Are the People Backward ? Algerian Symbolic Analysts and the Culture of the Masses - Article - 2017

Thomas Serres, Tristan Leperlier

Thomas Serres, Tristan Leperlier, « Are the People Backward ?  », Middle East Topics & Arguments, numéro spécial Culture, 2017. ISSN 2196-629X


This article studies representations of the Algerian population promoted by francophone intellectuals in a context of longstanding crisis and uncertainty. Borrowing the category of symbolic analysts from Robert Reich, it looks at the way in which novelists, scholars and journalists try to make sense of a critical situation by diagnosing the culture of the Algerian population as deviant or backward. Aiming to encourage social and political reform, these actors try to understand the characteristics of their “people,” often by pointing to their so-called pre-modern or passive behaviors. This article analyzes two aspects of this activity : first, attempts to determine who is responsible for the ongoing crisis, and second, the reproduction of cultural prejudices in a context of increased transnationalization. Moreover, it argues that one can interpret the political and intellectual commitments of these analysts by drawing on the triad concept of “Naming, Blaming, Claiming,” which has been used to study the publicization of disputes.

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