Memory Lobbying and the Shaping of ‘Colonial Memories’ in France since the 1990s: The Local, the National, and the International

  • Jan C. Jansen


At the turn of the century, scholars, journalists, and other public figures commented rather optimistically on the way the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) appeared in the public sphere. Many historians and public observers saw the dawn of a new age in French attitudes toward the nation’s Algerian heritage. In the late 1990s, the French state had stopped denying its bloodiest war of decolonization and started to actively commemorate it; academic research had made considerable progress in understanding the war, including some of its most sensitive aspects; public media and the cinema had begun to address the Franco-Algerian colonial past; and in 2000 the French public had just started to engage in an intense debate about the systematic use of torture as part of French warfare in Algeria. Many commentators used expressions such as the return of a ‘repressed’ past, an ‘end of amnesia’, or an intense collective ‘work of mourning’ (travail de deuil), a difficult but also healing process of coming to terms, of confronting a deliberately ‘forgotten’ past that would finally become less emotionally charged.1 Some even saw the beginning of France’s general emotional disengagement and reconciliation with its conflict-ridden colonial past as a whole.


Colonial Rule Colonial Past French State Police Violence French Public 
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© Jan C. Jansen 2016

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  • Jan C. Jansen

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