She podcasts too: Mapping Layers of Colonial Memory into Contemporary Visual Art

From January to May 2016, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (known as MuCEM) in Marseille, France hosted an exhibition called “Made in Algeria: Genealogy of a Territory”. The exhibit proclaimed to be the first large-scale exposition on the Algerian territory and gathered cartographic depictions of Algeria from the earliest European encounters in the fifteenth century to twenty-first century images of an independent culture still bearing colonial remnants, with a goal to show “this long and unique process which was the impossible conquest of Algeria” (MuCEM 3).

The most recent pieces, notably by artists Zineb Sedira who was born to Algerian parents in France, and Katia Kameli who has a French mother and Algerian father, show layering of colonial memory into contemporary images of the Algerian people and landscape. The exhibit, which in title wants to show the origins of the Algerian territory, is created primarily in France, for a French audience, and is built upon French imagination. By assessing the lines, grids and other marks that are still visibly mapped onto Algeria in the exhibit, this paper explores how what is in name “Made in Algeria” remains heavily marked by France.

She’s the smart one: Amy’s book review in Europe Now Journal

Vertriebene and Pieds-Noirs in Postwar Germany and France: Comparative perspectives

4.april.17

Europe Now Journal

As Europe continues to face the largest wave of refugees pouring into its borders since World War II, past influxes of migrants across the continent offer important lessons about national identity and integration. With Germany receiving the vast majority of refugees, and France ranked in the top three destinations, Vertriebene and Pieds-Noirs in Postwar Germany and France is particularly timely. The goal of this book is to compare how the estimated 12 million expellees from Germany’s European Empire were reintegrated within Germany’s shrunken borders after World War II, and how France’s nearly 1 million colonial citizens of Algeria were received in France after Algerian Independence was recognized in 1962. Both the expellees and the Pieds-Noirs were full-fledged citizens who had been fulfilling a national duty for their motherland in its outlying territories. However, when the borders shifted with the fall of the German Empire, and Algeria became independent from France, notions of colonial grandeur waned and died. How the motherland dealt with these living reminders of a failed mission had to fit carefully within the myths of the nation, both present and past. For Germany, this was complicated by the two Germanies, East and West. Where expellees decided to resettle impacted directly on how they would be reintegrated. France, trying to hush up its colonial failures, wilfully silenced the war story, leaving the Pieds-Noirs struggling to share their experience as they banded together in a newly homogenised community. Some quietly integrated, but many today still proudly strive to keep their memories of Algeria alive. Both Vertriebene and Pieds-Noirs have negotiated national ideas of victimization and forgetting, silencing, integrating, and assimilating back into their so-called homeland.

The two populations shared various challenges, one being that unlike “repatriates,” many had never before set foot in the homeland, and some spoke different languages altogether (Polish, for example among the expellees or Spanish for many Pieds-Noirs). For the Pieds-Noirs who had been implanted in the settler-colony of Algeria for more than 130 years, they were distinct from the French because of their diverse heritages (Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Jewish and even German communities existed in colonial Algeria, all made citizens of France) and their specific cultural backgrounds. The expellees, running counter to this ethnic diversity, were part of a program meant to create homogenous communities abroad. Nonetheless, when “returned” to the motherland, it was not immediately obvious how to integrate these representatives of unsuccessful expansion.

In Vertriebene and Pieds-Noirs, the editors Manuel Borutta and Jan C. Jansen draw useful comparisons between the German expellees post World War II (Vertriebene) and the former French citizens of Algeria who repatriated to France in 1962. The book’s pretext is compelling: these two groups carried a similar amount of stigma related to lost territories during eras of expansion; the two groups represent a large postcolonial diaspora that have not often been addressed because of the sense of “homecoming” involved in their returns to Germany and France respectively. Pieds-Noirs and Vertriebene, in many instances, had to quickly take what they could and flee to the motherland. The trauma of this exile was not easily mitigated because it was often not addressed. With losses pinned to their identities and unfavorable political sins enmeshed in their existence, both groups (responsible or not for these sins) went through difficult integration into the motherland even when support was offered.

The editors have gathered research from the most prominent scholars in their fields: Jansen, Savarèse, Shepard, Baussant and Eldridge, have long been studying the Pieds-Noirs and the memory of the Algerian War, and are each suited to provide authoritative commentary. Likewise, Baranowski, Bösch, François, and Troebst are highly regarded scholars in German studies. Borutta and Jansen have equally established a clear and pedagogically sound structure for their book by pairing studies focused on Germany and France on roughly the same topics: nation-building after the empire, repatriation and integration, community organization and identity, commemorative practices, and politics, and remembrance. Each of the six parts of the book builds on the previous section, which manages to bring even the uninformed reader up to level through the progression of articles. The book represents a vast array of topics ranging from culturally specific Vertriebene culinary practices to Pied-Noir pilgrimages in France, from economic plans for resettlement and reintegration to the place of memory in each community.

Each of the articles are supremely researched, compelling, and enjoyable to read. I read from the position of knowing a lot about the Pieds-Noirs but almost nothing about the Vertriebene. Articles on both topics are clear and engaging for the newcomer and expert alike. For example, the first chapter, “Legacies of Lebenstraum: German Identity and Multi-Ethnicity” by Shelley Baranowski, clearly situates the Vertriebene within German histories of migration and follows them through the histories of both East and West Germany (and the flux between the two) as well as post-unification. This is an eloquent article that is delightful to read. The paired chapter by Todd Shepard, “The Birth of the Hexagon,” offers thoughtful insight on the position of the Pieds-Noirs across history (and their near disappearance in seminal works like Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de mémoire) and how the community has been positioned in broader notions of French national identity. The conclusion of the book written by Etienne François relates the memories of exile on a personal level. François recounts his family’s unique position of being attached to both Algeria and Germany before the fall of the empires. He sensitively compares the similarities and differences as well as the impact of exile and the traumatic context of departure, on these two communities.

This book provides a rich comparative study, the first of its kind, and certainly the first in English (featuring four French articles that were superbly translated by John Tittensor) to address two lesser known populations of migrants who had and continue to have an important role in the national identities of France and Germany. Specialists in migration studies, diaspora and memory studies, as well as the unversed in the history of the Pieds-Noirs and Vertriebene, will find this book useful. It is clearly and cogently written so that both scholars and general readers will gain insight from the texts and perhaps also better understand the complexities and suffering associated with exile and integration even for those who are said to be coming home.

 

ShitAcademicsSay: Behind a social-media experiment (and Amy’s book got a great review)

A review of my much smarter French professoring partner’s latest book,  Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, Identity, and Exile begins with, “Amy Hubbell’s recent book is perhaps the most important work of literary criticism to date devoted to examining the veritable richness and inherent paradoxes of Pied-Noir literature in all of its extremely divergent forms. Hubbell seamlessly blends close textual readings of primary sources with the remembering.french.algeriainterdisciplinary theories of renowned researchers such as Cathy Caruth, Benjamin Stora, Jacques Mauger, Judith Butler, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, and Hélène Cixous whose ideas continue to shape the emerging field of trauma studies. The author adopts a very accessible yet rigorous, systematic approach to exploring the vast and ever-evolving body of literature written by the incredibly diverse group of exiled people commonly referred to as the “Pieds-Noirs.”

Our sibling cats are named Jacques (the white one) and Cixous (the black one).

So while basking in the moment and the years of effort that went into the book, I’ll pass on these words from Nathan C. Hall, an associate professor in the Learning Sciences program and director of the Achievement Motivation and Emotion research group at McGill University (Canada, represent) who wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education last year that:

“I am not an intellectual, leading expert, or public scholar. I am a rank-and-file academic with the job of balancing respectable research with acceptable teaching evaluations and sitting on enough committees to not be asked to sit on more committees (that’s the bit for Amy). And in my spare time, I run what is arguably one of the most influential academic accounts on social media: Shit Academics Say.

Since starting the account in September of 2013, it has grown to over 122,000 followers, gaining 250 to 300 new followers daily and ranking in the top 0.1 percent across social media influence metrics such as Klout, Kred, and Followerwonk. To unpack this a bit, tweets sent from my phone while recalibrating dopamine levels on the treadmill, or waiting outside my 3-year-old’s ballet class, are showing up in about 10 million Twitter streams and generating 200,000 to 300,000 profile visits a month, effectively making @AcademicsSay a bigger “social authority” on Twitter than nearly all colleges and academic publications. Not weird at all.

doug.cats.jun.14Although this might sound impressive, the popularity of the account is perhaps not surprising. First, academics use Twitter mainly for distraction, with tweets providing humorous details of academic content typically gaining the most exposure. Second, it is immediately apparent to new Twitter users that parody accounts like @kimkierkegaardashian, @NoToFeminism, or @SwiftOnSecurity tend to be more popular than traditional outlets — an observation that sparked an idea for how to personally connect with other academics in a not-boring way and on a scale large enough to have my procrastination count as research.

Like many academics, I have never been completely comfortable with the peculiarities, predilections, or pretentions of our profession, and have over time found myself both ashamed and amused while telling students to “please have a seat while I sit three feet away and finish this non-urgent email for the next five minutes”, or telling myself “I should be writing” when doing anything remotely enjoyable. And since starting this profession six years ago, I have also been regularly confused and frustrated by the cognitive dissonance I regularly encountered as part of trying to stay productive, employable, and, most important, fundable.

As a grad student, I had often heard that a retirement boom was coming, that course evaluations should not be believed until the third time around, and that all resubmitted manuscripts and grant applications are eventually accepted. However, I personally found these sentiments to be less than comforting after my own failed job applications (90-plus over two years), unsuccessful grant applications (15 since 2000), soul-crushing course evaluations (“He should have applied some of the motivational principles he teaches about to his own teaching.” — Winter 2015, paraphrased), and unjustified manuscript rejections (“I am a jealous and generally unhappy person.” — Reviewer 2, paraphrased).

And very much unlike a detached analysis of affect in which I was well-trained, I increasingly found myself dealing with unexpected combinations of emotion such as boredom/anger while grading, guilt/envy while reviewing a manuscript I should have written, or relief/shame after an internal grant deadline was extended. As an experienced overthinker, I was also able to convince myself that these wonderfully nuanced internal experiences were somehow unique to my beautiful mind. Whether it was self-disappointment over writing guilt on date night, resentment while teaching night classes instead of reading bedtime stories to my kids, or using humor to avoid feeling like a fraud while teaching content learned the day before or writing papers few would ever read, well-worn constructs like work-life balance and impostor syndrome didn’t seem to fit.

shit.academic.sayBut I shouldn’t complain. I get paid to think about thinking about thinking, and start my first sabbatical this summer to ostensibly gain a “fresh perspective on an old problem” (aka: binge-watching Entourage.

The rest of the story is great, but as she finishes her sabbatical, here are some other reviews she can take to performance evaluations:

“Hubbell’s Remembering French Algeria is an intriguing and important contribution to scholarship on the representation of Algeria in literature and film.”—D. L. Boudreau, Choice

“Perhaps the most important work of literary criticism to date devoted to examining the veritable richness and inherent paradoxes of Pied-Noir literature in all of its extremely divergent forms.”—Keith Moser, Contemporary French Civilization

“This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking study that contains remarkable insights. Remembering French Algeria makes an important contribution to current scholarship on postcolonial relations between France and Algeria and fills an important gap in that scholarship by focusing specifically on the oft-overlooked category of the community of Pieds-Noirs.”—Alison Rice, author of Time Signatures: Contextualizing Contemporary Francophone Autobiographical Writing from the Maghreb

We both have a hockey (ice) game to play in three hours.

By Amy Hubbell: Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, Identity and Exile 

A. J. Liebling famously said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

doug.cats.jun.14I cited that when I started the other newspaper at the University of Guelph in 1988, and I’ll say it now on my barfblog, as I shamelessly promote my wife and her book, Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, Identity and Exile (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2015).

“This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking study that contains remarkable insights. Remembering French Algeria makes an important contribution to current scholarship on postcolonial relations between France and Algeria and fills an important gap in that scholarship by focusing specifically on the oft-overlooked category of the community of Pieds-Noirs.”—Alison Rice, author of Time Signatures: Contextualizing Contemporary Francophone Autobiographical Writing from the Maghreb

Colonized by the French in 1830, Algeria was an important French settler colony that, unlike its neighbors, endured a lengthy and brutal war for independence from 1954 to 1962. The nearly one million Pieds-Noirs (literally “black-feet”) were former French citizens of Algeria who suffered a traumatic departure from their homes and discrimination upon arrival in France. In response, the once heterogeneous group unified as a community as it struggled to maintain an identity and keep the memory of colonial Algeria alive.

remembering.french.algeria.may.15Remembering French Algeria examines the written and visual re-creation of Algeria by the former French citizens of Algeria from 1962 to the present. By detailing the preservation and transmission of memory prompted by this traumatic experience, Amy L. Hubbell demonstrates how colonial identity is encountered, reworked, and sustained in Pied-Noir literature and film, with the device of repetition functioning in these literary and visual texts to create a unified and nostalgic version of the past. At the same time, however, the Pieds-Noirs’ compulsion to return compromises these efforts. Taking Albert Camus’s Le Mythe de Sisyphe and his subsequent essays on ruins as a metaphor for Pied-Noir identity, this book studies autobiographical accounts by Marie Cardinal, Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous, and Leïla Sebbar, as well as lesser-known Algerian-born French citizens, to analyze movement as a destabilizing and productive approach to the past.

(And yes, our cats are named Jacques – the white one — and Cixous.)

Amy L. Hubbell is a lecturer in French at the University of Queensland. She is the co-editor of Textual and Visual Selves: Photography, Film, and Comic Art in French Autobiography (Nebraska, 2011) and The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art (Cambridge Scholars, 2013).

Hubbell writes: Business French in a Communicative Context

While it may not get the gushing reviews of Keith Richards’ Life, Amy Hubbell the French professor published a business French textbook the other day.

Entitled, Fou da fa fa, the book promo proclaims, “Finally an ‘extraordinary and refreshing’ French Business Textbook!”

With no tales of heroin addiction, the origin of killer guitar riffs or taking a couple of years to figure out who that Johnny Depp dude was hanging out at the house, Dr. Hubbell’s book — À la recherche d’un emploi is designed for students at the intermediate, or third year-level of French, who are seeking to develop their vocabulary and cultural knowledge in preparation for working in an international environment. This text focuses on communicative and contextualized activities, and uses authentic materials and examples to prepare students for their careers.

It’s not known whether William Thompson , an associate professor of French and assistant dean, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Memphis, is a Rolling Stones fan or not, but he did say,

"[This text] definitely fills a tremendous void in the field of business French. With a wealth of information and activities, this textbook provides students and instructors with an engaging and in-depth introduction to the major aspects of using French in a professional context. Of particular interest is the incorporation of la Francophonie and the European Union, two critical topics rarely presented in other business French textbooks. Anyone intending to seek employment in a French-speaking country or region will benefit greatly from the content and guidance that this text provides."

As a Keith Richards fan (especially the riffs from 1968-1972), I have to say, Hubbell’s book rocks.

And so does she.

Food safety in French: Le Blog d’Albert Amgar

I’m not sure how I would have figured stuff out when I moved to Manhattan (Kansas) if Amy wasn’t with me.

Especially the American university administrative hoops. And the French. I’m Canadian but, like many other Canadians, don’t speak French. Fortunately, Amy’s a French professor so I can now understand all the food safety stuf Albert Amgar sends me from France – it’s usually in French.

Albert has just retired and has started his own blog, Le Blog d’Albert Amgar. It sounds classy, cause it’s French.
 
“Among the subjects reviewed are the recall of food in France, Europe and the rest of the world, food hygiene, HACCP, management of microbial risks, food safety policy, food microbiology through microorganisms of interest and those that make problems (emergent or not), chemical risks of different natures, problems arising in food safety and security as well as some elements in nutrition, and some simply in security.”

Albert also has this quote at the top of his blog from Pierre Darmon’s, “L’homme et les microbes” (The Man and the Microbes):

“Hygiene, before Microbiology, is only hygienic in its intentions. It’s a Science of appearances that rests in the hands of the blind: what’s healthy is beautiful, good, and doesn’t smell bad.”

Best wishes for the blog, Albert. And after three years I’m starting to understand the Tour de France – or at least the scenery.