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The Battlefield: Algeria 1988–2002: Studies in a Broken Polity

A radical corrective to Western misconceptions that reduce Algeria’s tragedy to a clash of stereotypes
The violence that has ravaged Algeria in recent years has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and humanitarian intervention, Algeria’s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs secularists, terrorists vs innocent civilians, or generals vs a defenceless society. The prevalence of such simplistic representations has disabled public opinion inside as well as outside the country and contributed to the intractability of the conflict.

This book offers a radical corrective to Western misconceptions. Rejecting the usual tautological approaches of inherent, predetermined conflict, Hugh Roberts explores the outlook and evolution of the various forces as they emerged: the Islamists; the Berberists; the factions within the army; the regime in general; and external actors.

Reviews

  • “Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.”
  • “I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearly written and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporary affairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts' unremitting effort to site Algerian problems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrect analogies that so clutter much writing on this subject … an excellent and deeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the often obscure politics of this troubled and important country.”
  • “No other European scholar has followed the twists and turns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.”

Blog

  • Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

    This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States. 



    Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

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