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The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62

In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.

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The ‘revolutionary journées’ of 13 May 1958

the new constitutional regime of the Fifth Republic. The planning of the coup and its implementation was extraordinarily complex – the Bromberger brothers in Les 13 Complots du 13 mai counted thirteen strands2 – but basically two antagonistic political formations reached agreement to rally to the call for de Gaulle’s return to power. On the one hand there was a secret plot by Gaullists, most notably Michel Debré (soon to become Prime Minister), Jacques Soustelle, Léon Delbecque and Jacques Chaban-Delmas (acting Minister of Defence), to engineer the return of the

in Burning the veil
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supporters who command centre stage. In his memoirs, de Gaulle claimed that in making his stand in June 1940 he was entering ‘an adventure like a man thrown by fate outside all frames of reference’.2 It was his achievement as a myth-maker that he soon erected those ‘frames of reference’ through which all histories of the French in wartime Britain have been written since. There is strong irony that Britain, a country which in his incarnation as president of the Fifth Republic, de Gaulle denounced as a threat to both French and European interests, constitutes the refuge of

in The forgotten French
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Reconstruction and reconciliation; confrontation and oppression

this time until the 1970s, the Federal Republic insisted on representing Germany alone, that is, to the exclusion of the German Democratic Republic, through the so-called ‘Hallstein doctrine’. The latter signified that only countries that did not have diplomatic relations with East Germany (excepting the Soviet Union) could have similar relations with West Germany. See e.g. Kissinger (1994, Ch. 18). Charles de Gaulle’s thinking on Europe evolved remarkably from his wartime exile to his presidency under the Fifth Republic. During and immediately MUP_Torbion_02_Ch2

in Destination Europe

Fifth Republic.14 If Algerian women showed enthusiasm on the day, this seems to have related as much to the excitement of a festive opportunity to meet up with other women, or because of the attraction of food, clothing, soap and blankets usually handed out on such army-led mobilisations. In some areas, particularly in Oranie and Mitidja, the big colons estateowners told their workers, especially the women who supplied seasonal labour, how to vote, and in some communes like that of Pallisy this led to a 100 per cent ‘Yes’ vote.15 But of most importance, the great

in Burning the veil

hand, late 1956 and early 1957 saw the surge to power within the army of a radical new force, the young colonels who detested the sclerosis of the Fourth Republic and supported the ideology of revolutionary warfare. This radical current was far more prepared to engage in unconventional forms of warfare and to develop a highly proactive ‘liberation’ of Muslim women that aimed to induce a profound psychological shock both in the French establishment and the FLN. While the colonels secretly tested out such new methods during 1957 in Operation Pilot, by May 1958 they

in Burning the veil

–792. For the debate on the term ‘mercenary’, see Sarah V. Percy, Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 19 Much of the following is based on an analysis of the treaties signed by the English/British monarchy and numerous continental partners from the 1680s to 1790s (in The National Archive, London, State Papers 103 and 108 series), those signed by the Dutch Republic (in the National Archief, The Hague, 1.01.02 Staten Generaal, VII.A. De ratificaties van tractaten, ‘Mercenary’ contracts 77 Subsidy treaties

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789
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La colonie Française

Gaulle might have helped his cause if he had made a greater effort to broaden his appeal. Yet his aversion to publicity was profound, ironical given the way that he would later play the media in the Fifth Republic. Not only did he want to protect his handicapped daughter Anne from unwanted attention, he had no wish to be manipulated by the British. Yet this reluctance also stemmed from his belief that, in taking his stand, he had adopted the only position possible, and thus commanded the moral high ground. Because of this, he needed to do little further to explain his

in The forgotten French

lower constraints than historic organic ones. Nevertheless, can we learn lessons from the areal, and more particularly the organic, economies of the past? The Dutch ‘Golden Age’ and natural resources During the seventeenth century, the Dutch merchant marine economy amounted to some two-fifths of that of the entire continent of Europe. The Dutch population amounted to around 2 percent (van Zanden 2000). The United Provinces were a commercial superpower that dominated the carrying trade, but the bulk of that shipping was still employed quite locally in the near European

in History, historians and development policy
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Communities, circumstances and choices

positive, that he could lead his people out of the abyss by the force of his dreams and theirs.52 Some fifty years after his flight to London, his voice of defiance still echoed. Commemorating the centenary of his birth in 1990, the Institut Charles de Gaulle conducted a sondage among the British public.53 Of those interviewed, the overwhelming majority recalled that he had been the leader of the Free French in London. Far fewer recalled his presidency of the Fifth Republic and, maybe surprisingly in these Eurosceptic times, the fact that he said non to Britain

in The forgotten French