Who Fought the Algerian War? Political Identity and Conflict in French-Ruled Algeria

  • Lizabeth Zack


Why did settlers, natives, and metropolitan agents fight each other as “French” and “Algerian” during the famously brutal Algerian War of the 1950s? While scholars identify key factors in launching and escalating the war, they take for granted that it was fought between “the French” and “the Algerians” when evidence shows that those terms were also a source of struggle among the parties involved in the war. Drawing on insights from the fields of colonial studies and collective action, along with archival sources, the article explains why this particular set of terms framed the war, in other words, why the categories “French” and “Algerian” predominated in the political discourse, and why they were so opposed to each other. It contends that punctuated political conflicts among state authorities and social-movement organizations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rather than indigenous cultural or social structural factors, played a key role in constructing this identity framework. The article concludes by challenging our basic definitions of the war and the prevailing theories about its course and outcomes.

identity Algerian War decolonization/colonization social movement 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lizabeth Zack
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology/SociologyRhodes CollegeMemphis

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