Filmmaker Karen Thorsen gave us James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, the award-winning documentary that is now considered a classic. First broadcast on PBS/American Masters in August, 1989—just days after what would have been Baldwin’s sixty-fifth birthday—the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990. It was not the film Thorsen intended to make. Beginning in 1986, Baldwin and Thorsen had been collaborating on a very different film project: a “nonfiction feature” about the history, research, and writing of Baldwin’s next book, “Remember This House.” It was also going to be a film about progress: about how far we had come, how far we still have to go, before we learn to trust our common humanity. But that project ended abruptly. On 1 December 1987, James Baldwin died—and “Remember This House,” book and film died with him. Suddenly, Thorsen’s mission changed: the world needed to know what they had lost. Her alliance with Baldwin took on new meaning. The following memoir—the second of two serialized parts—explores how and why their collaboration began. The first installment appeared in the sixth volume of James Baldwin Review, in the fall of 2020; the next stage of their journey starts here.
This excerpt from James Baldwin: Living in Fire details a key juncture in Baldwin’s life, 1957–59, when he was transformed by a visit to the South to write about the civil rights movement while grappling with the meaning of the Algerian Revolution. The excerpt shows Baldwin understanding black and Arab liberation struggles as simultaneous and parallel moments in the rise of Third World, anti-colonial and anti-racist U.S. politics. It also shows Baldwin’s emotional and psychological vulnerability to repressive state violence experienced by black and Arab citizens in the U.S., France, and Algiers.
in 1859, leaving more than 30,000 dead and wounded in a single day of combat. Henry Dunant, a Swiss citizen who was trying to get in contact with Napoleon III to request a concession in Algeria, came upon the battlefield and the dying, and the spectacle shocked the fervent evangelical (he was one of the founders of the Young Men’s Christian Association, later known as the YMCA). Dunant took an active part in organising first aid for the wounded, regardless of nationality
available. It wasn’t until 2013, when two ACTED employees were kidnapped in an area of Syria where we were also present, that the directorate and Board of Directors met to set up a crisis unit. Task Two: Developing a Risk-Management Methodology for the Field From 2012, I organised one-day risk-analysis workshops during each of my visits (be it Colombia, Myanmar, Algeria, the Sahel or the Democratic Republic of
and the Congo, or the British and Mau Mau, or the French in Algeria. As the Americans joined the fray post World War II (after Nazi Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jews, and after the US dropped two atomic bombs on civilians without warning), we can fast-forward to the use of nerve agents in Vietnam, the mass bombing of civilians in Cambodia, the giving of a green light to the government in East Pakistan to commit genocide in what is now Bangladesh or the political support the US gave to Pinochet and the Khmer Rouge. We can go back to the
In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.
Introduction There is . . . a lot of work that needs to be done on the role of women in the Revolution. The woman in the town, in the mountains, in the enemy administration, the prostitute and the intelligence that she obtains, the woman in prison, under torture, in the face of death, and before the tribunals. Frantz Fanon, L’An V de la révolution algérienne (1959) From 1926 onwards, the date of the foundation of the Algerian proindependence movement the Étoile nord-africaine (ENA), the forces of nationalism began to gain a mass popular base and to place
1 From the Sétif Massacre to the November insurrection: the origins of the Algerian women’s movement, 1945–54 The centre of gravity of this study lies in the French emancipation campaign from 1956 to 1962, but to understand the extent to which this was innovative or marked a break with the past requires some idea of that which preceded it. This chapter explores a number of issues: first, it provides a brief background sketch of the overall social, economic and political situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade. The triple colonial oppression of
8 The battle over the personal status law of 19591 Of the different measures taken by the French government for the advancement and emancipation of Algerian women none was potentially more important than the 1959 reform of marriage and family law (statut personnel). It is no co-incidence that throughout the Muslim world during the last hundred years political battles over reform and modernisation have inevitably been framed in relation to the legal position and rights of women. The structure of the family cell constituted the fundamental bedrock of the total
7 The mobile socio-medical teams (EMSI): making contact with peasant society The army faced a particularly daunting task in its ambition to create a strategy of contact, which would enable it to penetrate into the lives of the great mass of Algerian women that inhabited the interior. Here, as chapter 6 has shown, conditions were particularly adverse to such a project due to a combination of poverty, illiteracy and isolation, combined with forms of military action that alienated rural communities. The key instrument of contact that was developed during Operation