Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More

Révolution Africaine

French, African, and Arab: Negotiating Post-Colonial Algerian Identity in Révolution Africaine

Six months after Algeria won its independence, an unusual group of militants gathered in Algiers. Led by a Siamese-born French lawyer, Jacques Vergès, the group consisted of French and Algerian journalists, cartoonists, photographers, and militants. Their mission? To craft a new cultural and political journal. On February 2, 1963, the first issue of Révolution Africaine (RA) was released. Over the course of the next five years, RA experienced important upheavals: editors-in-chief were hired, fired, and arrested; journalists were trained and fled political persecution; the journal was even temporarily halted in 1965 after a coup d’état.

Despite this tumultuous history, RA became one of Algeria’s foremost French-language publications in the first decade of independence. Articles covered domestic politics and culture, journalists conducted in-depth investigations on international revolutionary movements and even reprinted letters and articles from sympathetic readers abroad. The publication had an important impact on debates about culture, politics, and society in the new nation, crafting a robust public square beyond the state. This article is the first institutional study of RA, examining how it articulated a counter-hegemonic definition of postcolonial Algerian identity alongside and beyond the state after 1962.

After Algeria became independent in 1962, the Front de Libération Nationale began a series of social, political, and economic reforms. These state policies dominate studies of  post-colonial identity, yet in the first decade of independence, civil society groups contributed to debates about Algeria’s revolutionary identity in the global South. Under Ahmed Ben Bella (1962-1965) and Houari Boumedienne (1965-1978), Islam, Arabism, and socialism became central components of national identity, defining Algeria as either part of continental Africa or the Arab world. Usually portrayed as an all-encompassing discourse, everyday Algerians in fact consumed, transformed, and challenged these narratives of belonging through civil institutions like literature or education.

Though often censored, the press played an important role in these debates about Algerian identity. RA provides a lens into the negotiation of French, African, and Arab identity in post-colonial Algeria. The publication’s journalists rejected the colonial past through a new revolutionary identity, they also strategically resisted the government’s attempt to dominate debates over the country’s future. In articulating an alternative definition of Algerian identity, RA crafted a public square of discourse that both emphasized the importance of postcolonial reform and challenged the FLN’s hegemonic claim to Algeria’s future… read more

Sarah Miles

Sarah K. Miles is a global intellectual historian studying anticolonialism, revolution, and print culture in the twentieth-century francophone world. She is currently finishing her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her doctoral work examines the emergence of transnational print media networks that connected left-wing militants in France, Quebec, and Algeria in […]