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Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Europe

Maltese Settlers in Algeria and France

Andrea L. Smith

Publication Year: 2006

"[I]ntersects with very active areas of research in history and anthropology, and links these domains of inquiry spanning Europe and North Africa in a creative and innovative fashion." -- Douglas Holmes, Binghamton University

Maltese settlers in colonial Algeria had never lived in France, but as French citizens were abruptly "repatriated" there after Algerian independence in 1962. In France today, these pieds-noirs are often associated with "Mediterranean" qualities, the persisting tensions surrounding the French-Algerian War, and far-right, anti-immigrant politics. Through their social clubs, they have forged an identity in which Malta, not Algeria, is the unifying ancestral homeland. Andrea L. Smith uses history and ethnography to argue that scholars have failed to account for the effect of colonialism on Europe itself. She explores nostalgia and collective memory; the settlers' liminal position in the colony as subalterns and colonists; and selective forgetting, in which Malta replaces Algeria, the "true" homeland, which is now inaccessible, fraught with guilt and contradiction. The study provides insight into race, ethnicity, and nationalism in Europe as well as cultural context for understanding political trends in contemporary France.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-xi

The people in this book occupy an ambiguous position between modernity and postmodernity, between colonial Africa and postcolonial Europe. They have migrated from Malta to North Africa to France, and so much of our time together over the past ten years has been spent returning mentally to these former homes and former times. This is a book about how places ...

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1. A Song in Malta

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pp. 1-32

I can remember the First World War,” Joseph Zammit1 announced. We were waiting for lunch in a dusty coffee shop on the Maltese island of Gozo during a tour organized by former colonial settlers of Algeria who were of Maltese ancestry. Joseph continued: “They made a giant effigy of William II, filled it with firecrackers, and blew it up!” Joseph was in his early ...

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2. Maltese Settler Clubs in France

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pp. 33-62

The very existence of the Amicale France-Malte and other Franco-Maltese settler clubs suggests the perpetuation of a distinct Maltese identity sustained by distant memories of Malta in the colony and now in contemporary France. This is not unheard of: a shared knowledge of a lost homeland and a people’s departure from it can serve to unite people for ...

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3. A Hierarchy of Settlers and the Liminal Maltese

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pp. 63-97

The existence of the Maltese clubs is our first indication that settler assimilation to French culture in Algeria was not as thorough or complete as many historical sources would lead us to believe. As I spent time with the former settlers at their social gatherings, I encountered additional clues indicating that a wealth of ethnic and other distinctions continue to ...

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4. The Algerian Melting Pot

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pp. 98-118

The initial awkward liminal status of the early Maltese immigrants in French Algeria was complicated by their confrontation of contradictory forces in the evolving settler society. Through legislation governing access to land and other concessions, they and other “foreign” settlers were relegated to a lower class status, that of subaltern colonists, and yet, as the ...

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5. The Ambivalence of Assimilation

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pp. 119-140

A group’s social memory develops not in a vacuum but in relation to other representations of the past generated by an array of sources, such as professional historians, school texts, public discourse, popular culture, family members, and religious organizations. Some of these representations are promulgated by organizations closely related to the government ...

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6. The French-Algerian War and Its Aftermath

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pp. 141-159

The French-Algerian War is the great break dividing the lives of the settlers in half: the times before the war, which tend to be remembered tinged with a gilded nostalgia, and the years since, which are discussed with considerably less enthusiasm. Life in Algeria, followed by life in France. “It’s as if we went from life in color, to life in black and white,” one woman ...

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7. Diaspora, Rejection, and Nostalgérie

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pp. 160-188

During an interview in her tiny high-rise apartment overlooking the Aixois treetops, Louise Marino struggled to describe the time of her family’s departure from Algeria to France, and tried to account for her confusion. “France is our patrie [fatherland, nation], but it isn’t our pays [homeland, country],” she explained. “The most beautiful country in the ...

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8. Settler Ethnicity and Identity Politics in Postcolonial France

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pp. 189-209

The settler interest in forming associations is not unusual for France, where these institutions form a general template for all voluntary organizations. However, many French from North Africa told me that these activities are more important for repatriates in general and the pieds-noirs in particular. Lucette Buttigeig is a middle-aged nun of Maltese heritage who ...

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9. Place, Replaced: Malta as Algeria in the Pied-noir Imagination

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pp. 210-232

When I traveled with twenty members and friends of the Amicale France-Malte on a week-long voyage to Malta in September 1995, I looked forward to the trip with considerable anticipation. I was eager to learn what it was about Malta that proved so alluring to these elderly former settlers. Most of the people Michel and François had assembled that ...

NOTES

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pp. 233-244

SOURCES CITED

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pp. 245-258

INDEX

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pp. 259-269


E-ISBN-13: 9780253111890
E-ISBN-10: 0253111897
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253347626

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 4 maps, 1 index
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: New Anthropologies of Europe

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Subject Headings

  • French -- Algeria.
  • France -- Ethnic relations.
  • Maltese -- France -- Ethnic identity.
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