The Construction of Race and Racial Hatred by the State in French Algeria | DEMOS21

This is a virtual event on Zoom. Registration is mandatory.
Monday, March 29, 2021 - 18:00

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies at The American University of Paris and Professor Miranda Spieler invite you to the fifth symposium of a 7-part series on " Race, Law and Justice."

Lethal Provocation: The Constantine Murders And The Politics Of French Algeria, Cornell 2019 (Joshua Cole)

Part murder mystery, part social history of political violence, Lethal Provocation revisits the deadliest peacetime episode of anti-Jewish violence in modern French history. Cole reconstructs the 1934 riots in Constantine, Algeria, in which tensions between Muslims and Jews were aggravated by right-wing extremists, resulting in the deaths of twenty-eight people. Animating the unrest was Mohamed El Maadi, a soldier in the French army, who later rallied to France’s Vichy regime during the Second World War; he finished his career in the Waffen SS. Lethal Provocation lays bare El Maadi’s motives as a provocateur and exposes official efforts to cover up his role as an instigator of this massacre. Cole’s bracing exposé of the Constantine murders reveals the government’s role in shaping ethno-religious antagonisms in Algeria during the years preceding anti-colonial war and independence.

The Corporealization Of “Muslim Law”: Legal Embodiments Of Religion, Race, And Sex In French Algeria (Judith Surkis)

In Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930 (Cornell, 2019), Judith Surkis traces how colonial authorities constructed Muslim legal difference and used it to deny Algerian Muslims full citizenship. Her book provides a sweeping legal genealogy of French Algeria, and elucidates how "the Muslim question" in France became—and remains—a question of sex. Drawing on her book, Surkis’s talk will explore longstanding French legal fantasies of Muslim law– born out, most recently, by Emmanuel Macron’s bill targeting “Muslim” separatism. The colonial genealogy of a particularized conception of Muslim sex and the family as instituted in and by law illuminates enduring ideas of the embodied difference between secular French people and Muslims. Her paper will explore how the very legal technologies deployed by the state to eliminate so-called Muslim separatism in fact reproduce difference, thus sustaining and legitimating discriminatory practices

Joshua Cole

Joshua Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan whose work focuses on the entangled colonial and post-colonial pasts of France and Algeria. His most recent book, Lethal Provocation: The Constantine Murders and the Politics of French Algeria (2019) is a microhistory of a 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in Constantine that reveals the role of French colonial administrators in inciting ethnic hatred and killing. His new book project examines the relationship between the colonial past and contemporary relations between France and Algeria. He has been a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) and the University of Alger-Bouzareah (Algeria). Lethal Provocation won the Mimi S. Frank Award in Sephardic Culture (Jewish Book Council), the J. Russell Major Prize (American Historical Association), and the Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize (French Colonial History Society).

Judith Surkis

Judith Surkis is a professor of history at Rutgers University. Her first book, Sexing the Citizen: Masculinity and Morality in France, 1870-1920, shows how masculine sexuality became central to the making of a social order in republican France. Her new book, Sex, Law and Sovereignty in French Algeria 1830-1930 (2019), which won the Middle East Women’s Studies 2020 book prize, explores the politics of identity in France and colonial Algeria from the vantagepoint of legal and gender history. The recipient of many prestigious fellowships and awards, Surkis is currently at work on a new project, entitled The Intimate Life of International Law: Children and Development After Decolonization.

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