Decolonizing Memory

Algeria and the Politics of Testimony

Decolonizing Memory

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 13 illustrations Published: June 2021

Author: Jill Jarvis

African Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

The magnitude of the legal violence exercised by the French to colonize and occupy Algeria (1830–1962) is such that only aesthetic works have been able to register its enduring effects. In Decolonizing Memory Jill Jarvis examines the power of literature to provide what demographic data, historical facts, and legal trials have not in terms of attesting to and accounting for this destruction. Taking up the unfinished work of decolonization since 1962, Algerian writers have played a crucial role in forging historical memory and nurturing political resistance—their work helps to make possible what state violence has rendered almost unthinkable. Drawing together readings of multilingual texts by Yamina Mechakra, Waciny Laredj, Zahia Rahmani, Fadhma Aïth Mansour Amrouche, Assia Djebar, and Samira Negrouche alongside theoretical, juridical, visual, and activist texts from both Algeria’s national liberation war (1954–1962) and war on civilians (1988–1999), this book challenges temporal and geographical frameworks that have implicitly organized studies of cultural memory around Euro-American reference points. Jarvis shows how this literature rewrites history, disputes state authority to arbitrate justice, and cultivates a multilingual archive for imagining decolonized futures.


Decolonizing Memory is a remarkable account of literature as a form of witnessing and the aesthetic as the primary register for imagining the unthinkable. Presented with elegance and a keen attention to language, the book locates Algeria at the center of the traumas of the twentieth century and demonstrates how literature could push back against the politics of silence promoted by the state. This is postcolonial scholarship at its best—theoretically sophisticated and historically grounded.” — Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University

“Jill Jarvis's comparative study of Algeria, which engages with Arabic materials alongside the French, is very impressive. Meeting a significant demand in the field, Decolonizing Memory is a strong addition to Francophone studies, memory studies, and postcolonial studies and it will appeal to all those interested in the relationship between justice and the literary.” — Ranjana Khanna, author of Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation, 1830 to the Present


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jill Jarvis is Assistant Professor of French at Yale University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The Future of Memory  1
1. Remnants of Muslims  27
2. Untranslatable Justice  63
3. Mourning Revolt  98
4. Open Elegy  141
Conclusion. Prisons without Walls  168
Notes  197
Bibliography  255
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1410-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1196-5