AAPA members met with French historian Benjamin Stora, author of a recent and controversial report commissioned by President Macron on French-Algerian relations. Prof. Stora is an expert on the topic from the colonial period until today, and is especially known for his work covering the years of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).

With about 25 members attending the zoom conference on April 21, Prof. Stora discussed the report that President Macron asked him to produce (without remuneration, he specified). The President wanted Prof. Stora to elaborate a plan that would permit true reconciliation between the two nations, sixty years after the end of the war. The history of this tragic period is infused with passionate memories and the report has been met with criticism on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Prof. Stora provided many insights into understanding the complex and traumatic relationship between the two countries. He stressed the importance for all parties concerned to search for la juste mémoire, a fair and accurate memory of events. “The objective is not to write a common history, but to seek to explain the colonial event together, and not to believe that everything can be resolved in a final verdict,” he said. Both France and Algeria have favored their own memories, ignoring those of the other side. This has resulted in a double resentment that undermines both societies still today.

He warned against what he calls “dangerous memories” (mémoires dangereuses), a recent phenomenon among French citizens of Algerian descent, in which “the war of memories” has shifted into the making of identities that are no longer defined exclusively in relation to the war but refer to notions such as race, religion or social inequality. The confrontation of memories has morphed into a confrontation of identities and their relationship to the French Republic.

Thomas Haley