Tag: Algeria

‘One of the best things about academic research is how eclectic and varied it can be’

With the teaching term over, staff turn to their research and have more time to attend conferences. Dr Fiona Barclay was speaking at a conference in Leeds last week. Here’s what she has to say about it:

“One of the best things about academic research is how eclectic and varied it can be, and how it offers the chance to investigate the significance of familiar cultural phenomena. For example, many people in the UK and further afield will be familiar with Downton Abbey, and its fictional portrayal of the ups and downs of an upper-class family around the turn of the twentieth century. It’s an example of a family saga, which is a genre often used by writers to examine the changes taking place in the nation, using the fortunes of an often middle- or upper-class family as a way to stand in for the experiences of society more generally. So, in Downton Abbey we see the effects of the First World War on the different classes, and see how the class structure evolves over time; it’s a microcosm of the changing nation. The conference which I attended in Leeds last week focused on portrayals of the family saga in literature, TV and radio, but not just in English: it brought together academics working on texts in French, German, Spanish and even Czech and Japanese. So we heard papers on the great literary family sagas of nineteenth and twentieth-century France, some of them running to 27 volumes, but also on the East German equivalent of Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ , which told the story of a typical socialist family in the GDR, and TV series on the Mafia such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Gomorrah’.

My own paper looked at the French settlers who lived in Algeria until it became independent in 1962 and they were forced to resettle in France. It looked at novels which recount the tale of four generations, from the earliest settlers in the 1840s onwards, and showed how the writers used the tremendously difficult experiences of the early pioneers, many of whom were soon killed by violent conflict and disease, to justify the privileged existence of their settler descendants, who were very poor but not as poor as the Arabs they lived amongst. But the novels are not solely about justifying the settlers’ treatment of the Arabs: they also suggest that Algeria itself is a family of characters in conflict. By presenting the warring Europeans and Arabs as the ‘brother enemies’ Cain and Abel, and considering whether the act of colonization might be a re-enactment of the original sin of the ‘first man’ (which is the title of the Algerian philosopher Albert Camus’ last novel), these writers use the form of the family saga and draw on Biblical ideas about family inheritance and the ‘sins of the fathers’ to ask difficult questions about colonialism which it would be unthinkable to ask in other contexts. Given the furore which greeted President Emmanuel Macron’s recent suggestion that colonialism was ‘a crime against humanity’, this is one contentious issue which will continue to provoke strong reactions for a long while to come.”

Many thanks to Fiona for sending us this blog post and we look forward to posting more about other research activities over the course of the summer.

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Algerian Settler Colonial Conference

We’re pretty much midway between the end of our Spring teaching and the start of our new academic year in early September. However, a number of French-related events and activities are still taking place on campus including Fiona Barclay’s ‘Algerian Settler Colonial Conference’ which was held today and yesterday at Stirling.

Bringing together speakers from a wide range of UK Universities and well beyond (see the full programme below), the conference examined whether the assumptions inherent in theories of settler colonialism are of value when applied to the particularities of France’s colonial presence in Algeria. What are the specificities of a settler colony born of the ideology of the ‘mission civilisatrice’? To what extent were the paradigms of the settler colony problematized by legal ordonnances such as the décret Crémieux? In the context of independence and repatriation, what does it mean to say that ‘there is no such thing as neo-settler colonialism or post-settler colonialism’ (Veracini 2010)? What persists of settler colonial culture beyond repatriation? The event drew on research from a range of disciplines (history, literature, visual culture, politics) to engage with these and other questions in an attempt to draw out the specificities of settler colonialism in French Algeria.

Algerian Settler Colonial Conference – Programme
1 July
Panel 1
David Cummings (Queens University Belfast), ‘Colonisation of the Coloniser? : Ambivalent Representations of the Place of the petit-colon in the French Algerian ‘Settler Colonial Situation’.
Charlotte Chopin (ULIP), ‘Pages Without Borders: Global Networks and The Settler Press in Algeria, 1881-1914’.
Claire Eldridge (University of Southampton), Settler Soldiers and the Construction of Colonial and Postcolonial Identities

Panel 2
Martin Evans (University of Sussex), ‘Perception and Self-Perception of the European Settler Experience in Algeria: Towards a Comparative, Connected and Emotional History’.
Fiona Barclay (University of Stirling), ‘The sins of the fathers: the Algerian afterlives of the children of the pieds-noirs’.

2 July
Keynote address
Jennifer Sessions (University of Iowa), ‘The Margueritte Affair: Debating Settler Colonialism in Fin-de-Siècle France and Algeria’.

Panel 3
Bill Kidd (University of Stirling), ‘Insiders and outsiders: pied-noir culture or pied-noir identities?’
Joseph McGonagle (University of Manchester), ‘Unsettling the past: representing pied-noir experience in the work of Patrick Altes’.