Dónal Hassett, "Mobilizing Memory: The Great War and the Language of Politics in Colonial Algeria, 1918-1939" (Oxford UP, 2019)


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Dónal Hassett’s Mobilizing Memory: The Great War and the Language of Politics in Colonial Algeria, 1918-1939 (Oxford UP, 2019) is at once a history of colonialism and of the “Great War”. Considering the ways that the conflict from 1914-1918 shaped the colonial politics of the “interwar” years in the Algerian context, the book looks at how segments of Algerian society with differing interests, including European settlers and indigenous Algerians, responded to the war, trading in its effects and meanings while seeking forms of political change. According to Hassett, a “wartime moral economy of sacrifice” became an essential referent for differing political groups in the years after 1918. While European veterans and others insisted on the distinctiveness of their own contributions and rights with respect to the majority of Algerians, indigenous Algerians also made claims against the colonial state on the basis of their service to the nation and empire.

The book explores the experiences and political aims of key constituencies throughout Algerian society, including: socialists and trade unionists; European and Algerian veterans; and even the Algerian widows and orphans who petitioned for pensions and forms of recognition based on their families’ sacrifices during the war. Hassett also attends to the complexities of a political spectrum that included movements on the extreme Right, Algerian political groups seeking reform such as the rights of French citizenship with a colonial framework, and Algerian nationalists who, understanding the participation of Algerians in the Great War as a betrayal, rejected colonial domination outright. Contributing to broader scholarly conversations about the nature of colonial Algerian society and the impact of the First World War, Mobilizing Memory makes it clear that we cannot understand properly the histories of either of these historical phenomena without considering their imbrication with one another.

Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. She is the author of Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars (2009). Her current research focuses on the history of French nuclear weapons and testing since 1945. Her most recent article, ‘“No Hiroshima in Africa”: The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara’ appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of History of the Present. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada and hopes all listeners are keeping healthy and safe at this difficult time in our world. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (panchasi@sfu.ca).

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