Colonial Remainders: France, Algeria, and the Culture of Decolonization (1958-1970)
Bellisari, Andrew Harold
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CitationBellisari, Andrew Harold. 2018. Colonial Remainders: France, Algeria, and the Culture of Decolonization (1958-1970). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe phenomenon of decolonization profoundly reshaped the twentieth century. Within the span of three decades following the Second World War, the majority of countries formerly colonized by European powers became independent nations. But this history, so often told from the abstract perspective of high-level diplomacy, tells us little about how decolonization was actually experienced on the ground. This dissertation examines the cultural and social dimensions of decolonization in French Algeria to understand how transfers of power operate and postcolonial sovereignty is constructed on a local level. In short, it asks: how does one decolonize a colony?
“Colonial Remainders” argues that the messy logistics of colonial divorce in Algeria fostered an unexpected culture of cooperation between French officials and Algerian nationalists that allowed for precarious but pragmatic moments of collaboration in the years surrounding Algeria’s independence. This dynamic permitted a relatively successful transfer of power following a conflict better known for terror, torture, and terre brûlée. Based on two years of archival fieldwork and interviews conducted in France and Algeria, this project uncovers the experiences of people, the fate of institutions, and the circulation of objects that were caught up in the dynamics of decolonization but whose stories fit neither within the borders of newly emergent states nor the temporal dichotomy of a “before” and “after.”
This dissertation re-evaluates the history of decolonization by examining such stories as the fate of a contested collection of French impressionist artwork, a group of wary French and Algerian military officers forced to work together to maintain a tenuous ceasefire, and the controversial ownership disputes that erupted over Algeria’s vast colonial-era infrastructure following independence. While this project focuses on the experience of French Algeria, it lends nuance to the common view of decolonization as a process marked foremost by intransigence and violence and reconsiders the claim that post-independence cooperation between newly independent states and former colonial powers was a mere Trojan horse of neocolonialism. At its core, this work sheds light on how transitions happen, not just politically, but also socially and culturally.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41128672
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