Collective Memory

France and the Algerian War (1954-62)

By (author) Jo McCormack

Publication date:

10 August 2007

Length of book:

236 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739109212

Collective Memory examines the difficult transmission of memory in France of the Algerian war of independence (1954-62). Emphasizing the current lack of transmission of memories of this war through a detailed case study of three crucial vectors of memory: the teaching of school history, coverage in the media, and discussion in the family, author McCormack argues that lack of transmission of memories is feeding into contemporary racism and exclusion in France. Collective Memory draws extensively on interviews with historians, teachers, and pupils as well as secondary sources and media analysis. McCormack proposes that a greater "work of memory" needs to be undertaken if France is to overcome the division in French society that stems from the war. There has been little reconciliation of divisive group memories, a situation that leaves many individuals without a voice on this important subject. "Memory battles" dominate discussion of the topic as many issues periodically flare up and cannot yet be overcome.
This pioneering study is a welcome addition to the scientific literature of the Algerian War. Drawing on original empirical and archival research, it casts new light on the single most traumatic episode in France's reluctant retreat from overseas empire. At the core of Jo McCormack's analysis is pedagogy, understood as the national imaginative paradigm that shapes the way in which the history of the conflict is (or, crucially, is not) taught: an "educational chain" that leads from the most eminent historians and legislators to high-school teachers an their students, and which McCormack productively links to such other essential vectors of deficiencies in official processes of commemoration, and thereby underlines the troubled legacy - and specifically, the still contested memory politics - of France's final colonial conflict. This volume will be essential reading for students and academics with an interest in decolonization in general and the Algerian War in particular, as well as for all those concerned with the broader challenges of commemoration and reconciliation in the post-colonial world.