French History @ the IHR

French History @ IHR: Our Fighting Sisters

Date & Place: Monday 20 March, Wolfson Room, IHR, North block, Senate House

Speaker: Natalya Vince (Portsmouth)

Paper Title: Not (just) a French History: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954-2012

Click HERE to listen to an mp3 recording of the paper (right click to save).

IMG_6521Women are not absent from the official narrative of the Algerian War. In fact, as Natalya Vince explained to us on Monday night, they are not absent from the broader narrative of Algerian resistance to colonialism. Since the nineteenth century, from armed resistance to cultural resistance, they have always featured in the story of the Algerian struggle for independence. By conducting an ambitious oral history project, Natalya Vince was not so much interested in filling a ‘silence’ as such, but rather in exploring the complicated entanglements between the national Algerian narrative of resistance, and the individual stories of these women. Indeed, Vince’s interviewees – who had planted bombs during the Algerian War – accepted and even reinforced the dominant narratives, for instance that women and men had fought and lived like brothers and sisters during the Algerian War. Yet in extensive interviews some contradictions began to appear : one woman had married a fellow male resister. Suddenly, the brother / sister image appeared more complicated.

IMG_6522In this captivating talk, Vince highlighted the codes of memory and re-telling which were entangled – but not limited to – the national narrative of Algerian resistance. Her thoughtful consideration of the complexities of oral history reminds us that it is a powerful approach to history which does more than break silences and myths. By listening to historical witnesses, we better understand the intersection between national and individual stories. Far from being mutually exclusive, they feed into one another at different times and for different reasons.  We finished off the discussion at Birkbeck Bar. Huge thanks to Natalya Vince, who is conducting exciting new research on infrastructure and nation- and state-building.

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