Ratiba Hadj-Moussa

Forgetting of Morality, Morality of Forgetting: Reconciliation in Algeria and the Official Erasure of the Political Subject

MECAM Papers English | 2022

  • The official politics of forgetting involved in Algeria’s post–Civil War reconciliation process poses important moral and political questions about the constitution of the political subject and of citizenship.

    • While, as many authors have noted, the choice to forget is not unique to Algeria, the Algerian case is specific in its reliance on a forced collective silence that disregards the victims, their relatives, and thus the general population.

    • After the Algerian Civil War, which saw 200,000 deaths and more than 20,000 disappearances, the return to peace was effected by a political decision to forget, in order that “civil concord” could be re-established. This official stance, however, has served to fix positions and interpretations, leaving the present frozen in the past.

    • To what extent can this morality of forgetting – as initiated by the Algerian regime – be understood and justified as fundamentally necessary for the continuity of social life? Or, conversely, should this forgetting ordered from above be considered amoral rather than moral, and therefore in need of reconsideration and criticism in the light of collective and individual memory? Does this pointillistic and very selective view of the past offered by official Algerian history serve to complicate the Algerian reconciliation process?

    Context Even if the political decision to forget can be justified pragmatically within the reconciliation process, it is morally problematic in the non-democratic context in which monumental history is imposed. Besides the fact that in this reconciliation process some pay more dearly than others for “the return to peace,” forgetting may silently perpetuate the problems that led to the Civil War. A policy of forgetting also has the effect of erasing the plurality of political subjects by establishing a singular official subject in their place.

    English version: Forgetting of Morality, Morality of Forgetting : Reconciliation in Algeria and the Official Erasure of the Political Subject French version: Oubli de la morale, morale de l'oubli : La réconciliation en Algérie et la suppression officielle du sujet politique Arab version: Nisyān al-aḫlāqīyāt wa-'l-aḫlāqīyāt an-nisyān : al-muṣālaḥa fi 'l-Ǧazāʾir wa-ṭ-ṭams ar-rasmī li-l-mauḍūʿ as-siyāsī


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    Merian Center for Advanced Studies in the Maghreb




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