Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

The Algerian War as Matrix of the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

Postcolonial Theory between Activism and History

Danilo Scholz, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen

Online (Zoom) & Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI), Room 106, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

In the wake of the Hamas massacre of 7 October, postcolonial theory has gained a new, not always flattering public visibility. Its intellectual merits are disputed, conceptual vocabulary impugned, ideological ramifications denounced. This paper, while taking the recent controversies seriously, will move beyond the atmosphere of mutual, frequently apodictic recriminations in two ways. First, it will change the scale of a debate that often weaponises contentious concepts such as colonialism and antisemitism. By moving to a lower level of abstraction, it will focus on how the Algerian War is mobilised as a template for making sense of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Second, the paper will historicise these invocations of Algerian decolonisation in reverse chronological order in order to peel back layer after layer of discourse. Beginning with analogies between the Hamas terrorist attack and the Algerian liberation struggle that were made in the immediate aftermath of 7 October, I will proceed to investigate what, if any, connections are made between the French colonial presence in Algeria and the Israel-Palestine conflict in the writings of postcolonial thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Edward Said and Judith Butler. Finally, I will show how the historical protagonists themselves, mostly politicians and intellectuals, conceived of the triangular relationship between France, Algeria and Israel in the run-up to Algerian independence in 1962. This approach will allow us to identify both the motivations for and the limitations of considering the Algerian war as a matrix of the conflagrations in the Middle East.