Fifty Years of the Algerian War in Comics
Professor Mark McKinney
Miami University, Ohio
Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 5:15 pm
Florida State University
Fifty years after Algerian independence, this lecture will show how the representation of the Algerian War (1954–62) in comics by artists in Algeria and France has a decades-long history that sheds light on social and artistic changes in both countries. For example, French torture of Algerians during the war, once taboo in France, now features prominently in some French comics, in part because debate on that subject was reignited beginning in 2000, in newspapers, books and courts. Cartoonists often incorporate into their comics visual and textual elements from famous period texts, such as photographs or speeches. They also include in their stories historical figures associated with the war, ranging from De Gaulle to Salan, and Camus to Sartre. They may base their stories on real wartime episodes that have become memorial sites in France or Algeria: for example the demonstration and killing of Algerians in Paris on 17 October 1961, and of Pieds-Noirs in Algiers on 26 March 1962. Even when comics use the same colonial imagery, discourse, characters and events, cartoonists often inflect them in very different and even contradictory ways. Ethnic and national backgrounds and allegiances of cartoonists can help explain key divergences between their perspectives on this colonial history. Despite their differences, comics about the Algerian War generally engage in various ways with what may be termed an “affrontier” between France and Algeria, which separates and distinguishes the two national and cultural spaces, but can also allow passage between them.
Mark McKinney is Professor of French at Miami University (Ohio). With Alec G. Hargreaves, he edited Post-Colonial Cultures in France (Routledge, 1997). He also edited History and Politics in French-Language Comics and Graphic Novels (University Press of Mississippi, 2008) and authored The Colonial Heritage of French Comics (Liverpool University Press, 2011). With Laurence Grove, Catherine Labio and Ann Miller, he edits European Comic Art (http://liverpool.metapress.com/content/121625/). He has published several book chapters on French-language comics, as well as articles on the topic in Etudes francophones, Expressions maghrébines, International Journal of Comic Art, and Sites: Contemporary French and Francophone Studies.