Jennifer Johnson – The Battle for Algeria: Sovereignty, Health Care, and Humanitarianism


Hello, everyone. Welcome to our lecture series
here at Middle East Studies. It’s always a very happy
occasion for Middle East Studies to showcase
and celebrate the publication of a book
by one of our colleagues here at Brown, who
works on this region. My name is Beshara Doumani. I’m director of
Middle East Studies. And it’s my real pleasure
to introduce to you today, very quickly because we
have a tradition here of not doing introductions, my
colleague from the Department of History, Jennifer Johnson. We actually probably have had
two or three such book signing events every year
since I’ve been here. Shows the productivity
of the faculty who work on this region,
as well as the growing number of faculty at Brown
who work on this region. For the past three
generations, Algeria has been the icon of
perhaps the deepest and most violent colonial
conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, from the
French conquest in the 1830s till independence in 1962. And it’s always been kind
of a monotone discussion of this period for a
lot of the scholarship. Jennifer Johnson’s book
reinterprets the battle for Algeria, the decolonization
of Algeria in a fresh new way that she’ll tell you all
about in just a second. We’re very excited
about this book, which is available outside. Jennifer Johnson is
an Assistant Professor in History at Brown University,
and a Brown alum [INAUDIBLE]. She received her PhD
from Princeton University and previously taught at
Lehman College and the City College of New York. Her main research interests
are 20th century Africa, specifically the
Maghreb– North Africa– nationalism, decolonization,
and public health. We’re proud here at
Middle East Studies that we’re border crossers. Many of our faculty bring
different regions together, and so does Jennifer. With the support of
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, she is currently working on
a second book project, which examines medicine and public
health in post-colonial North Africa between 1956 and 1975. Welcome, Jennifer. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much for coming,
and thank you, Beshara, for hosting me and putting
on this wonderful event. So today I’m going to
be discussing research from my new book, The
Battle for Algeria, which focuses on the Algerian
War between 1954 and 1962, and the innovative
strategies that the Algerian nationalists used during the
decolonization process, which ultimately enabled them to
gain their independence. So frequently, when one
thinks about Algeria, two references come to mind. Either the work of Frantz
Fanon’s scathing critique of colonialism, The
Wretched of the Earth, or Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966
film, The Battle of Algiers, which depicted the
tremendous cost of this war. So these works are what
planted an early interest and seed in going
deeper into this issue. My project originated
with three main questions. First, how did the Algerian
nationalists manage to oust the French when the
French military defeated the Algerians on
the battlefield? Second, what strategies
did the nationalists devise outside of conventional
warfare tactics to garner local and
international support for their cause? And third, why did
the Algerian struggle resonate with so many
individuals, leaders, and organizations
throughout the world? And what I found
in my research is that the Algerian nationalists
devised this creative strategy centered around the universal
principles of health care, humanitarianism, and
human rights that operated at the local
and international levels, and thereby circumventing the
traditional roots of winning a war. Algerian nationalists,
many of whom were part of the leading
nationalist group, the National Liberation Front,
or the FLN, used the provision of
medicine and health care to win over the Algerian
people by showing them that they could, quote,
“care for the welfare of their populations
better than could an alien colonial government.” In what was otherwise an
extremely violent and brutal war, the FLN members
used medicine to gain the people’s trust
and claim moral and social authority over their welfare. They did this by constructing
a vibrant health services division that could rival
that of the French state, and convince locals that
not only could they, but that they were ready
effective immediately, to assume responsibility
for the people’s care. The health services
division was a key component of the FLN strategy to
establish and project state power in
Algeria to Algerians. A small but influential number
of Algerian medical personnel were critical linchpins
between disseminating the nationalist message
to the Algerian people and providing practical,
and in some cases, life-saving treatment to
everyday men and women who were caught in
the crosshairs of war. Their work for the Algerian
Health-Services Division sent a clear message
to the people and the French administration
that the nationalists were capable of
building and running public welfare institutions. And as such,
Algerian nationalists anticipated that when
given the chance, the Algerian people would
choose their social services over those offered by
the colonial state. After developing these health
care strategies at home, FLN leaders applied
what they learned to the international arena. Starting in 1957,
the nationalists concentrated on expanding
their health care initiatives beyond Algeria, and sought
international aid and support through a refined
humanitarian message. The Algerian Red Crescent
was the primary vehicle for disseminating this
position and for soliciting financial aid abroad,
and its leadership appropriated the
universal language of humanitarianism and rights
to substantiate their claims for sovereignty. Nationalists built upon
alliances in the global south and viewed the
internationalization of medical aid outside of
Algeria as a critical tactic in gaining additional support. Moreover, they lobbied the Red
Cross and the United Nations and deployed concepts
of self-determination to help further validate
their claims for sovereignty. The FLN’s international
humanitarian efforts represent another dimension of
the Algerian state in waiting. They refined the nationalist
message for external audiences and presented an alternative
version to the world to that of the
French government’s portrayal of Algerian,
quote, unquote, “terrorists.” Similar to the nationalist
domestic health care campaigns, the FLN Algerian Red
Crescent campaigns showed that they were
conversant with the language about human rights
and humanitarianism, and that they were
ready to abide by them and put them into practice. And therefore, that they
were ready to govern Algeria. The nationalist efforts
evoked the actions of a state before it was officially
recognized as such, and they paid
particular attention to establishing internal
and external recognition of their right to rule
Algeria, both of which are critical components
of sovereignty. In the end, the
nationalists won the war by successfully using these
notions of welfare and rights to their advantage. So while some scholars
dispute the idea that the third world
played an important role in the evolution of
human rights history, the Algerian case
shows us otherwise. They expose the hypocrisy
of selectively applying universal discourse and
provided a blueprint for claim-making non-state
actors could emulate. Consequently,
anti-colonial leaders throughout Africa
and the third world saw Algeria as a
model for success in developing platforms
for claiming sovereignty. So analyzing the war in
this matter, I argue, provides a different
interpretation of the conflict, because it focuses
almost exclusively on what I call the
social dimensions of war rather than on military or
political histories or episodes of extreme violence. This is not to say
that those didn’t occur or that they were not important. They certainly were. Instead, my study starts
to shift the focus away from these more tread
topics of decolonization, and proposes a way to place
the colonizer and the colonized on more equal footing. Doing so allows us
to better understand Algerian agency and ingenuity. This approach then
offers new directions for studying nationalist
movements and concepts of sovereignty that would be
widely applicable to scholars of the global south. So for the remainder
of the talk, I’m going to focus on the
Algerian Health-Services Division and the Algerian
Red Crescent in more depth. But before I do
that, I just wanted to take a brief moment to give
an overview of Algerian history to situate us for the conflict. So the French began
colonizing Algeria in 1830, as Beshara mentioned,
nearly 50 years before the scramble
for Africa, when most European countries acquired
their African territories. France legally incorporated
Algeria as part of France, and Algerians were not
automatically granted citizenship. Despite numerous
calls for reform in the first half
of the 20th century, French colonial
administrators did not implement meaningful reforms
until after World War II. The colonial administration
was also frequently caught in the crosshairs between
Algerian demands and settler demands, and they became
increasingly more influential over the colonial period. So when the FLN initiated
the war in 1954, the stakes could not
have been higher. France had suffered humiliating
defeats in World War II, and Algeria was
considered the crown jewel of the French empire. They were not going to let go
of Algeria without a fight. But despite this sort
of imbalance of power, the Algerians did
manage to circumvent their military might, and
one of the primary ways that they did this was through
their medicine and health care initiatives. There’s some dispute among
historians and participants about the precise origins
of the Health-Services Division in Algeria,
and the extent to which it was operational. However, it’s clear that they
were not the only ones thinking about medical initiatives. In fact, the French had
developed a very smart way of trying to
integrate themselves with the Algerian population
in the early period of the war. They developed a program called
the Special Administrative Sections, and a large part
of that was medical care. And they would send teams
of doctors and nurses throughout the
Algerian countryside, as you can see
here, administering vaccines, teaching hygiene
classes, treating children. And they published these images
in pamphlets or in newspapers or in military medical journals
so that people in France could actually
see that there was more than this violent
conflict that was taking place, that the French were trying to
invest in the Algerian people. But mind you, this
program started in 1955. Here’s another image
where they tried to explain that when
they went to villages, the Algerian people
would surround them in crowds, that their families
would show up and be so grateful that the
French had come, and was paying them
attention, and giving them some medical treatment. The FLN tried to respond
in kind by developing very similar kinds of programs. But in the first
two years, they were really unable to get their
initiatives off the ground. And a lot of Algerian
nationalists, whether it be in their memoirs
or I conducted some interviews with former medical
personnel, they explain the
tremendous difficulty of acquiring medical supplies. So Commandant Si Azzedine, I
interviewed him in Algiers, and he’s written several memoirs
in which he was detailing the hardship of trying
to just sort of survive those first few years of the
war between 1954 and 1956, and that the kinds
of supplies they had were really improvisational. So they would fill syringes
with water and honey to try to preserve medication. They would mix eggs or
milk to provide a cast, or they would use
branches or pieces of wood that they could find around. But they didn’t have a vast
set of really reputable medical supplies. This was going to
change in 1956. There were two main events that
really helped to sort of shift the dynamic in terms of how
the medical infrastructure or the medical initiatives
on the Algerian side was able to take off, the first
of which was in May of 1956. There was a student strike
where the Algerian student union called on all
students, regardless of where they were
in their training, to abandon their classrooms
and to come and join the FLN effort. So if they were a
first-year student, if they were a second-year
student, a third-year student, it didn’t matter. Anyone who could contribute
to the nationalist cause was tapped to try to help
really support and move the nationalist
initiative forward. And students really
took this to heart. So there are several
Algerian doctors who were both in Algeria
and in France who said, we felt responsible
to reply to this call. And whatever knowledge we
have, whatever supplies, whatever skills we can
contribute, we want to do this. And there are education
statistics that really actually show the difference between
enrollments in 1956 versus 1957 had a direct impact. The numbers dropped. The enrollment
numbers dropped, which indicates or suggests that there
was some response to this call. There were also Algerian women,
although in far fewer numbers, who responded to this call,
who would bring their nursing services, or any kind of
skill that they could offer, whether it was clandestinely,
because they may not have been in a training
program, or if it was just sort of operating
by making clothes or treating people in their
living rooms or basements. But that was certainly another
aspect of the student call that both women and
men responded to. The second event was
the Soummam conference. And this was in August of 1956. And part of the impetus
behind this conference– this congress– was
to try to settle some internal political
scores, and also to figure out the ways in which
the FLN could sort of push through the initial difficulties
in the first two years of the war. They discussed
ceasefire conditions. They discussed a whole
plethora of items for what would
happen in the event that they could get
to the end of the war. The place of women,
the place of Jews, the place of the internal
and external delegations. And one of the things that
they really came away with was trying to figure out how
to better organize the Algerian territory. And they did this by dividing
the country into six provinces that they hoped
would then facilitate better communication and
better circulation of troops and supplies. So after 1956, or after the
August 1956 Soummam Congress, this was one of the
innovations that helped to kickstart the
health services initiatives, because everything was
supposed to operate at the provincial level. So there were instructions,
FLN instructions, for the ways in which medical
personnel were supposed to fill out detailed reports
about who they were seeing, what they were treating them
for, what the illness were, what medications did they
give, did they come back? And this is a very interesting
and idealized version of how this information was
being recorded in 1956, 1957, because the likelihood that they
would have been able to really create that paper
trail– which I was not able to locate in
the Algerian archives or the French archives. There were some sort
of scattered reports here and there, but it wasn’t
as though there was just files of these copious reports. But in theory, this is how
the medical services division was supposed to operate. And just like the
French, who were very concerned with the
images of taking care of the population,
the Algerians were doing exactly the same thing. So they would take
pictures of their doctors and of their nurses
and medical personnel with the Algerian
people saying, look. They are so excited that
we are here treating them. They know that we
haven’t forgotten them. They know that we’re pushing
for their national liberation. They know that we’re
here to really think about their futures. We’re investing in them just
as much as the colonial state. And if they were
able to do this, then that meant that there was
sort of a competing dialogue outside of the battlefield,
that the Algerians in some cases now had a choice
about who they would get their medical services from,
and who then might better take care of them in the future. So if they could fan out to
as many areas as possible, they might have a chance of
sort of currying that favor. The medical services within
Algeria, again, was piecemeal. But the fact that they were
trying to project this power was quite significant. One of the other
strategies that they did was that they developed the
Algerian Red Crescent, which is a national society and
derivative of the International Committee for the Red Cross. And technically, the way
that this is supposed to work is that each country is allowed
one national society, one humanitarian organization. And the French Red Cross was
already operational in Algeria. The Algerian national
says, we don’t care. Doesn’t matter. We are going to create our own
national society, because we think that this is going to be
another vehicle that we can use to help propel our message
and sort of recast ourselves as humanitarians. So they announced their
formation in January of 1957. They started writing
and contacting as many national societies as
they could around the globe. So there were some really
fascinating exchanges between Algerian Red
Crescent representatives sending letters to Egypt
or to London or to Norway, announcing themselves
and encouraging people to donate and to try to
rally behind their cause. And this was
incredibly effective. They actually managed
to bring in millions of dollars of donations. They also acquired
things like milk, blankets, clothing for
children, in addition to some basic medical supplies. So this was a way in
which for them to, again, directly counter the French
portrayal of Algerians as being extremely violent,
extremely brutal, not worthy of their sovereignty. But this was, again,
shifting the battlefield to a completely different arena
where the French could not exactly maintain or
control this message. So imagine if you
were in London, and you get a letter
saying, we are in dire need, and you are a
humanitarian organization. Sort of, your obligation
is to respond in kind. The Algerians also
went to Geneva and managed to
successfully procure meetings with high-up officials
within the International Committee for the Red Cross. And this, again, was putting
the international organizations in a very precarious position,
because their mandate is to help those in need
or to relieve suffering. But this was not an officially
recognized organization, but they can’t turn
them away necessarily. So the Algerians were
sort of strategically deploying all of these other
sort of off-field strategies to acquire and claim
legitimacy by saying, we have had a meeting at
the International Red Cross, or we have received donations
from around the world. That implies that people
are supporting their cause in general. They did a couple
of other things that were fairly creative, where
they started staging prisoner releases in conjunction
or in cooperation with the International
Committee for the Red Cross. So these did not
happen in Algeria, but they coordinated with
the Algerian Liberation Army, and they managed to
get them to agree to release small numbers of
prisoners, beginning in 1958. And the Algerian Red Crescent
would publicize these events to the highest degree. So this is an image
from a prisoner release ceremony in Morocco that took
place in December of 1958. And they tried to
take many photographs. In some cases, there were
groups filming the events. They might have been working in
conjunction with the Moroccan Red Crescent, or they
had several in Tunisia. But this was another
way of sort of promoting their message of saying,
even if the French are not going to abide by the
Geneva Conventions, even if we haven’t signed
them yet, we’re telling you and proclaiming to the
world that we are adhering to humane practices,
that we are going above and beyond what the
French are willing to do. And therefore, how can you
deny us our sovereignty? We are, in fact, more civil in
our behavior than the French. A third area that they
were extremely creative in is capitalizing on
the issue of refugees. So there was a refugee
crisis throughout the course of the war, and refugees
started spilling over into Morocco and Tunisia
in the tens of thousands. And the Algerian
Red Crescent decided that they would take
up this issue, not only as a matter of course
because it sort of pulled at the heartstrings,
but they thought that it would be a way of,
again, acquiring more aid. They thought that people would
really respond to the fact that children were living
in deplorable conditions, families had been
separated, they were traveling large distances
to try and just really survive. So they started producing
pamphlets in Arabic, English, French to
try to, again, export this message that the Algerians
are not only suffering, but we are the true people
who care for our people. We can’t stand by and let
this devastation take place, but we are going to
try to remedy it, and you can help us
in this partnership. So these are some of the ways
in which the project tries to really reinterpret the way
in which the war was fought, and the way in which
we think about warfare. And this was really
only possible because of the ways in which
lots of international doctrines and sort of the
post-World War II moment encouraged a sort of shift
in how claims could be made. If you have the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, if you have concepts
of self-determination, if you have renovated ideas
about health and welfare that are supposedly universal,
that means anyone who can sort of understand them,
articulate them, and deploy them is an
equal player in that game. It’s not just the
Western powers who are able to better
articulate or maintain some control over
these concepts. So the landscape looks
very different after 1945, and the Algerians really
managed to seize on this. And they tried to really
renovate and reinterpret the way in which
they can communicate with their own
people and outside without having some internal
recognition, and most importantly,
external recognition. It would have been very unlikely
that the Algerians could have successfully
made this case, because the war could have
sort of been over in a flash if we’re just thinking about
the actual military battlefield. There’s not really much
to talk about there. And so therefore,
it means scholars have to sort of
probe more deeply and say, well, what
else was at play here? What else could have been going
on that animated the Algerian nationalists, that made the
Algerian people want to rally behind them, and that made the
larger international sphere sort of come to their aid? So previous studies have
focused on the violence and the politics. What I’m arguing is that
a health care approach and a welfare approach, and
looking at humanitarianism and human rights
really offers us new directions for studying
decolonization in general, but also specifically
the Algerian War. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] [INAUDIBLE] That was really fascinating. What role did culture
brokers, like Algerian Jews or liberal or radical French
settlers or Algerians educated abroad play in all this? What role did liberal French– Well, people who were sort of
betwixt and between the two worlds. I mean, I imagine there was a
lot more medical expertise– or maybe this is wrong–
there was a medical expertise deficit between the French
settlers and the natives. Yeah. There’s a huge deficit. I mean, in terms of
the kinds of pathways for formal education
or skilled training, it was extremely limited. And so there is actually
a small group of, say, French Algerians who were
interested in providing medical care. So I interviewed a
couple of those doctors, and they were saying that
they were kind of caught between the colonial mission,
but also feeling an allegiance to Algeria. And there, again, weren’t a
large number of those people, but they helped at
least inform the ways in which you can think
about these gray spaces within colonialism. There were also some
French doctors and nurses who came from France who
were also willing to provide their services. Moroccans, Tunisians,
Egyptians, Cubans. I mean, there’s a
fairly developed international response
to trying to help flesh out these health services. Yugoslavia. I mean, in Eastern Europe, there
was a fair amount of people also who contributed to this. So part of the strategy that
the Algerians are devising is in these polarities. So the local and
the international. But it’s also to try
to build alliances and to get people on
board with their message. This may be outside the
scope of your project, but to what extent did
these institutions remain after the war? That is an excellent
question, and that is the topic of my
current project, because basically, I can’t
fully answer that question yet. And I was very intrigued
to see what happens next. Sort of like, did the Algerian
state deliver after 1962? Were they able to make good
on a lot of these promises? I mean, part of what they did so
well is projecting their power, and projecting what
they wanted to do and the image that they
wanted the world to see. But from the initial research
that I’ve sifted through, they were not able to
deliver on the scale that they were promising. And there were some
fairly severe disjunctures between what they
said they could do and what they were
then able to do. And some of that is structural. And to the last
question, I mean, there were so few doctors,
there were so few trained nurses that the medical
infrastructure is in tatters after 1962. So to have to sort of
rebuild that and start training an entirely new
generation of medical personnel is going to take
years, if not decades. And this is a slow process. So certainly in the 1960s
and even in the 1970s, this does not happen. In fact, it’s France that
benefited from Algeria. [INAUDIBLE] at
least, I don’t know. In France, there are at
least 8,000 Algerian doctors working in France. Now. Yes. Yeah. And as you know,
at the same time, when [INAUDIBLE] resident of
Algeria is sick, he goes to– France. –the military hospital
in [INAUDIBLE], which is one of the best. [LAUGHTER] I mean, the promises
are lost forever, I think, because, I mean, we
are more than half a century after independence,
and [INAUDIBLE] situation in Algeria. Even through, as you know,
Algeria today, a rich country, has a lot of money coming
from petrol, gas, you name it. But I have a question for you. You started by saying
that [INAUDIBLE] this battle between
the Algerians and the French about– at
some point, I quote, you said, “the French wanted
to show that they cared for the welfare
of their people.” But the question is that
the status of– I mean, obviously it wasn’t that
way during the colonization. It’s at a very specific
moment during the war that France initiated
this health program. And at the same time, I
mean, the Algerians were not their people, French people. They were citizens of France. They have never been citizens. They were subjects, sorry. Not citizens. So the question is that,
[INAUDIBLE] their people? What is the status of the
Algerian indigenous people for the French at that time? [LAUGHTER] Well, I think I
meant to say, or I thought I had said, that
the Algerians were trying to care for their people, but
that the French had developed these initiatives to
essentially assert more control over the Algerians
or to disincentivize them from joining the FLN. So it was certainly a power
play, but I don’t think, and I didn’t mean to
imply, that the French then perceived the Algerians
to be part of them. It was much more of a
utilitarian function to say, well, we don’t want them
joining the ranks of the FLN. We don’t want them
harboring the rebels. We don’t want them sort
of actively resisting us. So therefore, we’re
going to develop all of these social
services that had been absent, completely
absent as you’re pointing out, during much of the
colonial period. So perhaps, one could
argue that if some of these had been in place much earlier
in the colonial period, there wouldn’t have been
this significant chasm between the needs and what
was actually available. So that’s a perfect
segue to my question, because I wanted to
ask, to what extent is this kind of a strange case? Or in terms of
decolonization, the extent to which medicine was used? Or was this, like, part
of how decolonization happened elsewhere? Because I know that
afterwards then is the lesson that
one has to be stricter in who to provide
medical education for among the
natives, and to be, like, more– put more
obstructions in place so that they don’t join
the decolonization. They Is that one of the things
that happened? [INAUDIBLE] more of a question. Well, I don’t know if this
is so unique in the sense that other places undergoing
the process of decolonization were not trying to also
actively treat people within their communities. But I think it’s something
that we see where there is active warfare and conflict. So if there’s a political or
peaceful transition of power, as in the case of many
countries in West Africa, or even Morocco and Tunisia,
where you’re not involved in, like, an eight-year,
all-out battle, then I think the stakes and the process
looks very different in terms of how you’re
communicating and conveying your nationalist message,
that you don’t actually have to develop as many of
these kinds of programs, because the length
of warfare is shorter and the stakes are lower. But I do think that the
kinds of techniques that they are developing are relevant
for projecting or thinking about sort of projecting
a nationalist message. So you could do that
through health care, and I think that that is widely
applicable to many countries undergoing decolonization,
because people are grappling with these
questions of the transition. Whether or not you’re
fighting or not, you still have the
post-colonial moment, and what’s going to happen. So for example, in the
Democratic Republic of Congo, there were no universities
that trained Congolese until basically four years
before decolonization. And in 1960, there were
zero Congolese doctors. So that is a major kind of
open-ended question for what happens after decolonization. And I think that in many
cases, other countries, you would find that the locals
were interested in pursuing higher education or in becoming
lawyers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, but there just
weren’t many opportunities. So to see the ways in which
the Algerians were doing it might have been sort of
informative or inspirational, saying that this is a way
to connect with the people after decolonization. Thank you, Jennifer. Listening to you
talk, I was thinking how scary it is actually
how much we forget about this dimension of war. And of course, of the
health dimension of world when wars and violence
are– you know, when they’re happening in front of us. Of course, I thought of
Syria and the White Helmets. I guess my question is
about the kind of services that were being offered. I mean, if you could just
elaborate on it a bit more. I’m sure it’s in your book. But of course, I was thinking
about the psychological sort of dimension of it. Psychological healing,
post-traumatic stress disorder, et cetera, et cetera. If any of this was tackled
by the medical teams that you researched, and what
are we talking about exactly? Vaccines? Are we talking about–
what kind of services? Yeah. We’re talking really
basic services. We’re not talking about
really well-developed psychological services that are
able– at least during the war. We’re talking about vaccines,
we’re talking about bandages, we’re talking about nutrition,
we’re talking about clothing to make sure people are
not freezing to death, and that they have some
way to kind of survive the night or the weeks. We’re talking about some
stitching of wounds. But it’s really, really
basic in terms of what they are able to really provide. But what they’re
doing is transforming those basic services into
a much larger register and a much larger message
for what’s to come next. So if we can do this
in the midst of battle, imagine what we’re going
to do once we are sovereign and people recognize us, and we
can run our own institutions, and we’re formally recognized,
we have diplomatic relations. We can set up exchange
programs with nurses abroad. But it’s taking the little
seed that they have, and amplifying it to a
much bigger register. But I acknowledge that
it’s certainly basic. And that was sort
of why I also wanted to highlight what happened
between 1954 and 1956, just to sort of provide that
baseline of how minimal– what limited resources
they did have, and then therefore, in 1956,
1957 when they start building, they’re only building
at a really small level, but they become very
proficient in how to publicize their activities. Thank you. Beshara? Wondering if you
would like to say a few words about the
implications of your research on critical studies of
humanitarianism that have mushroomed in
the last 15 years, mostly with a focus
on Europe, and why international organizations
and international human rights developed in Europe, and that’s
supposedly spread to the world. What you’re saying is that there
is a decolonization process perspective that also shaped
the human rights edifice. And specifically, I’m
interested in the relationship between this medical corps
and the actual Algerian Army of Liberation. What was the relationship
between the military and the doctors? I ask because that’s
one of the major themes of critical studies
of humanitarianism, and also because we are
witnessing right now Mosul, expecting maybe up
to 750,000 refugees just in the next few weeks. And UNHCR and the
American-led sort of military onslaught
on Mosul have been cooperating very
closely over the past year, trying to figure out how
to mesh military tactics with humanitarian relief. So I’m just wondering, what
did that look like, if at all, during that period? OK. So I’ll take– thanks
for both of those. The implications, I
think, of this work for current humanitarianism
studies, or even human rights studies, is such that I’m trying
to insert decolonization back into the narrative. So there tends to be a
big jump between sort of the emergence in 1940s
of all of these kinds of new terminologies,
languages, and doctrines. Then we get to the
1970s, and that’s really another plumb moment
of humanitarianism and human rights. But somehow,
decolonization gets lost, because perhaps the nationalist
actors were not using them in the same ways that
then Western actors were either originally using them
in the 1940s or in the 1970s. So there’s this sort of
unclear understanding about the ways in which
the doctrines could be used or the language could be used. And it had sort of–
it’s a difficult process to trace because they’re not
actually allowed in the UN. For example, if you’re
not officially recognized, how can you make your case in
an international organization? But finding the circuitous
ways in which they then lobby allies who then can go
to the UN on their behalf, or then can go to the Red Cross
and say, we are humane actors. So there’s a
transition process, is what I’m arguing in the
decolonization period, that enables us to
better understand the wide range of
how humanitarianism and human rights can
be used, and can then enable these nationalist actors
a little bit more agency. They are at the forefront
of this process. They’re the ones sort of
wheeling and dealing and trying to make sense of it. This is now an opportunity where
they have a seat at the table. Sort of an unofficial
seat at the table, because they can think
about and talk about and act out these humanitarian
sort of practices. And I think that the ways in
which non-state actors are operating in this period is very
similar to the ways in which non-state actors
now are operating in times of humanitarian
crises, where they’re trying to use either social
media or some kind of way in which to disseminate
their message. They’re targeting international
humanitarian groups. They’re trying to get
people to care more or think about their particular crisis. And that’s sort of all they
have at their disposal. And this is, again, sort
of a similar scrappy tactic that the Algerians were
using in the 1950s and 1960s. To your question
about the relationship between the FLN and the
Algerian Red Crescent, they are operating
next to one another, but they are not
immediately coordinating throughout the conflict. So certainly, the FLN
and the Liberation Army are out in the
battlefield or they’re out on the diplomatic battlefield,
and the Algerian Red Crescent is trying to operate
outside of Algeria. They’re also doing a fair amount
of work in Tunis and Morocco, in Geneva. And the communication
becomes difficult when you have so many different
locations of where the Algerian nationalists are operating. But they do try
to send messages. They do try to coordinate
some of their efforts. But it’s sort of a loose
affiliation, if you will. Hi. I’d like to
congratulate you first of all for bringing
up this subject. Thank you so much. It’s a subject for
us as Algerians that has never been
brought up to light. And good job. Thank you so much
for bringing it up. My question is, after 1962,
maybe in your research, were you able to find out, why
was Algeria abandoned by the US after 1962? Remembering Algeria,
growing up there, we had a wave of doctors
and medical staff coming from Russia, China,
Eastern Bloc, European. Nobody from the US. I think the last time– or
the first time that Algerian medical team was in
Algeria was in 1982 during the earthquake of
Asnam, which was a big damage. That was the only time that the
US medical staff were on soil in North Africa and Algeria. Were you able to find out
why there was this absence? Even though the
JFK administration in 1962 and before
that, I remember fervently that JFK was fighting
with de Gaulle in Paris about Algeria’s independence. Khrushchev was doing his best,
trying to gain that ground. But why did the US not– I’m going to have
to look into that. Yeah, thank you
for your question. I’m going to have
to look into that, because I don’t have an answer
right now, because I’m not sure. I haven’t finished
the next project, and I capped it at 1962. But because of
questions like yours that I got over the
years, I thought, well, I really need to
pursue the part two of this, and also to better
understand why certain international
alliances continued or merged or were ruptured after 1962. I mean, certainly the
Cold War landscape is heavily influential
in that conversation. But I can’t, at this
time, answer about the US. Hi there. Thank you for [INAUDIBLE]. I can speak loudly. It’s working. No. OK. Sorry. Thank you very
much for your talk. It was super interesting. And one of the comparisons I
was thinking about in my mind is the Palestinian
case, and just the way– like, thinking
about care as sort of an act of
[INAUDIBLE], or as part of– a way of instituting
sovereignty or projecting sovereignty or projecting
in a way that fosters the recognition of sovereignty. My question is, is that
contingent upon– in terms of decolonization, is that
contingent on warfare? Because I guess in
the Palestinian case actually right now, there’s
a very robust system of administration
and care compared to what you’re describing here. I mean, you have everything from
education, medical care, health and social services. And yet, occupation
still goes on. And so I guess my
question is, if we are to understand care in
a decolonizing framework, is it contingent
upon care in relation to warfare and violence? I think it’s contingent,
at least in my case and probably for many cases, and
certainly the Palestinian case, on international recognition. I mean, this is part of what the
Algerians, I think, figured out very early on, is that they
can project their sovereignty through care and
through institutions, as remedial as they were. But without having
outside assistance, without having
outside recognition, without having
outside donations, without having outside
political alliances that enabled them to further
spread their message, I think that they would
have short-circuited, or that they would have
sort of come to a dead end. So when you’re raising
the Palestinian case and how robust the
current operations are, without having as many
international sort of external recognize– external people who
are recognizing, supporting, sending, I think that, again,
you come up against a dead end. Because the sovereignty
question revolves around internal and
external recognition. I have a question going back
to, I think, your second slide about [INAUDIBLE]. I mean, you’ve
been talking about the institutional
implications, both before and after of
performing statehood before it has even been
granted, de facto or otherwise. But what about this argument
about the necessity of healing the psychological wounds
of colonialism that of course [INAUDIBLE] is
centrally concerned with? And of course, he examines that
in light of violent struggle as well. But I wonder if there
are implications for this kind of state-building
work in terms of precisely that problematic he’s interested in. And if there’s a way to trace
that historically, archivally, among the people who are
participating in these efforts? So to try to better
understand the aftermath, the psychological aftermath,
and what would go on? So are you suggesting
that by merely looking at an
institutional structure that you’re missing a whole
part of the health care or sort of mental health division? I wonder what you
think about that. [LAUGHTER] My guess is I know
what you think. I think that that’s a
fair point, that this is sort of going back to
[? Hanan’s ?] question about, how do you start healing
the psychological wounds of warfare? So even if you don’t have–
if you’re not missing a limb or you haven’t lost
a family member, what does it mean to
have been displaced? What does it mean to have sort
have survived violent attacks on your village? What does it mean to
have had children starve throughout the
course of the war? I mean, there are some serious
psychological implications that I do agree
are very prevalent. The mental health sector
of post-colonial Algeria is not very well
developed, and I don’t think that this becomes
a priority necessarily for the expansion of health
care services, certainly not in the immediate aftermath. What is interesting,
and I think what takes place in many
post-nationalist moments is that you have the
glorification of the war, which I actually think sort of serves
to undermine mental health. Because if you’re talking about
the glorious victories that were performed, or
that you survived, or that you did
during the war, it’s hard then to create a space in
which to say, I’m suffering, I have PTSD, I have nightmares,
I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I feel agitated, I’m
crying all the time. It doesn’t necessarily
align with that really glorious narrative. And that may be one
disjuncture in trying to think about the
underdevelopment of mental health in Algeria. Can I just add to that? I think another way
of looking at that is that perhaps
coping strategies for psychosocial injury were
not necessarily medicalized in this context, and that’s
why you don’t see them in the medical setting. OK. Well, thank you all for coming. [APPLAUSE]

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