The Battle of Algiers at 50: Legacies in Film and Literature

On 18 May 2016 ‘The Battle of Algiers at 50: Legacies in Film and Literature’ symposium took place at Sheffield’s Interdisciplinary Centre for the Social Sciences

The symposium aimed to reflect the multi-faceted readings of this highly influential film on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

The first panel, ‘Transcultural Legacies’, focused on the intertextual influences of The Battle of Algiers in transnational contexts, such as the aesthetics of Moroccan postcolonial cinema (Mohamed El Bouayadi, Mohamed V University), the representation of terrorism in Hindi film (Eleanor Halsall, SOAS) and its transmedial transformation into bande dessinée (Edward Still, Oxford).

‘Gendering Resistance’ offered insights into the representation of women as subaltern subjects (Aleena Karim, University of Birmingham), the surprising significance of (cross)dressing and resistance (Shelley Saggar, University of Leeds) and echoes of Algerian women’s resistance in contemporary Tunisia (Manel Zouabi, University of York).

‘The Shadow of Violence’ considered the different knowledges of violence which are produced in the film, from the role of colonial warfare in the establishment of a globalised neo-liberal world order (Sophie Watt and Amanda Crawley Jackson, University of Sheffield), to the specifically gendered qualities of an urban war (Ouerdia Ben Mamar, Universtié Paris 8) and the mimetic nature of violence in the film (Sarah Jilani).

We were delighted to welcome Alan O’Leary (University of Leeds) whose keynote engaged with liminal architecture and location beyond the Casbah in The Battle of Algiers to suggest that this pre-empts the postcolonial knowledge of banlieue films, such as La Haine.

Claire Eldridge (University of Leeds) joined the speakers for the concluding roundtable session, discussing the film’s collaborative production (moving beyond the cliché of ‘Pontecorvo’s masterpiece’, the reception of the film by pied-noir communities, and the plasticity of this cultural artefact as it passes through different critical and cultural contexts. We are pursuing publication in a special issue (journal to be confirmed) and would like to thank the Society for French Studies and Leeds’s School of Languages, Cultures and Society for funding this event.