Claire Eldridge
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The sounds of silence
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Pieds-noirs were offered extensive assistance by the French state on the basis of their status as citizens. In contrast, harkis found their Frenchness repeatedly questioned, not just in cultural and social terms, but also at the political and legal level. The consequences of this were far-reaching as harkis were subjected to an all-encompassing process of state control. This included placing many harkis and their families into camps and other institutional environments upon their arrival in France thus initiating a pattern of collectivisation, isolation and exceptional treatment that would continue for years. Lacking the necessary resources – both material and cultural - to mobilise against this treatment, the harki community sought refuge in silence. This left a space into which stepped a series of actors, including the French and Algerian governments, Muslim elites, French veterans and pied-noir activists, all of whom offered their own representations of the harkis. Collectively, these discourses created a simplified, essentialised and politicised portrait of the harki community that would endure until the mid-1970s.

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From empire to exile

History and memory within the pied-noir and harki communities, 1962–2012

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