Dangerous shortcuts (II)

The following message was adressed to several editors of mainstream media outlets in Britain (including The Guardian, The Independent, and the BBC). Colleagues wishing to add their signature to this message may do so by indicating their name and institutional affiliation in the comment section of this post
Le message suivant, signé par plusieurs de nos collègues, a été envoyé à différents médias britanniques, en protestation contre les raccourcis historiques utilisés après les attentats de Paris, raccourcis déjà dénoncés par Natalya Vince dans un précédent billet. Les collègues qui souhaitent y ajouter leur signature peuvent le faire en indiquant leur nom et leur affiliation dans les commentaires de ce post.

Paris attacks have nothing to do with the Algerian War of Independence

A number of commentators in the mainstream British media, notably Andrew Hussey on BBC radio (also a regular Guardian columnist) and Robert Fisk in The Independent, have evoked the Algerian War of Independence between 1954 and 1962 as an interpretative lens for understanding the motivations of the 13 November attackers. In short, they claim that the violence of colonialism and the war of decolonisation have engendered an ancestral desire for revenge amongst younger generations of French citizens of Algerian origin. Such a reading ignores the specificities of the present situation and fails to provide any convincing explanation of how this ‘memory’ is transmitted from generation to generation: it is profoundly unhistorical. It reduces whole peoples to perceived unchanging cultural characteristics: this is blatant essentialism. It implies that all Franco-Algerians carry around with them a sense of unfinished history which can only be assuaged through reciprocal violence: this is both insulting and stigmatising. It also plays fast and loose with the facts – the reported mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is Belgian-Moroccan. One of the key slogans of the past ten days has been ‘pas d’amalgame’ – that is to say, do not conflate the action of a few radical Islamists with the wider Muslim population. We must also avoid conflating the Franco-Algerian past with the current context in an analytically lazy and politically dangerous way.

Dr Linda Amiri, Université de Guyane
Arthur Asseraf, All Souls College, University of Oxford
Walid Benkhaled, University of Portsmouth
Dr Emile Chabal, University of Edinburgh
Professor Tony Chafer, University of Portsmouth
Dr Patrick Crowley, University College Cork
Dr Muriam Haleh Davis, European University Institute/ University of California
Dr James McDougall, University of Oxford
Dr Claire Eldridge, University of Leeds
Dr Samuel Everett, Woolf Institute, Cambridge/ EPHE Paris
Dr Darcie Fontaine, University of South Florida
Dr Jim House, University of Leeds
Caroline Izambert, PhD student at the CRH-EHESS/ teacher at Collège La Courtille, Saint Denis
Dr Ed Naylor, University of Portsmouth
Dr M’hamed Oualdi, Princeton University
Dr Terence G. Peterson, Stanford University
Dr Malika Rahal, Institut d’histoire du temps présent, CNRS Paris
Dr Jennifer Sessions, University of Iowa
Dr Todd Shepard, Institute of Advanced Study, Aix-Marseille University/ John Hopkins University
Dr Natalya Vince, University of Portsmouth
Dr Louisa Zanoun, Génériques (Paris-based NGO working on the history of immigration)

An extended critique of the (mis)use of the Algerian War in coverage of the Paris attacks written by Dr Natalya Vince has been simultaneously published on the French academic blog Textures du temps http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/1754 and the British academic blog Francophone Africa: http://francophone.port.ac.uk/?p=931

Auteur : Malika Rahal

Malika Rahal est historienne, chargée de recherche à l'Institut d'histoire du temps présent (CNRS). Dr. Malika Rahal is a historian at the Institut d'histoire du temps présent (CNRS) الدكتورة ملكة رحّال باحثة في تاريخ، معهد تاريخ الزمن الحاضر، المركز الوطني للبحث العلمي

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