When considering Sartre’s and Camus’ positions on the Algerian War of Independence, it is useful to begin by briefly locating both men in relation to colonialism in general and Algeria in particular. The first point, an obvious one, but one which needs to be made, is that while Camus, the child of Belcourt, had first-hand knowledge of life in working-class Algiers, and as a journalist of the misery of Kabylia in the late 1930s, Sartre, the Parisian intellectual par excellence, had almost no direct knowledge of the country. I say almost no direct knowledge because he and de Beauvoir did pass through southern Algeria en route to French West Africa in 1950 but apparently paid scant attention to the political situation in that country.
With roots in the transformation of France during and after the Algerian War, the opposition by the farmers of Larzac and their largely urban allies throughout France to the expansion of a military camp into their lands is an emblematic event in the broad 1968 stretching a decade on either side of that year. It was particularly significant at Larzac, where a community of resistance remains today. Drawing on progressive Catholic thought and a new representation of the paysan, the conflict resonated in a France negotiating the terrain of a post-colonial era, a new relationship between the rural and the urban, and the feminist expectations of many supporters.
Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha, and the Algerian War
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.
The Fox Movietone Scandal and the Portrayal of French Violence in Algeria, 1955-1956
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.
The Harkis' Exile at the Rivesaltes Camp (1962–1964)
Jeannette E. Miller
The French government placed 20,000 of the approximately 100,000 harkis repatriated to France following the Algerian War in the Rivesaltes camp. Located in rural French Catalonia, it had previously lodged foreigners and French citizens whom the government removed from society. The decision to house the harkis in this camp, made during summer 1962 as the French government extricated itself from its 132-year empire in Algeria, symbolized that they were aliens: Berber and Arab repatriates, nearly all of whom obtained French nationality shortly after they arrived in France, were targeted by government housing policies that distanced them from public view. The camp's architecture, living conditions, isolation from French citizens, military oversight, and “reeducation” classes, beyond functioning as powerful symbols, reinforced—and contributed to—the government's treatment of the harkis as aliens. Over the twenty-seven months it remained open, Rivesaltes fostered an exilic existence for these harkis and socially excluded them from French society.
Decolonizing the Jewish “Family” during the Algerian War
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.
In societies coming to terms with historical injustices, public apology has recently emerged as a potent trend. This is particularly true of France, where the state served as a catalyst for a wave of public apologies for acts of intolerance committed during the Second World War. Following Jacques Chirac's 1995 official apology for Vichy's anti-Semitic policies, various groups in civil society publicly atoned for their particular Vichy roles in discrimination against Jews: the medical profession, the law bar, the Catholic Church, and the police. How does public apology, as distinct from court trials, historical commissions, and reparations, affect contemporary France's reconciliation with its past? This article also analyzes how apologizing for Vichy has created demand for an official French apology for the Algerian War. By 2006, the politics of memory in French society decidedly shifted attention from Vichy to post-colonialism: in both cases, the apology turn imposes new dynamics of remembering and forgetting.
The Politics of the Integration of Harkis After 1962
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.
Nafissa Sid Cara and the Politics of Emancipation during the Algerian War
’s religiosity during the Algerian War for independence (1954–1962). French colonial-era modernization campaigns linked veiling with patriarchal tradition, seeking to “emancipate” Algerian women from the practice so they could become citizens of greater France. 3
Accueillir Les Français Rapatriés D 'algérie , Histoire D 'une Régulation Sociale Par L 'évitement Des Bidonvilles
L'exemple de Paris, 1962–1969
This article explores the policies that the French government pursued to house repatriates from Algeria in 1962. These initiatives took place in the context of a French society overwhelmed by eight years of war, OAS terrorism that sought to overthrow the established order in metropolitan France, and the arrival of more than 600,000 people during the spring and the summer of 1962, a migration that challenged the social and economic balance of the country. To spare the repatriates the need to settle in shantytowns that would have put them on the fringe of society, the government opened collective housing and other centres d'hébergement. These efforts served the purpose of a policy of integration established through the 26 December 1962 law for people who were paradoxically both migrants and members of the national community. This policy in fact helped facilitate their integration into the metropolitan society.