Performing Algerianness: The National and Transnational Construction of Algeria’s ‘Culture Wars’

Walid Benkhaled and Natalya Vince

in Algeria

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print December 2017 | ISBN: 9781786940216
Published online May 2018 | e-ISBN: 9781786944245 | DOI:
Performing Algerianness: The National and Transnational Construction of Algeria’s ‘Culture Wars’

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Post-independence Algeria, particularly since 1988, has tended to be read through two dominant narratives. These narratives are widely reproduced in the Algerian and international media, in formal and informal political discussion, and indeed its tropes have seeped into much of the academic literature. The first narrative is that of the authoritarian ‘system’ (a nebulous fusion of state and regime) versus the downtrodden ‘people’. The second narrative is that of the perpetual identity crisis, pitching Arabophones against Francophones, Berberophones against Arabophones, Islamists against secularists and social and cultural conservatives (‘tradition’) against progressives (‘modernity’), in a zero-sum struggle to define the language and culture of Algeria. These two narratives intersect, with ‘the system’ depicted as imposing its version of Arabo-Islamic identity, and in doing so steamrollering over both citizens promoting greater pluralism and more stridently Islamist actors.This chapter focuses on the national and transnational construction of this ‘identity crisis’ in academic literature as well as media and popular discourse. In particular, it explores the construction of three rival groups — one Arab/Muslim/FLNist, a second radical Islamist and a third composed of cultural pluralists/progressives (into which are subsumed Berbers and feminists) — which are depicted as engaged in a battle to the death to impose their version of ‘Algerianness’.

Keywords: Algerianess; Culture; Transnational; Berberophone; Arabophone; Francophone

Chapter.  11219 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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