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Social Memories in (Post)colonial France: Remembering the Franco-Algerian War
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines social memories in France over the last 10 years. There has been a significant amount of 'memory work' during this period, concerning various aspects of French history, including the World Wars, but predominantly postcolonial issues: the Algerian War, the legacy of slavery, memories of Empire and memories of Immigration in particular. The 'devoir de mémoire' (duty to remember) and 'work of memory' (Paul Ricoeur) have taken on greater, and controversial, proportions. While President Jacques Chirac was for some the 'président du devoir de mémoire' (President who championed the duty to remember), President Nicolas Sarkozy seems intent on ending what he sees as the trend towards 'repentance'. After a discussion of the wider memory culture in France, this article focuses on collective and social memories of the Franco-Algerian War (1954-62) Through an analysis of various 'vectors of memory' (Henry Rousso) it argues that the recent upsurge in 'memory work' in France is very much anchored in the present postcolonial social context in France. That memory work is however largely symbolic and in some ways unsatisfactory. It shows that much of the recent work of memory has been only belatedly and partially undertaken by the State, and with civil society in some ways yet to follow.



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