The colonial in postcolonial Europe: The social memory of Maltese-origin pieds-noirs
AuthorSmith, Andrea Lynn
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation considers the social memories of Maltese-origin pieds-noirs, or former colonists of Algeria. Over half of the French colonists of Algeria came to the colony from Spain, Italy, or Malta, among other European countries, during the nineteenth century. Naturalized as French citizens, they "returned" primarily to France at Algerian decolonization in 1962. As "liminal colonists," interstitially situated between colonized and colonist, the Maltese were subject to considerable discrimination in the colony, a discrimination which has had lasting repercussions and which is revealed in the Maltese social memory today. This project was based on nineteen months of ethnographic research conducted among elderly pieds-noirs of Maltese origin, now living in southern France, and archival research on colonial Algerian history. From these two distinct methods, I developed two versions of the Maltese experiences in colonial Algeria: that recorded in archival sources, and that reported in conversations about the past. These two versions of the past were then contrasted and compared. Through this method, I have uncovered what I call "domains" in Maltese social memory. These include the carefully silenced domain of the French-Algerian war; the ambivalent and compound domain concerning family histories and assimilation to French culture, often summarized through the employment of a version of the melting-pot metaphor; the nostalgic iteration of the colonial past; and the related and open-ended domain of memories of difficult or painful encounters with the Metropolitan French.
Degree ProgramGraduate College