Performing the Pied-Noir family: Weaving narratives of memory and identity
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Although the Algerian war (1954-1962) is now fifty years past, it remains a contentious issue in France. In the aftermath of this particularly violent conflict, the French public was encouraged to forget the hostilities and various communities involved in the war thus continue to seek a place in the national narrative, often by producing texts which feature their own version of events. One such group is the former European settlers of Algeria, most of whom fled to France in 1962. Against the backdrop of enduring stereotypes and myths associated with this community, which became known as the pieds-noirs during the war, this doctoral thesis examines how the settlers have represented themselves in literature and on-screen. It draws on theories of performativity to unravel some of the ways in which a pied-noir identity is informed by commemorative discourses. This thesis focuses on the pied-noir family as a key site of affective and ideological investment which may facilitate both inclusion and exclusion. More specifically, this study analyses performances of masculinity, femininity, adolescence and childhood as depicted in a variety of both autobiographical and fictional works by the settlers. Lesser known authors are considered, as are eminent writers from this community, including Albert Camus, Marie Cardinal and Hélène Cixous. Many of the variously fictional works analysed, despite appearing to be private stories, are revealed consciously to construct collective memory and to inform the performance of a communal post-independence identity.