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Algeria’s ‘Belle Époque’: Memories of the 1970s as a Window on the Present

Algeria’s ‘Belle Époque’: Memories of the 1970s as a Window on the Present

(p.46) Algeria’s ‘Belle Époque’: Memories of the 1970s as a Window on the Present
Ed McAllister
Liverpool University Press

This chapter explores the ways in which contemporary political subjectivities in Algeria are articulated through socially held perceptions of the recent past, specifically during the much under-researched period of nation-building in the 1970s. This period represents the longest period of stability since independence and was characterised by authoritarian state-led development and considerable regime legitimacy. The chapter posits that the emancipatory promises made by postcolonial nationalism in Algeria during the 1970s are just as important as the decolonisation struggle in understanding shifting constructions of national consciousness and state-society relationships in the present. In addition, this chapter unpicks how this period is viewed through the identity politics of the 1980s, the violence of the 1990s and the neoliberal economics and reinforced state power of the 2000s, as well as through generational change. The chapter draws on a year’s urban ethnographic fieldwork in the working-class Algiers neighbourhood of Bab el-Oued — where many changes in social discourse in Algeria have been definitively inscribed on the urban landscape and uses of urban space. Widespread depictions of past-present disjuncture express past emotional investments in the future and have multiple meanings in the present for different generations. Such practices may be politically neutral but may be utilised by political agendas to articulate criticism of present politics or bolster political legitimacy.

Keywords:   Algeria, Nation-Building, Legitimacy, Social Memory, 1970s

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