Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Patrick Crowley
SFPS Annual Conference Conflict and Commemoration in the Postcolonial Francophone World
Commemorating Algerian Martyrs: The Seductions of ‘Ghostly National Imaginings'
Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Commemorating Algerian Martyrs: The Seductions of ‘Ghostly National Imaginings’ 2014 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Algeria War of Independence (1954-62). One of the bloodiest wars of decolonization in Africa, it remains the key site of memory in the construction of Algerian nation-state identity. No-where is this more visually and symbolically in evidence than in the national monument the Makam al-Shahid. On May 8, 1974 President Boumediène, in a commemorative speech that marked the 1945 massacre in Sétif and other towns in eastern Algeria, said that history should not serve the living but should glorify the dead. To this end Boumediène’s project for a national monument to the martyrs of the War of Independence was finally realised in 1982 on the twentieth anniversary. Makam al-Shahid is an extraordinary monument that dominates the approach to the city of Algiers and contains within it a museum. This paper analyses the function and form of the Makam al-Shahid and sets up a range of readings from historical text books used in Algerian primary schools as well as the aesthetic representation of trauma and history in the work of the Algerian artist Dalila Dalléas Bouzar whose collection of images are the focus of Algérie, Année 0 (2012) and the writer El-Mahdi Acherchour whose novel Moineau (2010) is set in Boumediène’s Algeria and offers a formalist counterpoint to the state’s instrumentalization of commemoration. My main focus will be on how the nation-state’s distorted narrative of beginnings has produced a form of disavowal; one that displaces the recent traumas of the 1990s with the chosen trauma of colonization and the War of Independence. How forms of art can be complicit with, or resist, this disavowal provides a second thread to the argument.