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“We Are All Children of Algeria”

Visuality and Countervisuality 1954-2011

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Author

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This project examines the visualization of Algeria during its decolonial revolution (1954-62) and the unresolved legacies of that period, which came back to world attention in dramatic fashion with the revolutions of 2011. It emphasizes the dual visualization around the point of view of the child. Decolonized Algeria paid special attention to children as the legacy of the revolution and its intended heirs. Then as now, the Algerian population was unusually young if compared to developed nations so this was more than a gesture: as the cinema of the period emphasized, children were key actors in the revolution as well as its intended beneficiaries. From the side of French colonial politics, Algerians were collectively understood as children, whose mental capacities were literally inferior to those of their French "parents."

The use of torture, disappearances and the other violence during what France called the counterinsurgency and what Algerians called the revolution were the beginning of the sorry history of global counterinsurgency. Experts from French Algeria trained Latin American torturers in the 1970s and the entire array of practices came back into favor in the United States after 9/11, especially with the launch of the U. S. counterinsurgency policy in 2006. At the same time Algeria's revolution, never fully implemented, had backtracked as early as 1967 and collapsed into a disastrous civil war in 1991 after the Army cancelled elections that had returned the Islamic Salvation Front. With over 100,000 deaths and atrocities on all sides, this trauma has yet to be resolved.

The project tracks the spectres of these violences in Algeria, Europe and the United States. While it was originally my intent to say that these issues remained open and haunted the global imaginary, the revolutions of 2011 have transformed the street revolution into a new form of countervisuality. Indeed, placing our bodies in public space where they are not supposed to be has a new name now: Occupy.
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