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“Algeria for the Algerians”

Public Education and Settler Identity in the Early Third Republic

Kyle Francis

Keywords: Algeria; anticlericalism; colonialism; education; Third Republic

This article uses an 1881 revolt by settler students at the normal school of Algiers to explore issues of settler identity formation, anticlericalism, and racism. It argues that in the early Third Republic, settlers began to see the public school as a key site for creating a distinctly “Algerian” identity, one that excluded both Algerian Muslims and even new arrivals from the metropole. In this effort, settlers sought to implement radical versions of French republicanism and anticlericalism that were in reality highly restrictive, as they combined both metropolitan disdain for Catholicism and colonial scorn towards Islam. The investigations precipitated by the revolt reveal a colony and metropole whose fundamental concepts took shape in circuit between France and Algeria. The version of republicanism that emerged in Algeria served as an important precursor for the exclusive republicanism and its prohibitions on the public expression of faith in the ascendency in France today.

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