The real fraternity that pieds-noirs claim characterized relations in colonial Algeria is, for them, proven by the decision of over , Algerians to risk their lives in order to defend this French Algeria. The Bachaga was particularly valuable in this regard; he was invoked frequently. His status was used to refute the suggestion that indigenous Algerians were treated as second-class subjects, rather than as fully equal citizens.
Therefore, although the pieds-noirs position themselves in contrast to political parties who were only interested in the harkis when it served their own ends, such as in the run up to elections, in truth, their representations were equally self-serving. This is just one example of the fact that the pied-noir population acts first and foremost as its own memory carrier, evoking the harkis only if and when they are useful to their own cause.
Co-operation between the former Muslim elite, veterans and the pieds-noirs is a long-standing phenomenon. The connections between the three are multiple and over the years have enabled them to create a dense network through which to propagate their mutually reaffirming discourses about the harkis. They enjoyed nothing like the power of the state in terms of disseminating their historical interpretations.
Outside of representations offered by those with a vested interest in the harki community, another vector of transmission was the French media. The state was depicted as facilitating the integration of this community, while the closing shots lingered on a harki family whose children had been given French first names, implying that the seeds of successful assimilation had been sown.
This deviated from the usual pattern of inviting pieds-noirs to discuss the harkis as a brief segment within programmes dedicated to their own community. However, in spite of their initial dominance, these interpretations were eventually challenged through the activism of the children of the harkis. The process by which they sought to reclaim their community's past will now be examined. With such a vital imperative driving them, it is tempting to argue that the children of the harkis simply collected fragments relating to the past, wherever available, and fitted them together as best they could to form a picture that was at least comprehensible.
In support of this contention, it is possible to cite the strong similarities between the vocabulary used by the children of the harkis in their early campaigns and that used by commentators external to the community. For the sociologist Emmanuel Brillet this phenomenon of incorporation can be explained by the absence of an internally generated collective memory. The discourses of others have not simply been passively absorbed and regurgitated; instead, there has from the outset been a clearly articulated desire on the part of the children of the harkis to write their own history and thus to take back control of their community's identity and destiny.
Reappropriating the past was thus seen as a way for the second generation not only to obtain retrospective historical justice but also to situate their own identity in the present. This impulse is by no means unique to the children of the harkis , it is common to all who have been denied the right to speak for themselves.
Rivesaltes Transit and Rehabilitation Camps 1962–1977
That it took a generation longer for the harki community to reach this stage is explicable primarily by reference to the institutionalized environments they lived in: unlike the homeland they left behind, the harkis themselves were never decolonized; they never had the opportunity to participate collectively in symbolic acts of decolonization such as the annual Independence Day celebrations. Although he demanded justice for the harkis and their families, Larradji in fact came from an elite background and seemed quite happy to ally with the pied-noir community both during and after This criticism intensified following the co-option by certain pieds-noirs of the revolt's momentum and visibility which they then used to pressure the government over the issue of indemnification for their own community, eventually securing new measures which failed to make any provision for the harkis.
Yet despite these limitations, Larradji was important as a figurehead who galvanized many within a previously apathetic community. These examples are illustrative of a broader process which involved the children of the harkis taking back control of the presentation of their own past by contesting and rejecting certain interpretations advanced by others. Chief among these was the notion that their fathers were traitors who betrayed their Algerian brothers, an accusation frequently cited as having tainted both parents and children.
In addition to accepted or rejected images from external narratives, the memory advanced by the children of the harkis also included internally generated components. These memories tend to revolve around three pivotal events: the war, departure from Algeria, and arrival in France. Once safely on a boat bound for France, Arfi described the atmosphere as one of oppressive silence, broken only by the subdued weeping of the women. These internally generated elements therefore form a significant aspect of the historical interpretations that the children of the harkis came to champion.
The interpretation of the past articulated by the children of the harkis on behalf of their parents was very much a composite entity, constructed from a combination of internal and external narratives available in the post-war decades. The years leading up to , but particularly from onwards, were crucial in its gestation; they were a period not only of mounting tension and frustration, but also of a gradual gaining in confidence among the second generation which ultimately enabled them to assert their own understanding of the history of the harkis , instead of allowing the continuing domination of the field by outside commentators.
Within this evolution, the existence of externally generated elite discourses about the harkis was crucial, giving the second generation something both to react against and to borrow from. The content of these elite narratives is valuable not only as a point of comparison to the version of the past proposed by the children of the harkis , but also because of what it reveals about the agendas, priorities and self-conceptions of those seeking to speak on behalf of the harkis , many of whom, particularly indigenous notables such as the Bachaga and the pied-noir community, continue to lack serious and sustained scholarly treatments.
Yet if was a turning point for the children of the harkis as a memory carrier in their own right, it was also a key year for the portrayal of the Algerian War of Independence in France.
Since the collective history and memory of a group are far from static, these developments naturally had, and continue to have, a considerable impact upon all representations of the harkis discussed here. Being able to trace the evolutions of these various presentations of the past, illuminating the imperatives that lie behind them and the ways in which they interact with each other, is thus an important part of establishing a more complete understanding of the place occupied by the Algerian War of Independence in France and how this has changed during the forty-five years since the end of the conflict.
By focusing on the specific case study of constructions of the history of the harkis , this article has endeavoured to highlight some of the broader processes at work and the issues pertinent to the study of the mobilization and transmission of France's colonial past in a postcolonial context. The author would like to thank Stephen Tyre and the French History reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions during the preparation of this article.
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Au temps de la colonie…
Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract When riots broke out in the Bias Camp east of Bordeaux in May , few in France had heard of the harkis , the Algerian auxiliaries who fought for the French during the Algerian War of Independence — Hamoumou, with A. Harbi and B. Stora Paris, , p.
While the wives and widows of harkis were often a consideration for these activists and some women did participate in protests, it was not until after that females from the harki community assumed a prominent role, notably Dalila Kerchouche and Fatima Besnaci-Lancou.
It does not imply that the identity of the parents is automatically transferred to their children but is used instead to distinguish between memories specific to those who lived through the war as adults, the first generation, and those of their children, the second generation. See in particular: M. Hamoumou, Et ils sont devenu harkis Paris, ; J. Jordi and M.
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Muller, Le silence des harkis Paris, ; N. For collections of received testimony: B. Derrieu et al. Gladieu and D. Kerchouche, Destins de harkis: aux racines d'un exil Paris, ; F. Mauro and B. Treize chibanis harkis Paris, Winter and E. Sivan, eds. The earliest estimate came from the Le Monde journalist Jean Lacouture who advanced a figure of 10, on 13 Nov.
Thirty years later, he revised his calculation upwards to , This is also the statistic quoted by the majority of harki and pied-noir associations. Lorcin Syracuse, NY, , p.
Returning to the “Return”: pied-noir Memories of
William Cohen claimed that government-organized repatriation programmes brought 25, harkis and their dependents to France between and , while a further 68, entered the country by unofficial means, frequently with the assistance of their former officers who acted in direct contravention of orders from their metropolitan-based superiors. Other academics however, have advanced figures of between 65, and , Brossat and J. For a full list of the camps and their locations: C.
However, the harki community was not a natural phenomenon. The camps were a mix of tribes, regions, and dialects; any sense of unity was based on a shared experience of loss, isolation, and deprivation rather than any inherent ethnic commonality. Stora and T. For further analysis of Algerian politics in the post-war period: M. Evans and J. The Bachaga also somehow found the time to pen three books in as many years, all in defence of the harkis.