Collective Memory examines the difficult transmission of memory in France of the Algerian war of independence (1954-62). Emphasizing the current lack of transmission of memories of this war through a detailed case study of three crucial vectors of memory: the teaching of school history, coverage in the media, and discussion in the family, author McCormack argues that lack of transmission of memories is feeding into contemporary racism and exclusion in France. Collective Memory draws extensively on interviews with historians, teachers, and pupils as well as secondary sources and media analysis. McCormack proposes that a greater 'work of memory' needs to be undertaken if France is to overcome the division in French society that stems from the war. There has been little reconciliation of divisive group memories, a situation that leaves many individuals without a voice on this important subject. 'Memory battles' dominate discussion of the topic as many issues periodically flare up and cannot yet be overcome.
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Jo McCormack is lecturer in French at the Institute for International Studies, University of Technology, Sydney.Review:
This pioneering study is a welcome addition to the scientific literature of the Algerian War. Drawing on original empirical and archival research, it casts new light on the single most traumatic episode in France's reluctant retreat from overseas empire. At the core of Jo McCormack's analysis is pedagogy, understood as the national imaginative paradigm that shapes the way in which the history of the conflict is (or, crucially, is not) taught: an "educational chain" that leads from the most eminent historians and legislators to high-school teachers an their students, and which McCormack productively links to such other essential vectors of deficiencies in official processes of commemoration, and thereby underlines the troubled legacy - and specifically, the still contested memory politics - of France's final colonial conflict. This volume will be essential reading for students and academics with an interest in decolonization in general and the Algerian War in particular, as well as for all those concerned with the broader challenges of commemoration and reconciliation in the post-colonial world. (Philip Dine, National University of Ireland, Galway and author of Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992)
Jo McCormack's informative study of the multiple, often conflicting ways in which the Algerian War is remembered sheds interesting light on the complexities of memory politics in contemporary France. With its emphasis on the transmission of memory through the education system, the family, and the media, this clearly written, well documented volume is a welcome contribution to research on the traumatic legacies of the Algerian War and will be of interest to both historians and literary scholars. (Susan Ireland, Professor of French, Grinnell College)
Jo McCormack...offers a worthy study on a complex issue: the transmission of the memory of the Algerian War (1954-62) in contemporary France.... McCormack successively studies each of the three vectors of memory he has selected. (Christophe Gracieux H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online, March 2009, Institut d'etudes politques de Paris)
The overseas empire, especially French rule in Algeria, was long a marginal subject in French public life, though recent conflicts about migration and multiculturalism have brought colonialism and its legacy vividly to French attention. As France now seeks to work through and come to terms with its colonial past, Jo McCormack's study of three vectors for the transmission of knowledge about the overseas empire - schools, families and the press - provides interesting insight into the 'memory work' that is an essential part of this process. His book integrates theoretical perspectives with evidence drawn, in particular, from interviews with teachers and students and from a content analysis of France's leading newspaper, and it contributes to a 'rediscovery' of colonial history by scholars and the general public alike. (Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney and author of Vestiges of the Colonial Empire in France: Monuments, Museums, and Colonial Memories)
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