Fifty years after Algerian independence, the legacy of France's Algerian past, and the ongoing complexities of the Franco-Algerian relationship, remain a key preoccupation in both countries. A central role in shaping understanding of their shared past and present is played by visual culture. This study investigates how relations between France and Algeria have been represented and contested through visual means since the outbreak of the Algerian War in 1954. It probes the contours of colonial and postcolonial visual culture in both countries, highlighting the important roles played by still and moving images when Franco-Algerian relations are imagined. Analysing a wide range of images made on both sides of the Mediterranean – from colonial picture postcards of French Algeria to contemporary representations of postcolonial Algiers – this new book is the first to trace the circulation of, and connections between, a diverse range of images and media within this field of visual culture. It shows how the visual representation of Franco-Algerian links informs our understanding both of the lived experience of postcoloniality within Europe and the Maghreb, and of wider contemporary geopolitics.
Contesting Views is a meticulously researched work, brimming with relevant references to a range of secondary literature on Franco-Algerian relations, and one which also demonstrates a welcome gendered awareness of female invisibility in many of the images discussed. This insightful and wide-ranging study recognizes the significant and, until now, underrepresented role played by the visual in informing pre- and post-colonial views of Franco-Algerian relations, and will thus appeal to both general and specialist readers with an interest in such relations, and in visual culture as a whole.
Siobhan McIlvanney, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies