Uncivil War
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Uncivil War
Intellectuals and Identity Politics During the Decolonization of Algeria

Robert Markley, Harrison Higgs, Michelle Kendrick, and Helen Burgess

352 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 13 illus.
Cloth 2001 | ISBN 978-0-8122-3588-3 | $69.95s | £45.50 | Add to cart

"Le Sueur displays a very solid understanding of the military, political, and social history of the French-Algerian War, as well as the broader histories of the French Republic and of the French colonial empire. His work is thoroughly up-to-date and combines ease of accessibility with genuine erudition and scholarly rigor throughout."—Philip D. Dine, author of Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992

"This book is beautifully researched. Le Sueur has not just based his work on the huge amount of published material; he also found rich archival sources that I don't think anyone imagined would be available. Some telling personal interviews with the major actors give the book an added sense of their anguish during the war. . . . The chapter on Camus alone is worth the price of the book."—William B. Cohen, Indiana University

"Uncivil War is an invaluable record of the often neglected influence of metropolitan and colonial intelligentsia on the course of anticolonial struggles, and of the weight of colonial violence in shaping and consolidating 'identity politics' in Algerian and France. . . . Indispensable reading for reassessing the greater historical significance of the Algerian War."—Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

"Forceful, well-argued, and superbly researched. This work opens up new ground."—David L. Schalk, author of War and the Ivory Tower: Algeria and Vietnam

"In Uncivil War, James D. Le Sueur draws from a wealth of interviews and private papers to offer important insights into the contested issues of identity politics among French and Algerian intellectuals during the French-Algerian War, 1954-62."—Journal of Modern History

Uncivil War is a provocative study of the intellectuals who confronted the loss of France's most prized overseas possession, colonial Algeria. Tracing the intellectual history of one of the most violent wars of European decolonization, James D. Le Sueur illustrates how such key figures as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Tillion, Jacques Soustelle, Raymond Aron, Claude Levi-Strauss, Albert Memmi, Frantz Fanon, Mouloud Feraoun, Jean Amrouche, and Pierre Bourdieu agonized over the "Algerian question."

As Le Sueur argues, these and other individuals forged new notions of the nation and nationalism, giving rise to a politics of identity that continues to influence debate around the world. Indeed, the French-Algerian War occupies a seminal place in colonial and contemporary history.

How did these varied intellectuals—many of whom had been influential in either shaping or critiquing the ideology of colonial enterprise—reconstruct French national identity during decolonization? How was Algerian national identity also reconceptualized, in both intellectual and political circles, French and Algerian, on both right and left? How was the colonial notion of French universalism debated and, by many, invalidated? What has the politically charged concept of "the Other" to do with Algeria's decolonization? Le Sueur turns to a wide array of public archives, previously unstudied private collections, interviews, and published works to examine the dynamism of these inquiries. He investigates Franco-Muslim relations from reconciliation to rupture, a transition resulting from the rise of anticolonialism, political radicalism, military extremism, and Algerian nationalism, as well as the looming threat of civil war in France. As Le Sueur reveals, it was incumbent upon the intellectuals of the day to respond to these crises in the public arena. Whether to celebrate decolonization or decry it as a turning point in French and North African history, intellectuals engaged fully in identity debates and, in so doing, attended to a variety of political, social, moral, and even their own professional concerns.

An interdisciplinary work of the first order, Uncivil War combines anthropology, history, critical theory, and postcolonial studies in an intimate look at a pivotal and highly contested moment in modern history.

James D. Le Sueur teaches history at the University of Nebraska.

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