An Algeria Reading List

Below is a list of what this blogger considers important or particularly relevant and worthwhile books and articles on Algeria. It is not exhaustive. Some readers and comrades have received an earlier, shorter version of this list in the last two or three months because they asked for it; previous “reading lists” on this blog included some of the books here but as these were focused on alternative topics or other countries in the Arab region or the Maghreb many of the books on this list did not appear on earlier ones. A PDF version is here while the text is below. This is not an academic bibliography, just an alphabetized list of useful and enlightening books and articles about Algeria read over time.

It is divided, admittedly somewhat arbitrarily, into two sections: the late colonial and early independence period(s) and the civil and post-civil war period. All of the books here are in English and this is deliberate. One often hears complaints that there is so little on Algeria in English and it is true the country is under-studied by Anglophone writers and researchers. There is also often, but not always, a neglect of Arabic language sources on the country’s politics and history; there are some books below which deal with Islamist issues or religious questions at length and which somehow manage to consult or at least cite not a single piece of writing in Arabic or even in translation from Arabic — including newspaper articles. This contributes to many erroneous characterizations of personalities, conflicts and factions in Algerian politics and culture in the popular press and among intelligent people; it also results from and in an obsession with Francophonic sources and perceptions of the country, reliant on French language sources or English language writing by Francophile authors or authors also reliant on Francophone sources by Europeans or Algerians (this produces many of the misperceptions and biases reflected in the cables discussed here; and also in this cable, about Algeria’s supposedly “truly” Francophone identity); to say nothing of the preoccupation that many English-language writers seem to have with the Algerian Independence War when discussing contemporary political, military and social problems as well as but not only the civil war, leading them to miss important trends and events that happened after the French left and toward a related tendency to dwell on the experience and political narratives of Franco-Algerian writers while ignoring or neglecting post-independence Algerian writers and artists except for those who have piqued heavy interest among people in Paris or wherever else besides inside Algeria thus removing these tendencies from their “actual” context and muddling readers’ understandings of how various things interact, function and feed off of one another inside contemporary Algeria (one sometimes reads essays and thinks: weren’t there Algerians in 1994? Aren’t there Algerians now?). Some of the English-language writing on Algeria by non-Algerians tends to be Anglo- or American-centric and neglects important western European, African and eastern European elements in the country’s foreign policy, military and bureaucratic cultures. There is an unfortunate projection of writers’ perceptions of the United States into the Algerian experience in the last ten years especially in a way that is sometimes incoherent and out of relation to the diplomatic, commercial and political realities of that country’s affairs in North Africa (this is especially the case as discussions of US-Algeria relations sometimes bizarrely neglect significant attention to the much deeper and expansive US-Moroccan relationship and how it impacts Algeria’s relations with the US). The complaints above are general and are not meant to disparage any particular bit of writing. In fact there are ways in which some contemporary writing by English-speakers is more edifying than that written in France or in Arabic, as it offers a different perspective and set of assumptions and approaches to Algerian issues.

It is preferable for non-Algerian writers to engage Algerian writers in whatever language they write as theorists and political scientists (“peers”) rather than just as source material or artifacts or whatever. English-language writers are quite good about this (and there are a number of Algerian writers who are relevant and thus make this less common in writing about Algeria than it is when one looks at a lot writing about other countries where outsiders often treat “native/local” analysts/writers as things studied as in Iraq or the Gulf countries; readers may disagree on this point). The list attempts to highlight some of the authors who are particularly good at engaging Algerian materials and have deep understandings of the Algerian situation; all of the pieces of writing in the list are not equal. There are some which are manifestly and very seriously superior to others — especially those written on the civil war and those written within the last ten years. Some books have gotten good press but are not especially good or deep; others have gotten relatively little attention from those outside political science or leadership studies or Algeria/Maghreb nerds and this is a shame, especially in the cases of Isabelle Werenfels, Amel Boubekeur and Yahia Zoubir for example. One cannot really say enough positive things about these people’s writing on Algeria (the same is true of Paul Silverstein’s, Hugh Roberts’s and Patricia Lorcin’s work). The older books by Quandt and the Ottaways are extremely edifying and worth dusting off. As far as new texts are concerned Lowi’s book is among the best on Algeria yet written, especially because it puts the country in a meaningfully comparative perspective and looking at it beyond questions of Islamism or bare security issues. In general the more popular attention commercial and narrative-heavy books stuck on war on terror themes (in the direction of, for example, “Oh My God There Are Terrorists There,” or of conspiracies and concerns about the exploitation of the war on terror for ulterior motives or chapters complaining about “opacity” and a dearth of English-language writing) have gotten more attention than those based on aggressive social scientific activity and serious research — as is always the case. This is quite sad since there is a great deal of ignorance about Algeria and Algerians exists outside of Algeria — the result of government obstruction of journalist and research travel and a lack of general interest and other such things. Thus this list should not be seen as an endorsement of every piece of writing but rather a listing of things read over time that are available to English-speakers/readers about Algeria and which have been read by this blogger and which he is therefore comfortable pointing readers toward. All of them will enlighten readers in some way; in all cases the reader finishes having learned something he may not have known before. The list is focused on politics and political history; thus good books on poetry or music and the like are not included.

Late colonial/Revolution/Independence – Politics, Sociology, Political Economy

  1. Aissaoui, Ali. Algeria: The Political Economy of Oil and Gas. Oxford University Press. 2001.
  2. Bennoune, Mahfoud. The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830-1987: Colonial Upheavals and Post-Independence Development. Cambridge University Press. 1988.
  3. Bourdieu, Pierre. Algeria 1960: The Disenchantment of the World: The Sense of Honour: The Kabyle House or the World Reversed, Essays. Cambridge University Press. 1979.
  4. Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press. 1977.
  5. Bougherira, Mohamed Reda. Algeria’s Foreign Policy 1979-1992: Continuity and/or Change. University of Salford, UK. 1999.
  6. Clancy-Smith, Julia A. Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters: Algeria and Tunisia, 1800-1904. University of California Press. 1994.
  7. Connelly, Matthew. A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era. Oxford University Press. 2002.
  8. Entelis, John. Algeria: The Revolution Institutionalized. Westview Press. 1986.
  9. Entelis, John. State and Society in Algeria. Westview Press. 1992.
  10. Entelis, John. “SONATRACH: The Political Economy of an Algerian State Institution.” Sciences-Po, Ceri, January. 2000.
  11. Hannoum, Abdelmajid. Violent Modernity: France in Algeria. Harvard University Press. 2010.
  12. Heggoy, Alf Andrew. “Colonial Origins of the Algerian-Moroccan Border Conflict of October 1963,” African Studies Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, April 1970.
  13. Hermassi, Elbaki. Leadership and National Development in North Africa: A Comparative Study. University of California Press. 1972.
  14. Humbaraci, Arslan. Algeria: A Revolution that Failed, a Political History Since 1954. Praeger. 1966.
  15. Lazreg, Marnia. The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question. Routeledge. 1994.
  16. Lazreg, Marnia. The Emergence of Classes in Algeria: A Study of Colonialism and Socio-Political Change. Westview Press. 1976.
  17. Lorcin, Patricia M. E. Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria. I. B. Tauris. 1999.
  18. Lowi, Miriam R. Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics: Algeria Compared. Cambridge University Press. 2010.
  19. Ottaway, David and Marina. Algeria: The Politics of a Socialist Revolution. University of California Press. 1970.
  20. Quandt, William B.  Revolution and Political Leadership: Algeria, 1954-1968. MIT Press. 1969.
  21. Ruedy, John. Land Policy in Colonial Algeria: The Origins of the Rural Public Domain.. Borgo Press. 1967.
  22. Wild, Patricia Berko, “The Organization of African Unity and the Algerian-Moroccan Border Conflict: A Study of New Machinery for Peacekeeping and for the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes among African States,” International Organization, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 1966.
  23. Younger, Sam. “Ideology and Pragmatism in Algerian Foreign Policy,” The World Today, Vol. 34., No. 3, March 1978.
  24. Zartman, I. William. “The Politics of Boundaries in North and West Africa,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vo. 3, No. 2, August 1965.
  25. Zartman, I. William. Political Elites in Arab North Africa. Longman. 1982.

Civil War and After

  1. Aghrout, Ahmed and Bougherira, Mohamed Redha. Algeria in Transition: Reforms and Development Prospects. Psychology Press. 2004.
  2. Boubekeur, Amel. “Salafism and Radical Politics in Postconflict Algeria,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Carnegie Papers, No. 11, September 2008.
  3. Hannoum, Abdelmajid. Colonial Histories, Post-Colonial Memories. Heinemann. 2001.
  4. King, Stephen J.. The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa. Indiana University Press. 2009.
  5. Laremont, Ricardo R. Islam and the Politics of Resistance in Algeria, 1783-1992. Africa World Press. 2000.
  6. Larsson, Disa Kammars. “A Stable State: Authoritarianism in Algeria,” CMES Paper Series, August 2010. Lund University.
  7. Liverani, Andrea. Civil Society in Algeria: The Political Functions of Associational Life. Routledge. 2008.
  8. Malley, Robert. The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam. University of California Press. 1996.
  9. Martinez, Luis. The Algerian Civil War. Columbia University Press. 2000.
  10. Philips, John and Evans, Martin. Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed. Yale. 2007.
  11. Quandt, William B. Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria’s Transition from Authoritarianism. Brookings Institution Press. 1998.
  12. Roberts, Hugh. “Moral Economy or Moral Polity? The Political Anthropology of Algerian Riots,” Crisis States Program Worker Papers Series No. 1, DESTIN, LSE, October 2002.
  13. Roberts, Hugh. The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002, Studies in a Broken Polity. Verso. 2003.
  14. Roberts, Hugh. “Demilitarizing Algeria,” Carnegie Middle East Program, Carnegie Papers, No. 86, May 2007.
  15. Ruedy, John. Islamism and Secularism in North Africa. Georgetown. 1996.
  16. Le Sueur, James D. Algeria since 1989: Between Terror and Democracy. Zed. 2010.
  17. Silverstein, Paul A.. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation. University of Indiana Press. 2004.
  18. Stone, Martin. The Agony of Algeria. Columbia University Press. 1997.
  19. Werenfels, Isabelle. “Who is in charge? Algerian power structures and their resilience to change,” Sciences Po, Ceri CNRS.
  20. Werenfels, Isabelle. Managing Instability in Algeria: Elites and Political Change since 1995. Routledge. 2007.
  21. Willis, Michael. The Islamist Challenge in Algeria: A Political History. New York University Press. 1997.
  22. Zoubir, Yahia H. “The Resurgence of Algeria’s Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century,” The Journal of North African Studies 9: 2, 2004.

8 thoughts on “An Algeria Reading List

  1. Hi,
    This list is very selective and biased. How could you forget Rachid Tlemçani, published in English and French

  2. some regions do not get heard at all in the “English” speaking world
    Tunisia for example was not even heard of until the revolts happened
    as to the American connection to Algeria
    the “policy” is not worried because in theory Algeria is neutral and not aligned so algeria can easliy mover around political relations
    however it would be nice to get free money like Egypt or morocco from the gulf states
    a lot of reporters went to the proposed Algerian revolution in Jan so a state traveling ban on reporters is not the answer on why news coverage in Algeria is left out
    they were expecting a blast and a really good news scoops in theory the Algerian government was to make the same mistake as Tunisia and Egypt (thank god Algeria has a diplomat as a head of state instead of a former military man or a former security officer)
    the police force was “professional” and did not shoot at protesters so there was no need for exclusive coverage
    you are right the government is sliding through the arab or world spring by being silent. no dramatic tv (ghaddaffi mubarek ) speeches the government does not speak untill it really has to speak/forced to speak.
    the change in morocco and algeria(semi faux referendum, moving laws/reforms through the grind of the parliament) is not as dramatic as in libya or in syria or in bahrain or yemen
    it seems both countries do not want to be out done by the other they do not want to look that they are the poorer competitor

    overall the world may explode the london riots occupyWallstreet austerity riots in europe europe is in debt and so forth

    by the way here is a good forum on news in algeria skyscrapper city

  3. You may also find of interest my new book, “Berber Identity and the Challenge to North African States”, University of Texas Press.
    Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

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