The harkis in Algeria: continued taboo and controversy

In this post, Prof Margaret Majumdar, explores the controversy surrounding Pierre Daum’s new book on the harkis. The recent publication of Pierre Daum’s book, Le Dernier Tabou. Les « harkis » restés en Algérie après l’indépendance (Actes Sud, Arles, 2015) has caused something of a stir in Algeria. Harki is a generic label for various categories of people who worked with the French army during the Algerian War. Looking at some of their individual experiences, it attempts to challenge accepted versions of history which claim that the majority of harkis, who did not leave for France at the end of the Algerian War, were abandoned to their fate by the departing French and subjected to summary justice and execution. It is based on a series of interviews with around sixty former harkis, living in various parts of Algeria today. Through this lens, it aims to show that many, after detention and questioning, for shorter or longer periods, were able to return to their home villages and resume their life, though not without suffering some ongoing discrimination as a result of their wartime activities. The reception of the book so far demonstrates that this question relating the harkis is still a controversial one. […]

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A research visit to Benin: part 2

Following on from his recent post about the archives in Benin, Prof Tony Chafer shares some more practical advice on conducting researching in this West African country and provides an insight into one community-based development programme operating in the region. I recently went to Benin for the first time for a research trip. The first principle of planning any such trip, for me, is to avoid large international hotels as far as possible. I don’t enjoy them, wherever they are: you could just as easily be in Singapore, or Abuja, or Johannesburg, or Dakar. You end up living in a bubble, isolated from the world around you. So the question was: where to stay? In Porto Novo smaller hotels appeared not to be on the internet, but a short browse revealed something called the Centre Songhai, which seemed to be a kind of alternative technology centre and which had simple rooms for rent at a reasonable price. It proved to be an excellent choice. Not only was it convenient for the researcher – just a short walk from the National Archives and National Library – but it also provided a wonderful exemplar of self-help and community development. Founded by a […]

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