Why does the memory of empire matter today? What can we learn from the case study of the French settlers of Algeria?
This course is about the collective memory of empire. Led by researchers at the University of Stirling, Scotland, you will examine the different ways the colonial past influences the present through the specific case study of the French settlers of Algeria.
Algeria was a French settler colony from 1830 to 1962. Following the violent conclusion of an 8-year long struggle for Algerian Independence, nearly 1 million settlers left in a few months. Although officially French, for many of them, France – the ‘mother-country’ – was a foreign land. Since then, settler activist groups have campaigned to have themselves recognised as victims of decolonisation, rather than as perpetrators of an oppressive and racist colonial system.
This story is little known in the English-speaking world but is actually an excellent case study for understanding the role of colonial memory in our own troubled times. With the rise of nationalism, evidenced by Brexit in the UK and Trump in the USA, the memory of imperial pasts are called on by populist movements as proof of potential future glory. Investigating how the French settlers of Algeria remember themselves and their history in colonial Algeria can shed lights how myths about colonialism are shaped and why they might not tell us the whole story.
The course will be useful for anyone interested in the legacies of colonialism in contemporary discourse. It is relevant to a variety of industries and contexts: museums and heritage, cultural industries, education, charities, and memory activists.
No prior knowledge of the subject matter is required. All materials will be provided in English.
Chapter One: Approaches to Remembering the Past
What are the different models of memory? What is memory based on competition? What is memory based on implication?
Chapter Two: Settling Algeria from 1830
What happened in the early years of French Algeria? How are they remembered?
Chapter Three: Settler society
What were some of the myths about settler society? What were the material realities of settler colonialism in Algeria?
Chapter Four: The War of Independence
The Algerian War of Independence is a crucial part of 20th century world history. How is it understood by the former French settlers?
Chapter Five: Repatriation and Exile
What happened to the settlers when they left, en masse, in 1962? How has this moment shaped their memories?