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Misfortune or Injustice? The Political Work of Algeria's Post Conflict Narrative

Sat, September 2, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton Union Square, Continental Parlor 8


Since the end of the civil war in the 1990s, the Algerian government has enacted a series of post-conflict measures in an attempt to deal with the past. These policies have shifted over time. Initially starting with prosecution and imprisonment of insurgents while the conflict was ongoing, the regime proceeded to partial investigation of allegations of violence perpetrated by state actors against civilians. In 2005 the regime opted for a blanket amnesty law (covering all belligerents), and released from jail of thousands of formerly imprisoned insurgents. Over the last decade, these actors have been reintegrated into society. In the name of stability, the regime has officially condoned disregard for the rule of law, which would require punishment for criminal and violent activity dating from that period.
The Algerian regime has used a variety of stories to explain and refer to the conflict that occurred in the 1990s. This paper explores these major narratives which have been employed in regime discourse over the period of the conflict (1992-2000) and in the post-conflict era (2000 to the present). Drawing from the philosophical work of Judith Shklar, the paper highlights the strategic use of language shifts between narratives identifying the violence as either “misfortune”, or “injustice” (Shklar 1990). The research presented here draws on analysis of a variety of primary source documents (government statements, official speeches at the domestic and international level, journalistic accounts from press organizations associated with the regime etc.) in French and Arabic, as well as interview data collected by the author. The paper highlights the dynamics associated with the two narratives, asking specifically, what political work is being accomplished through the strategic use of regime narrative?