Mapping Wilaya: The Algerian Counterstate 1954-1962

Authors: Nour Joudah*, UCLA
Topics: Political Geography, Indigenous Peoples, Cartography
Keywords: mapping, borders, settler colonialism, algeria, france, resistance, territoriality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the French conquest of Algeria in the mid-nineteenth century until as recently as 1984, Algeria has undergone a series of province-based remapping and territorial transformations. With each phase of redrawing its provinces, the French government, the FLN, and the Algerian government after independence made decisions that have worked to both assert and transform a set of social and political conditions. These mapping phases can be broken down (roughly) to: colonial French Algeria prior to the Algerian war for independence (1848-1956); Algeria during the war of independence (1954-1962); and independent Algeria after the war (1962-present). This paper focuses on this second phase, during which there were two simultaneous and competing maps of Algeria. The intent here is not to lay out an intricate or detailed history of the Algerian revolution or French military offensives, but to interrogate key ways the Algerian wilayas and French departments were an extension of a larger struggle and competition for power. These mappings did not exist unaware of each other, nor were they (solely) responses to each other. Each set of boundaries was recognized, whether formally or de facto, by the powers that set them, and both settler and indigenous Algerian communities were subject to the happenings of the department and wilaya in which they resided. These mapping practices manifested far beyond the cartographic representation of boundaries. They were the Algerian resistance and colonial French state’s contesting expressions of aspirations to de/reterritorialize the political and physical landscape of Algeria and France during the war.

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