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Experiences and Memories of French and Algerian Veterans. Remembering the 'petite guerre' in the Aurès-Nememcha

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PETITE GUERRE (Experiences and Memories of French and Algerian Veterans. Remembering the 'petite guerre' in the Aurès-Nememcha)

Período documentado: 2015-09-01 hasta 2017-08-31

This project investigated the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962) from a new perspective. It framed a transnational history of the war, going beyond both the opposing French and Algerian national narratives, to resituate the war in its Mediterranean, European, and eventually its global contexts. This general research objective has been achieved by using a microhistorical approach: instead of looking at the conflict as a generic “whole” and examining its reverberations in an elusive “collective memory”, the project focused on a specific region, the Aurès-Nememcha in the Algerian south-east. At the core of this project were the specific experiences and memories of French and Algerian veterans who fought each other for eight years in this mountainous, Berberophone area.
With a view to articulating this general objective, the project followed three interrelated lines of enquiry and pursued three specific research objectives: 1. A close reading of the “petite guerre” in the Aurès-Nememcha. By means of a microhistorical approach, a three-dimensional investigation focused on: (a) the Chaouïa, the Berber population of the region; (b) the geographical and geopolitical location of the Aurès-Nememcha, and its translocal links with other “worlds” (first of all Berber, but also African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and European); and (c) the French presence and rule in the region with respect to its complex colonial relationship in Algeria. 2. Counterinsurgency warfare and veterans’ experiences. By means of an historical anthropology of combat, this project pursued a close study of the fighters of both sides. This innovative approach offered fresh insight into both the place of warfare in societies and on the cultural—mobile and conflicting—construction of the enemy (the Other) and of selfhood. 3. A multilayered memory framework. The micro-scale approach shed new light on the individual and collective processes of the memorialisation of the war, in contemporary Algeria and France. Far from the authoritarian synthesis so often presented as the “collective memory”, the project rooted memories in a precisely located framework and then looked at how they are worked through in individual and local life-histories. In so doing, the project paid particular attention to two dimensions of veterans’ memorialisation.
From the point of view of the gathering of data, the fellow has done participant observation and recorded interviews with 23 Algerian veterans, including 2 women. 5 sons of veterans and 6 nephews (including 1 women) have also been interviewed: they have been included and involved in the research, because they played often a key role, far beyond their role of “fixers” or translators (interpreting, commenting, disagreeing and intervening generally). The fellow has also done participant observation and recorded interviews with 19 French veterans, and 1 son of veteran. In Algeria, the interviews have been recorded across the entire region of the Aurès-Nememcha; in France, mainly in Paris and Marseille. The fieldwork was organised in three phases: between January and March 2016, and again in July 2017 for the interviews in Algeria; between December 2016 and February 2017 for the interviews in France. Archival research was conducted mainly in Paris and Aix-en-Provence.
During these two years, Brazzoduro has also been very active in the host institution: teaching (“The Global 20th Century”), participating in seminars (including the seminar series convened by the Oxford Centre for Global History, where the fellow is an associate researcher) and organising events. The most significant of these was a 3-day international conference The Algerian War of Independence: Global and Local Histories (1954-62, and Beyond). Co-convened with Dr James McDougall and Dr Natalya Vince (Portsmouth), the conference was funded by the British Academy and the Faculty of History, and was held in May 2017 (Middle East Centre and Trinity College, Oxford).
In the second year, the fellow focused mainly on the preparation of several publications based on the results of the research. Two of these publications are articles for peer-reviewed journals. The first, ‘A Third Millennium Memorial? French Veterans and the Impossible Commemoration of the Franco-Algerian War” will appear in History & Memory in 2018. The second, ‘Experience and Memories of French and Algerian Veterans. Remembering the “petite guerre” of the Aurès-Nememcha Mountains’ has been submitted to the Journal of Contemporary History. The theoretical framework of the research project (‘Oral Histories and Postcolonial Memories. Towards a Multivocal Narrative of the Algerian War for Independence’) was published in 2016 as a book chapter.
During the second year, Brazzoduro had also worked towards the publication of two different books. The first is a Special Issue of the Journal of North African Studies entitled ‘The Algerian War of Independence: Global and Local Histories (1954-62, and Beyond)’. This collects papers from the May 2017 Oxford conference, and will be published by the end of 2018. The second book is the monograph resulting from the project, titled ‘The “Revolution” in the Aurès. War, Memory, Belonging, Generations (1954-2016). (Expression of interest received from Cambridge University Press.)
In terms of presentation of results to various audiences, Brazzoduro has presented the findings of the project at several academic meetings: ‘Constantine et sa region dans le movement national et la guerre de libération’ (conference, Université Mentouri, Constantine, Algeria); XIII Annual Conference of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies (University of Catania); ‘Representing Extreme Violence’ (seminar, Paris Ouest Nanterre University); ‘De-Framing the Mediterranean from the 21st Century: Places, Routes, Actors’ (Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Rethymno, Grece, 19-29 September 2016).
The results of the research project PETITE GUERRE have exceeded the Fellow’s expectations. In particular, it is important to emphasise the following achievements and their impact:
- a total of 54 in-depth interviews were conducted during the fellowship, indeed a particularly high number of interviews for a qualitative research project. Amongst them, it is worth noticing the interviews with many Algerian peasants from the region of the Aurès mountains who are still a very invisible group.
- the innovative character of the PETITE GUERRE project can be sized by the interest that it has raised amongst scholars, publishing houses and other funding bodies. The project has met the interest of the Faculty of History (Oxford) and of the British Academy which have funded the organisation of a major international conference. Both the Journal of North African Studies and Cambridge University Press have reacted positively to the proposal made by the fellow of a volume around this topic.
- the European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College (Oxford) awarded Brazzoduro with a Deakin fellowship, starting immediately after the end of the project, in order to allow him to complete the resulting monograph.