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Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    After liberating itself from French colonial rule in one of the twentieth century's most brutal wars of independence, Algeria became a standard-bearer for the non-aligned movement. By the 1990s, however, its revolutionary political model had collapsed, degenerating into a savage conflict between the military and Islamist guerillas that killed some 200,000 citizens.

    In this lucid and gripping account, Martin Evans and John Phillips explore Algeria's recent and very bloody history, demonstrating how the high hopes of independence turned into anger as young Algerians grew increasingly alienated. Unemployed, frustrated by the corrupt military regime, and excluded by the West, the post-independence generation needed new heroes, and some found them in Osama bin Laden and the rising Islamist movement.

    Evans and Phillips trace the complex roots of this alienation, arguing that Algeria's predicament-political instability, pressing economic and social problems, bad governance, a disenfranchised youth-is emblematic of an arc of insecurity stretching from Morocco to Indonesia. Looking back at the pre-colonial and colonial periods, they place Algeria's complex present into historical context, demonstrating how successive governments have manipulated the past for their own ends. The result is a fractured society with a complicated and bitter relationship with the Western powers-and an increasing tendency to export terrorism to France, America, and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17722-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xi)
  7. Map of Algeria
    (pp. xii-xii)
  8. PREFACE Why Algeria?
    (pp. xiii-xv)
    Martin Evans and John Phillips
  9. INTRODUCTION The Role of the Past in Algerian History
    (pp. 1-10)

    On 14 june 1830 a small French force waded ashore at first light at Sidi-Ferruch, a beach some twenty miles to the west of Algeria’s capital, Algiers. This spot had been chosen as the bridgehead for invasion because it was sheltered and the water was so shallow, and during the next few days the French landed an impressive force of 37,000 men and 91 artillery pieces, its largest expedition since the Napoleonic campaign. Meticulous planning, combined with strength of numbers, led the military leaders to predict a walk-over and such was the weight of expectation that members of French high...

  10. CHAPTER ONE Dissident Landscape
    (pp. 11-25)

    Before the sixteenth century Algeria did not exist. Successive invasions – Phoenician, Roman, Vandal and Arab – had each left their cultural and genetic imprint, but what brought the country into being as a separate state was three centuries of Ottoman rule. Beginning in 1529, the Ottoman Regency knitted the North Africa region into a unified territorial identity, laying the foundation for an enduring entity which the French and the post-1962 Algerian state took over.

    The event which led to the establishment of Ottoman power was the fallout from the overthrow of the last outpost of Islamic Spain in Granada...

  11. CHAPTER TWO Forced Marriage: French Algeria 1830–1962
    (pp. 26-66)

    With his long dark hair, trademark dark sunglasses and hard-drinking lifestyle, the Algerian singer Rachid Taha is every inch the modern rock star. Yet behind the swagger and the showmanship there is a unique and thoughtful talent, whether it be covering the Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’ in Arabic or carefully reworking traditional North African songs in an effort to explore the trials and tribulations of being Algerian. Speaking on British television in 2005 the singer tried to convey the complexities of his personal identity by explaining that although he will be Algerian until the end of his days, on a...

  12. CHAPTER THREE Darling of the Non-Aligned Movement, 1962–78
    (pp. 67-101)

    In the eyes of many on the radical left during the 1960s, Frantz Fanon was the prophet of the Algerian revolution.¹ Born in 1925 in Fort-de-France in Martinique, and like Ben Bella a veteran of the Free French campaign in Italy, Fanon was a student in psychology at Lyon university in the late 1940s. His first book,Black Skins White Masks(1952), denounced French racism. For all the rhetoric of equality, Fanon argued, French Caribbeans like himself would never be considered true citizens; the colour of their skin meant that assimilation was a sham. In October 1953 Fanon began working...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR Black October
    (pp. 102-142)

    On wednesday 5 October 1988 thousands of youths, for the most part secondary school students and the unemployed, ransacked central Algiers. People were fearful of mass redundancies, frustrated by the lack of a regular water supply, resentful at the absence of many basic foodstuffs in the shops, angry at the sharp rise in the price of school materials. The atmosphere on the streets of the capital had been tense for several weeks. The violence was the release of pent-up anger against a system which many people, but particularly the young, felt was humiliating them.

    Shouting ‘Rise up, Youth’ and ‘Chadli...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE Political Islam
    (pp. 143-176)

    Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous dictum is as true today as it was in the nineteenth century. An insecure political system becomes highly vulnerable when it embarks on change and this was the case in Algeria in 1989, just as it had been in Absolutist France in 1789 and the Czarist Russia in 1917. Many in the Algerian political elite were painfully aware of this balancing act, looking around nervously at parallels elsewhere across the globe. They saw how in the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev’s experiment in openness and economic restructuring was already running out of control by 1989, burying the system...

  15. CHAPTER SIX Algeria’s Agony
    (pp. 177-214)

    At 9.30 a.m. on 29 June 1992 President Boudiaf strode into the hall in the eastern port city of Annaba to address a meeting of young Algerians. Gaunt, tall, outwardly serene, he had barely begun his speech when there was an explosion from behind a curtain, followed by a series of shots. In the confusion minor functionaries on the stage dived for cover while Boudiaf, struck by bullets in the head, slumped over the green-baize table on the podium. Rushed by ambulance to the local hospital, he died shortly afterwards.

    By any standards it was a shocking event; a presidential...

  16. CHAPTER SEVEN The Algerian Question
    (pp. 215-251)

    In 1958 the Paris-based Editions de Minuit publishedLa Question, Henri Alleg’s harrowing account of the cruelties suffered at the hands of the French army during the Battle of Algiers. Jewish, a member of the Algerian Communist Party (PCA) and a journalist on the left-leaning dailyAlger Républicain, Alleg was exactly the type of subversive intellectual the paratroopers of General Massu’s 10th Division detested.¹ Accused of aiding the FLN, Alleg was picked up in June 1957 along with his friend and party comrade Maurice Audin, a PhD student at Algiers university.² Both were taken to El-Biar, one of the infamous...

  17. CHAPTER EIGHT The New Imperialism and the War on Terror
    (pp. 252-292)

    In his bookTalibanAhmed Rashid explains how by the mid-1990s Afghanistan had become a pawn in the new ‘Great Game’.¹ Evoking the old-style imperialist rivalry between the British and Russian empires in the later nineteenth century, Rashid’s term is an apt description for the new competition between Western companies, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States as they vied for the control of new oilfields and transit routes for oil pipelines. So, for Rashid the crux of the unfolding Afghan crisis was imperialism and the fight for scarce resources necessary to sustain the West. This was why the...

  18. AFTERWORD The Anger That Will Not Go Away
    (pp. 293-300)

    Algeria 2007. It is fifty-three years since the beginning of the war of liberation, forty-five years since independence and ten years since the worst massacres. Bouteflika has been president since April 1999 and his official internet site,, projects transparency, modernity and democratic accountability. At the click of a button you can access a biography of the president, pictures of the past heads of state, documents, an historical timeline and Bouteflika’s speeches. One can even email the president.

    However, this depiction of Algeria as a successful twenty-first-century state evades some awkward questions. The coups of 1965 and 1992 do not...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 301-322)
    (pp. 323-330)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 331-352)