Colonial and post-colonial identities: women veterans of the “Battle of Algiers”

Natalya Vince

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The focus of this paper is a small group of educated, francophone Algerian women who participated in the “Battle of Algiers” between January and October 1957 as members of the Front de libération nationale (FLN). Both during the colonial period and after Independence, in different ways and for different reasons, these women have been part of both a privileged minority and a discriminated against mass. So whilst the trajectories of these women are clearly exceptional, a consideration of how this group of mujahidat (female war veterans) have constructed their identity – born under French colonialism, to grow old under the single party regime of the FLN – is highly revealing of the contradictions of two Republics: the République française and the République démocratique et populaire d’Algérie. This paper begins by considering the relationship between these “French Muslim” women and the French colonial state: a relationship characterized on both sides by a chasm between the image and reality of what the “Other” represented. The second part of this paper examines how Algerian post-colonial identity was constructed against France linguistically, culturally and historically, and the problems and opportunities that this presented for the mujahidat of the urban bomb network. Finally, this paper looks at the reopening of the debate in 2000 on the use of torture by the French army during the War of Independence, and how this revealed cracks in previous constructions of identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-168
Number of pages16
JournalFrench History and Civilization
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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