Muriel Cohen and Annick Lacroix, Introduction - Entre Algérie et France: Écrire une histoire sociale des Algériens au vingtième siècle [In French]
Focused on colonial and postcolonial Algerians’ social practices and experiences in Algeria and France, this special issue calls for a renewal of Algerian history. Outlining past historical work and new research directions, the introduction argues that to understand colonial Algeria better, historians need to push beyond a political history that assumes a clear contrast between settlers and colonized. While recognizing the colonial divide between settlers and colonized people, we ought to attend to other social hierarchies. These include men and women’s concrete experiences, for instance at work, at home, and in migration, intersections of race, gender, and class, contrasts between rural and urban areas, or the multiple role of religious identities and legal statuses. Reconstructing those social realities will require new archives, of labor and localities, for example, and new methods, including quantitative and oral history.
Keywords: Algeria, colonization, labor, migration, social hierarchies, social history
Annick Lacroix, Au contact: Postiers non-citoyens dans l’Algérie colonisée (vers 1900–1939) [In French]
The Postal and Telecommunication administration offers a complex picture of colonial society in Algeria. Men and women, citizens and natives, were employed as mailmen, telephone operators, middle managers or postmasters. This article focuses on the specific position of colonized Algerians employed inside this administration. Addressing the period from the early twentieth century to the Second World War, it highlights how legal barriers and illiteracy narrowed access to public sector jobs and inhibited career advancement. However, professional records found in the Algerian archive centers also reveal how much the sociological backgrounds of these employees varied. The native mailman rarely got a permanent position, his wage was not high, but he could achieve some stability. He was a public figure in urban districts, as well as in remote villages. The article concludes with a detailed analysis of interactions at work and within the colonial context.
Keywords: Algeria, colonisation, discrimination, interactions, labor
Hannah-Louise Clark, Administering Vaccination in Interwar Algeria: Medical Auxiliaries, Smallpox, and the Colonial State in the Communes mixtes
Compulsory smallpox vaccination was introduced to Algeria by decree on 27 May 1907. After World War I, the combination of public health crises, racialized fears of contagion, and the objective of mise en valeur prompted the colonial state to make Muslim villagers in the communes mixtes a more systematic target of smallpox vaccination. This was achieved in large part thanks to the efforts of Muslim medical auxiliaries. This article reconstructs the kinds of training, labor, and clerical skills embodied in these agents’ administration of vaccination. It also examines the accommodation and contestation of their presence by officials, politicians, and villagers. The author argues that the administrative bureaucracy generated by vaccination may have preceded and enabled the expansion of state registration in rural areas during the interwar period, but ultimately was more effective at disciplining the medical auxiliary than it was at controlling villagers or the smallpox virus.
Keywords: Algeria, bureaucracy, colonialism, smallpox, vaccination
Neil MacMaster, The Algerian Café-Hotel: Hub of the Nationalist Underground, Paris 1926–1962
Algerian migrant workers in Paris inhabited café-lodging houses that became centers of clandestine political organization and terrorist networks before and during the War of Independence (1954–1962). The managers, with organizational skills and a certain authority over their clients, also provided the leadership for the local nationalist cells. In a situation in which the cell members also constituted the hotel clientele, in which the social life of the café was at one with that of the political meeting, it was difficult for the police to penetrate and gather intelligence on the organization. There followed a war of attrition between police and nationalists for the control of the café-hotels, in which the latter developed sophisticated commercial arrangements as a façade for collecting revenue. The Algerian nationalists, like other anti-state organizations, from the French Resistance to the Mafia, developed clandestine structures within the social networks of the café and “legitimate” commercial operations.
Muriel Cohen, Les circulations entre France et Algérie: un nouveau regard sur les migrants (post)coloniaux (1945–1985) [In French]
This article studies circulations between Algeria and France from the 1950s to the 1980s to analyze the social dynamics characteristic of Algerians in France and to highlight their range of choices and trajectories. Bypassing the historiographically dominant focus on male guest workers, this article claims that most flows between Algeria and France involved women and children, as well as men who had settled in France a long time ago. Moreover, it shows a large emigration flow from France to Algeria: of business men, vacationers or people moving back to Algeria. This analysis relies on statistical data as well as migrants’ testimonies.
Keywords: Algerians, colonial studies, France, migrations, migration studies, postcolonial studies, social history
Emmanuel Blanchard, Derrière le massacre d’État : ancrages politiques, sociaux et territoriaux de la « démonstration de masse » du 17 octobre 1961 à Paris [In French]
This article offers new insights about the demonstrations organized by the FLN’s Fédération de France in October 1961. Thousands of Algerians rallied in Paris streets to protest against a discriminatory curfew. The French police repressed these demonstrations with shootings and other lethal practices. Dozens of demonstrators were killed in one of the most brutal massacres perpetrated in Western Europe after the Second World War. Since the end of the 1980s, historians and activists proposed narratives of these events that mainly portray the Algerians as victims of a colonial repression that should be recognized by French authorities. But these demonstrations were also a moment of national pride for Algerians who had emigrated to France. They contributed to the political battle for Algerian independence through the echoes given by the international press: French authorities were challenged in Paris streets and they recognized they lost a symbolic battle. The reports written by men and women who demonstrated provide the main archival materials for a new narrative focused on the political agency of Algerian immigrants.