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Contesting views the visual economy of france and algeria

Contesting Views
Fifty years after Algerian independence, the legacy of France’s Algerian
past, and the ongoing complexities of the Franco-Algerian relationship,
remain a key preoccupation in both countries. A central role in shaping
understanding of their shared past and present is played by visual culture.
This study investigates how relations between France and Algeria have
been represented and contested through visual means since the outbreak
of the Algerian War in 1954. It probes the contours of colonial and
postcolonial visual culture in both countries, highlighting the important
roles played by still and moving images when Franco-Algerian relations
are imagined. Analysing a wide range of images made on both sides of
the Mediterranean – from colonial picture postcards of French Algeria to
contemporary representations of postcolonial Algiers – this book is the
first to trace the circulation of, and connections between, a diverse range
of images and media within this field of visual culture. It shows how the
visual representation of Franco-Algerian links informs our understanding
both of the lived experience of postcoloniality within Europe and the
Maghreb, and of wider contemporary geopolitics.

Edward Welch is Senior Lecturer in French at Durham University.
Joseph McGonagle is Lecturer in Cultural Studies in the French-speaking

World at the University of Manchester.

www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk

Contesting Views
the visual economy of France and Algeria
Edward Welch and Joseph McGonagle

Edward Welch and Joseph McGonagle

‘Contesting Views is an incisive and timely analysis of visual culture
and its role in the mediation of Franco-Algerian relations, and makes
a convincing case for the importance of visual image and visual forms
in considering the postcoloniality of both France and Algeria.’
Dr James House, University of Leeds

Contesting Views

the visual economy of France and Algeria

Cover image by Zineddine Bessaï
Design by Emily Wilkinson

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Contesting Views
The Visual Economy of France and Algeria

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 27

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Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures
Series Editors
EDMUND SMYTH
Manchester Metropolitan University



CHARLES FORSDICK
University of Liverpool

Editorial Board
JACQUELINE DUTTON
University of Melbourne

LYNN A. HIGGINS
Dartmouth College

MICHAEL SHERINGHAM
University of Oxford

MIREILLE ROSELLO
University of Amsterdam

DAVID WALKER
University of Sheffield

This series aims to provide a forum for new research on modern and contemporary French and francophone cultures and writing. The books published in
Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures reflect a wide variety of critical
practices and theoretical approaches, in harmony with the intellectual, cultural
and social developments which have taken place over the past few decades. All
manifestations of contemporary French and francophone culture and expression
are considered, including literature, cinema, popular culture, theory. The volumes
in the series will participate in the wider debate on key aspects of contemporary
culture.

Recent titles in the series:
11 Aedín Ní Loingsigh, Postcolonial Eyes:
Intercontinental Travel in Francophone
African Literature

19 David H. Walker, Consumer
Chronicles: Cultures of Consumption in
Modern French Literature

12 Lawrence R. Schehr, French
Post-Modern Masculinities: From
Neuromatrices to Seropositivity

20 Pim Higginson, The Noir Atlantic:
Chester Himes and the Birth of the
Francophone African Crime Novel

13 Mireille Rosello, The Reparative in
Narratives: Works of Mourning in
Progress

21 Verena Andermatt Conley, Spatial
Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and
World-Space in French Cultural
Theory

14 Andy Stafford, Photo-texts:
Contemporary French Writing of the
Photographic Image
15 Kaiama L. Glover, Haiti Unbound: A
Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial
Canon

22 Lucy O’Meara, Roland Barthes at the
Collège de France
23 Hugh Dauncey, French Cycling: A
Social and Cultural History

16 David Scott, Poetics of the Poster: The
Rhetoric of Image-Text

24 Louise Hardwick, Childhood,
Autobiography and the Francophone
Caribbean

17 Mark McKinney, The Colonial Heritage
of French Comics

25 Douglas Morrey Michel Houellebecq:
Humanity and its Aftermath

18 Jean Duffy, Thresholds of Meaning:
Passage, Ritual and Liminality in
Contemporary French Narrative

26 Nick Nesbitt, Caribbean Critique:
Antillean Critical Theory from
Toussaint to Glissant

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E DWA R D W E LC H
and

JO S E PH M C G ONAG L E

Contesting Views

Contesting Views

The Visual Economy
of France and Algeria

LIV ER POOL U NIV ERSIT Y PR ESS

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Contents
Contents

List of Illustrations

vi

Acknowledgements

vii

Introduction: Visualising the Franco-Algerian Relationship
I

1

Algerian Pasts in the French Public Sphere

1

Wish We Were There: Nostalgic (Re)visions of France’s
Algerian Past

13

2

Visions of History: Looking Back at the Algerian War

39

3

Out of the Shadows: The Visual Career of 17 October 1961

65

II

Mapping Franco-Algerian Borders
in Contemporary Visual Culture

4

War Child: Memory, Childhood and Algerian Pasts in
Recent French Film

5

Bridging the Gap: Representations of the Mediterranean Sea 121

6

A Sense of Place: Envisioning Post-Colonial Space in
France and Algeria

93

145

Conclusion

180

Notes

186

Bibliography

207

Index

226

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Illustrations
Illustrations

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15

Display of books in Bordeaux’s Mollat bookshop, September 2009
Photograph from the cover of Jean-Luc Einaudi, La Bataille de
Paris (Paris: Seuil, 1991). Reproduced by permission.
Photograph from the cover of Jim House and Neil MacMaster,
Paris 1961: Algerians, State Terror, and Memory (Oxford
University Press, 2006). Reproduced by permission.
Front-cover of Paris Match, 28 October 1961.
Reproduced by permission.
Both dream and nightmare: Life in wartime Algeria for Ali in
Cartouches gauloises (Mehdi Charef, 2007)
Once Messaoud, now Michou: Michou d’Auber (Thomas
Gilou, 2007)
Nothing to see? The opening shot of Caché (Michael Haneke,
2005)
Front-cover of Paris Match, 2 June 1962. Reproduced by
permission.
Zineddine Bessaï, H-OUT: Le Guide de la migration (2010)
Reframing the Parisian banlieue: Les Courtillières in Salut
cousin! (Merzak Allouache, 1996)
Oran in Paris: The local Algerian café-bar in L’Autre Côté de
la mer (Dominique Cabrera, 1997)
Policing frontiers in Algiers in Beur blanc rouge (Mahmoud
Zemmouri, 2006)
Before the journey begins: On the margins of Paris in Exils
(Tony Gatlif, 2004)
Sealing Kamel’s fate in Bled Number One (Rabah
Ameur-Zaïmèche, 2006)
Showcasing the city: The Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Afrique in
Il était une fois dans l’Oued (Djamel Bensalah, 2005)

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Acknowledgements
Acknowledgements

The research for this book was funded by a grant from the Arts
and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) between September 2008
and December 2011, ‘France and Algeria: Visualising a (Post-)Colonial
Relationship’. We would like to express our gratitude to the AHRC for
supporting us through the grant and enabling us to undertake this work.
We would also like to thank all those who contributed to the project in
different ways, whether as participants in the various projects associated
with it, or as critical friends, readers and interlocutors. Particular
thanks are due to Guy Austin, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Charles
Forsdick, Jim House, Amy Hubbell, Nadira Laggoune-Aklouche,
Jonathan Long, Andrea Noble, John Perivolaris, Chris Perriam, Henry
Phillips, Libby Saxton and Helen Vassallo. As part of the project, the
authors curated New Cartographies: Algeria–France–UK, an exhibition
of contemporary visual art exploring the theme of the Franco-Algerian
relationship at Cornerhouse, Manchester between April and June 2011.
We would like to express our gratitude to all the team at Cornerhouse
for the enthusiasm and support they gave to the project over a period of
some two years.
Collaborative research and writing is still a rare enough occurrence
in the humanities for it to have been a source of curiosity and conversation with a number of colleagues during the lifetime of the project.
Having emerged enriched from the experience, both authors would
argue strongly for the intellectual stimulation and pleasure to be had in
sharing and discussing ideas over a long period of time, and hope that
both are reflected in the material which follows.
Edward Welch would like to add a personal note of gratitude for the love
and support shown by his wife Sophie and mother Christine during the

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Contesting Views

time of the project and the writing of the book, and to dedicate it to the
memory of his late father Derek.
Joseph McGonagle would like to thank his wife Alex, parents Mary
and Hugh Joseph, and sister Kathleen for their love and encouragement
throughout the project and during the book’s completion.

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Introduction:
Visualising the Franco-Algerian
Relationship
Introduction

Nineteen March 2012 proved to be a notable date in France for two
reasons. First, it was marked by extensive coverage in the French media
of the fiftieth anniversary of the ceasefire agreed in the Évian accords
between the French government and the Gouvernement Provisionnel
de la République Algérienne (GPRA). The ceasefire marked the official
suspension of military hostilities in Algeria, and the first stage of the
process towards the declaration of an Algerian republic on 5 July 1962.
The extent of the coverage, and the way in which it drew together
diverse perspectives on the war, including those which in the past had
often been marginalised or occluded, suggested that after fifty years
France was finally in a position to recognise and acknowledge more fully
the complexity of the Algerian War, its colonial activities in the country,
and their persistence as a reference point for large sections of the French
population.
However, reflection on the war came to be overshadowed by a
dramatic series of events played out that morning in Toulouse in South
West France. Following the assassination of three off-duty soldiers the
previous week, three schoolchildren and an adult were shot dead at close
range outside a Jewish school by a lone gunman, Mohamed Merah. It
soon became clear that the adult was both father to two of the children
and a teacher at the school, and that the other child was the daughter
of the school’s head teacher. Following an armed stand-off at his flat in
the city, Merah would himself be shot dead by a police marksman a few
days later. It would subsequently emerge that Merah, a French citizen of
Algerian origin, claimed to have received training at an Al-Qaeda camp

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Contesting Views

in Pakistan, and had sought to avenge Muslim deaths in Palestine, Iraq
and Afghanistan.
While giving a precise indication of Merah’s ethnic origins, the French
media did not pursue the juxtaposition of the two events, and the echo of
history to be heard – intentionally or otherwise – in Merah’s murderous
assault. Nevertheless, its concern to signal his background did not
escape the attention of the Algerian press, which commented angrily on
it (Akef 2012; Selim 2012). Nor was it surprising that Marine Le Pen,
the leader of the far-right Front National, was quick to instrumentalise
and capitalise on the events as part of her presidential election campaign
(the first round of which was to take place the following month), using
them to thematise anxieties over the perils of immigration and multiculturalism, and the perceived threat posed to French culture by Islam
(Mestra 2012).
Both of the problems posed by the Merah incident – namely, how to
account for the emergence of such radicalised figures in France’s secular
republic, and the reaction in Algeria to the emphasis placed in France
on his ethnic origin – served to encapsulate the persistent legacies and
complexities of the relationship between France and its former colony,
and the equally persistent difficulties of moving that relationship on to
less sensitive, less unstable ground. Ever since Algerian independence
in 1962, the Franco-Algerian relationship has remained fraught with
tension, which manifested itself at various points during the 2000s
alone: in October 2001, at the Stade de France in St-Denis, when France
and Algeria encountered each other for the first time on the football
field, and the French national anthem was booed by large sections
of the crowd; in 2005, during the controversy over the infamous law
passed by the French National Assembly – subsequently repealed by
the Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Council) – on the ‘benefits’
of France’s historical presence overseas, especially in North Africa;
and again in May 2010, when Hors-la-loi, by Franco-Algerian director
Rachid Bouchareb, was presented at the Cannes film festival. Offering a
controversial account of the Algerian struggle for independence, the film
was notable in particular for its evocation of the bloody repression by
French colonial authorities in May 1945 of nationalist protests in Sétif,
and provoked angry responses from politicians on the political right in
France (McGonagle and Welch 2011; Vince 2011: 305–6). As Le Monde
put it somewhat theatrically at the time, referring to the controversy
provoked by the film, ‘entre l’Algérie et la France, le psychodrame est
permanent’.1

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Introduction

3

We would agree with Jean-Robert Henry (1993: 9) that the (pop)
psychoanalytical perspective signalled by Le Monde’s vocabulary is
not always the most appropriate for analysing inter-societal and intercultural relations; but if we follow it for a moment, and pursue the
analysis of France’s Algerian past proposed by Anne Donadey in the
mid-1990s, we can say that since that time the French have left behind
the phase of repression and denial (Donadey 1996) and entered a far
more garrulous phase associated with the Freudian ‘talking cure’. This is
reflected in the increasingly expansive media coverage at key anniversary
moments related to the Algerian War in 2004 and 2012.
Nevertheless, as Benjamin Stora has observed, it is also notable that
the fiftieth anniversary of the ceasefire was met with silence at state level
in both countries, and that any commemorative initiatives in France are
pursed by civil society (for example, veterans’ associations) or at local
political level (through acts such as street naming or the unveiling of
commemorative plaques) (Cailletet 2012: 20). Governmental uncertainty
in the face of France’s colonial legacy, and the simultaneous sensitivity,
particularly on the political right, to lobby groups associated with the
rapatriés of French Algeria, make clear that at all levels the country still
struggles to come to terms with the consequences of the war and the
period of French history it drew to a close. 2
In her influential account of decolonisation and modernisation in
post-war France, Kristin Ross has argued that the Gaullist government
‘slammed shut the door’ on colonial history with the end of the Algerian
War (1995: 9), refusing to look back as it marched steadfastly into a
future that was to be technologically improved and technocratically
managed. Moreover, as Todd Shepard (2006b) has examined persuasively, the regime’s desire for a clean break with its Algerian past was
encoded in the various legal and administrative procedures enacting
Algerian independence and the process of decolonisation, not the least
of which involved establishing clear dividing lines of citizenship between
the different populations in Algeria, and making decisions about who
did and did not have the right to be seen, and see themselves, as French.
In an ideal world, one might have imagined the separation of France
and Algeria to be a relatively straightforward matter. The clean break
desired by the governments on both sides of the Mediterranean should
have been facilitated by the physical distance between the two countries;
but, as Richard Derderian (2002) has pointed out, it was of course not
to be. The desire to shut the door on the colonial past overlooked (or
wilfully ignored) the extent to which it would remain a fundamental

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part of lived experience for millions of people – whether as affective and
emotional bonds rooted in memory and myth, or as transnational links
and networks resulting from migration, exchange and passage back and
forth between the two countries. Indeed, the complexity and intricacy
of those links proved to be such that in 1998, Étienne Balibar would
question the extent to which France and Algeria could be considered
two separate nations. In a way, suggested Balibar, we do not really
cross between France and Algeria at all, but are constantly encountering
and negotiating the legacies and consequences of their shared history,
and their on-going imbrication. For him, what he termed ‘l’ensemble
franco-algérien’ exists as a vast ‘frontière-monde’, or frontier world
(Balibar 1998: 81). At once an entity which resembles a vast frontier
zone of contact, co-mingling and métissage, it is also a space with
global resonance through the way it highlights the currents of trade and
migration symptomatic of the contemporary world.
The persistent and unavoidable significance of the Franco-Algerian
relationship, both in terms of their shared past and how that past plays
itself out in the present, has been explored at various points in the
previous two decades. The attention paid to it reflects both its specific
importance in the history of each country and its exemplarity in terms
of understanding the nature of post-colonial relations and the condition
of ‘postcoloniality’ more broadly. 3 Edited volumes by Hargreaves and
Heffernan (1993) and Lorcin (2006) have underscored the historical
depth and intricacy of the relationship in colonial and post-colonial
contexts. Silverstein (2004) examines transnational and transpolitical
networks between Algeria and France in the contemporary period, and
considers how France becomes a location in which issues relating to
contemporary Algerian (and especially Berber) politics and identity are
played out and inflected in that context.
We would share these scholars’ belief in the centrality of the FrancoAlgerian relationship, and France’s Algerian past, for understanding the
past and present of both countries. Our aim in this book is to explore it
from a particular vantage point, one that, like Poe’s purloined letter, is
at once strikingly obvious and yet, in many respects, has often remained
unremarked – namely, how the Franco-Algerian relationship finds itself
articulated, expressed and represented through visual means and in
visual form. As is often the case in such matters, this vantage point can
emerge in ways and locations which might seem peripheral or ephemeral,
but in fact (and perhaps for that very reason) prove themselves to be at
once revealing and significant.

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Introduction

Figure 1

5

September 2009 display in Bordeaux’s Mollat bookshop

In September 2009, for example, one of the authors encountered a
display of books in Bordeaux’s famous Mollat bookshop on the theme
of the Algerian War and French Algeria (Fig. 1). The display had
undoubtedly been motivated by the publication a few weeks earlier of
the novel Des hommes by Laurent Mauvignier, prominently displayed at
the centre of the table. Des hommes tells the story of a group of former
conscript soldiers in provincial France, whose memories of their time
in Algeria during their military service continue to haunt them in later
life. The booksellers of Mollat clearly saw in the novel’s publication an
opportunity to bring together a number of related books on the theme,
including historical accounts by well-known scholars of the period such
as Yves Courrière, Jean-Luc Einaudi and Benjamin Stora, and classic
texts such as La Question (1958), Henri Alleg’s account of torture at the
hands of the French army in Algiers.

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The book display was noteworthy for two reasons in particular.
First, it signalled the extent to which France’s Algerian past increasingly
permeates public space in France in a range of ways, from the ephemeral
and opportunistic, to more permanent expressions of collective memory
such as street naming or the inscription of war memorials. It offered an
instance of the sorts of traces of Algeria in France which Leïla Sebbar
mapped across three volumes of diaries in the 2000s (Sebbar 2004;
2005; 2008).4 At the same time, and crucially, it drew attention to the
role played by the visual image and visual forms in mediating that
presence. If the display caught the eye, it was in large part because of the
photographs used on the covers of a number of the books to present and
mediate the historical accounts and narratives they developed.
If we dwell on a seemingly fleeting constellation of images and objects
such as this, it is because it exemplifies a broader phenomenon which our
book sets out to examine. The visual qualities of the display underline
and illustrate the degree to which the Franco-Algerian relationship,
and France’s Algerian history, are played out and staged through visual
culture. Moreover, they point to a number of questions driving our
investigation: what vision of the conflict do such images articulate?
What work do they do in shaping perceptions and understanding of the
war? What impression do they convey of France’s colonial expansion
and its relationship to the contemporary period?
In other words, the Mollat book display at once confirms Sebbar’s
insight that France is shot through with traces and memories of Algeria,
and invites us to pursue it further, by foregrounding the central role
played by the visual image and visual culture in mediating those traces
and memories. Our book therefore explores how visual culture, in its
range of modes and forms, shapes understanding of the Franco-Algerian
relationship and France’s Algerian past. Part I focuses especially on the
role played by the photographic image in this process, for two reasons.
First, while historians are beginning to acknowledge the centrality of
the photographic image in mediating French Algeria and the Algerian
War, as we discuss further in Chapter 2, there has been so far relatively
little critical analysis of photographic material from, and of, the period.
Secondly, in examining that material, and as we discuss at length
in Chapter 3, our study seeks to push forward recent work on the
relationship between photography and history, and the role played by
the photographic image in shaping historical understanding. That is
to say, investigating the visual representation of the Algerian War and
France’s Algerian past offers new insights into how that history has been

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Introduction

7

articulated and vehicled in the public sphere; and, at the same time, it
sheds light on broader issues relating to the place of the photographic
image within history and historiography.
While the photographic image is a key focal point for this book, our
aim is also to situate both still and moving images in relation to each
other as part of a broader spectrum of visual culture. We understand
visual culture to encompass a broad array of visual forms and media. For
example, we would argue for the need to consider how the photographic
image itself functions across a range of different contexts, from the
disposable or semi-permanent format of the newspaper or magazine, to
the highly valued (in economic and cultural terms) work of documentary
photographers such as Raymond Depardon, or visual artists such as
Zineb Sedira. More specifically, we would follow the anthropologist
Deborah Poole in arguing that we need to approach visual material
not simply as constituting a ‘visual culture’, but as forming part of a
‘visual economy’; that is to say, as bound up in processes of ‘production,
circulation, consumption and production of images’ (Poole 1997: 8). In
thinking about the visual economy of the Franco-Algerian relationship,
we need to remain attentive to the different ways in which images – both
still and moving – circulate within and between the two countries, and
what sort of images tend to dominate those flows. We also need to bear
in mind another idea implicit within the notion of a visual economy, that
of the often unequal relationships on which those flows are predicated.
At various points in the book emerge questions about where images are
produced; who produces them; how they enter circulation; and how, in
doing so, they begin to constitute a form of visual understanding about
France and Algeria, whether it be in relation to the picture postcard
producers of the early twentieth century (Chapter 1), or the independent
filmmakers of Algerian origin at the turn of the twenty-first century
(Chapter 6).
The book tracks the visual economy of the Franco-Algerian relationship
across different periods, from the colonial to the post-colonial. It is also
alert to the relationships and connections between those periods, turning
its attention especially to how the colonial is configured and represented
visually in post-colonial contexts and debates. It is arguably here, in
the constant interplay between past and present, history and memory,
where the complexity and specificity of the Franco-Algerian relationship
lie. Part I pays close attention to the weight and role of history in the
relationship. It considers the visualisation of French Algeria and the
Algerian War both at the time and subsequently, investigating how

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historical understanding of these periods takes shape retrospectively
through the visual image. Its primary (though not exclusive) emphasis is
on the French context, which reflects in part the extent to which France’s
Algerian past has emerged as a central preoccupation in the country in
recent decades. Furthermore, as the subject of each chapter makes clear,
this habitually involves marginalised memories and memory groups of
different kinds.
One of the peculiarities of the Algerian War and France’s Algerian
past is the way in which the position of victimhood is taken up by
different, and potentially competing, groups, all of whom feel themselves
to be excluded from historical narratives of the war, and are driven by a
sense of historical injustice, whether real or perceived (Branche 2005: 13;
Derderian 2002). We examine how the photographic image plays a role
in articulating these marginalised perspectives and reinscribing them
into broader historical narratives about France’s Algerian past. Chapter
1 explores the restaging of French Algeria in nostalgic photo-books
produced by and for a pied-noir audience. 5 In Chapter 2, we see
how the photographic image becomes an important means by which
conscript soldiers can reassert a lived experience of the Algerian War
which was for many years occluded. Chapter 3 explores how the
events of October 1961 in Paris, when a peaceful protest by Algerian
immigrants was brutally repressed by the Paris police, are articulated
through photography both at the time and subsequently, as they come
to be recognised as a key episode of the war, and those involved, their
relatives and the activists supporting them, make demands for historical
justice.
In Part II, we examine how the Franco-Algerian relationship continues
to be played out in contemporary visual culture. We consider how
contemporary visual culture shows itself to be preoccupied both with
the legacy of the Algerian War and with the ongoing intricacies of
the Franco-Algerian relationship in the post-colonial era. Chapter 4
draws attention to the striking way in which contemporary cinema
by directors from a range of backgrounds (Franco-Algerian, Algerian
émigré, European) have chosen to restage and present the Algerian
War from a child’s perspective, and the perspective of the male child
in particular. The remaining two chapters discuss how the social,
political and cultural configurations produced by the end of France’s
colonial activity in Algeria, and the persistent legacy of that activity in
the post-colonial era, are articulated in visual forms, whether it be in
terms of a mystified relationship with Algeria as mother country among

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Introduction

9

French youths born to parents of Algerian origin, or the multitude of
familial and cultural networks which bind together France and Algeria
and make negotiating between the two central to the lived experience
of countless individuals. The chapters consider too how recent events,
such as the brutal civil conflict in Algeria during the 1990s, render even
more complicated attempts to live through and with the legacies of the
colonial period.
These final two chapters foreground especially some of the key
theatres and spaces in which the Franco-Algerian relationship is staged.
Chapter 5 highlights the role played by the Mediterranean as a locus
of representation, and explores the dual values it carries: as barrier or
frontier on the one hand, for people on both its French and Algerian
shores; and as bridge, hyphen or point of crossing on the other. If,
following Balibar, we need to think through France and Algeria together,
then it is the physical space of the Mediterranean especially which is
arguably one of the most active parts of that frontier world. It has a vital
role to play in inflecting individual trajectories and producing complex
post-colonial subjectivities – subjectivities which, as Élisabeth Leuvrey
makes clear in her documentary film La Traversée [The Crossing] (2006),
are predicated on a sense of ‘in-between-ness’ or ‘back-and-forthness’
between France and Algeria.
Chapter 6 takes us back to dry land. It draws attention to how the
Franco-Algerian relationship is staged through the visual representation of space in both countries. It maps trends over the 1990s and
2000s, during which time the primary stage for portraying the FrancoAlgerian relationship shifted from France to Algeria, and visual culture
offered a means to normalise and even render spectacular a beleaguered
country emerging from its civil war. It considers how France and
Algeria are made visible to each other through contemporary visual
culture, and how some visual tropes which emerged during the colonial
period (such as the visualisation of Algiers as a dazzling seaboard
city) continue to play a role in this. It considers too how the staging
of the Franco-Algerian relationship is configured by photographers
and filmmakers from different contexts and backgrounds, whether it
be French filmmakers of pied-noir origin; Algerian émigré directors;
or indeed, internationally renowned documentary photographers who
bring to bear on contemporary Algeria a means of viewing and a
technical apparatus designed to emphasise the scale and beauty of the
country, with the hopeful intention of encouraging consensus about its
past, present and future.

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10

Contesting Views

However, it is with a return to French Algeria that our study begins.
We investigate how it has been portrayed, staged and restaged, as it
recedes into history and persists as an object of controversy.

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