an Image of War

The Fox Movietone Scandal and the Portrayal of French Violence in Algeria, 1955-1956

Emma Kuby

During the Algerian War, films and published photographs documenting brutalities committed by French forces were exceedingly rare, due to censorship and strict controls on journalistic access to the military. However, a dramatic exception to this state of affairs came at an early moment in the war, after a Fox Movietone cameraman captured footage of a French gendarme as he summarily executed an Algerian with a bullet in the back. When the journal L'Express printed frames from the film in December 1955, a scandal ensued that implicated the sitting government in Paris and stoked French anti-Americanism. This article explores the reasons for the scandal, its anatomy, and its longer-term implications for French representations of the violence of the Algerian conflict. It argues that widespread French assumptions about the appropriateness of France's role in Algeria ultimately served to neutralize the story told by the images, even as they were recognized as incontrovertible evidence of atrocity.

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Ethics and Violence

Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha, and the Algerian War

Judith Surkis

This article situates Simone de Beauvoir's involvement in the case of Djamila Boupacha, an FLN militant who was tortured by the French Army in 1960, in the context of the repeated revelations of torture in course of the Algerian War. Drawing on Beauvoir's writings on ethics and other contemporary denunciations of torture, the essay illuminates how Beauvoir worked to overcome wide-spread public “indifference.” By focusing public attention on the Army's sexually degrading treatment of Boupacha, Beauvoir figured torture as a source of feminine and feminizing national shame.

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“Our Actions Never Cease to Haunt Us”

Frantz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Violence of the Algerian War

Emma Kuby

This article considers two famous works published in France during the Algerian War and forever after interpretively linked: Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth and Jean-Paul Sartre's Preface to Fanon's book. It argues that yoking together the two texts has distorted key features of each, in particular as they relate to the multiform problem of violence. To overcome a misreading of Fanon's position by Sartre, the analysis presented here uses the under-examined clinical case studies in the final chapter of Wretched to emphasize Fanon's acknowledgment of violence as a source of trauma, not only a means by which trauma is transcended. It then attempts to explain Sartre's reinterpretation of Fanon's message in light of ongoing postwar debates within the French intellectual Left about the revolutionary potential of violence in metropolitan France.

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“My Visa Application Was Denied, I Decided to Go Anyway”

Interpreting, Experiencing, and Contesting Visa Policies and the (Im)mobility Regime in Algeria

Farida Souiah

This article explores the ways people targeted by restrictive migration and mobility policies in Algeria experience, interpret, and contest them. It focuses on the perspective of harragas, literally “those who burn” the borders. In the Maghrebi dialects, this is notably how people leaving without documentation are referred to. It reflects the fact that they do not respect the mandatory steps for legal departure. Also, they figuratively “burn” their papers to avoid deportation once in Europe. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork, this article outlines the complex and ambiguous attitudes toward the legal mobility regime of those it aims to exclude: compliance, deception, delegitimization, and defiance. It contributes to debates about human experiences of borders and inequality in mobility regimes. It helps deepen knowledge on why restrictive migration and mobility policies fail and are often counterproductive, encouraging the undocumented migration they were meant to deter.

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Selective Empathy

Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism

Naomi J. Andrews

labor, and the violent takeover of Algeria. The July Monarchy was marked by repeated, violent episodes of conflict between the state and its subjects, both within the hexagon and in its empire. Throughout the 1830s, and especially after 1840, France

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What You See Is What You Get

The Algerian War, French Textbooks and How Violence Is Remembered

Alexandra Binnenkade

French history textbooks occupy a pivotal position in the colonial fracture. They impart difficult knowledge about the Algerian War of Independence, knowledge that impacts the relationships between the communities of memory in France today. Textbook analysis has focused on their verbal content and, recently, in the work of Jo McCormack, on corresponding teaching practices. This article highlights graphic design as one layer of visual knowledge production and primarily contributes to the methodology of textbook analysis with an exemplary multimodal analysis. It reveals a hidden narrative about the postcolonial relationship that is not expressed in words.

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Camus et la « littérature algérienne »

Une notion stratégique dans l’espace littéraire francophone

Tristan Leperlier

Peter Dunwoodie, Writing French Algeria (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1998) et Jean-Robert Henry, « Le centenaire de l’Algérie, triomphe éphémère de la pensée algérianiste », in Histoire de l’Algérie à la période coloniale (1830–1962) ed. Bouchène