Between January and June 2017, the “Secteur archives de la recherche” (archives department), of the Maison méditerranéenne des sciences de l’homme – Mediterranean center for Humanities and Social Sciences (MMSH) Médiathèque/Libray in Aix-en-Provence, digitised a sound collection recorded in 1987 and 1988 in Algeria by the Algerian socio-anthropologist Faouzi Adel (1947-1999). Adel Faouzi studied philosophy and sociology at the University of Algiers and then defended his first thesis in French at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1978, « Les changements socio-économiques dans l’Algérie coloniale de 1830 à 1914 » [Socio-Economic Changes in Colonial Algeria Between 1830 and 1914] comes in 2 volumes, available on line. In 1990, he defended another thesis : « Formation du lien conjugal et nouveaux modèles familiaux en Algérie » [Conjugal Bond Building and New Family Models in Algeria] in Paris. The thesis has never been published but we have digitised it and it is available online.
The interviews produced by this research are currently cataloged at the MMSH’s Research archives department. These archives were deposited by his wife, Khadija Adel. Khadija Adel is an anthropologist, in the field with her husband she recorded women in particular. She bequeathed the collection to the Sound Archives Center (Phonothèque) of the “Secteur des archives de la recherche” and we began working on it.
The analysis of these recordings takes a lot of time because we listen to all of them, in order to write the necessary description and identify the ethical and legal issues. The collection covers 180 hours recorded with more than 110 witnesses (73 men, 41 women and a few unidentified people) from different social backgrounds. These men and women from eastern Algeria tell the story of their daily lives. They talk about love and marriage over the long term and over several generations, in Algerian dialect, Arabic or in French. They all talk about their colonial past, which they experienced or were told about, depending on the generation interviewed. Thus, they shed light on a common vocabulary on the issue in Algeria at the end of the 1980s.
For this sociologist, society is reflected through the family, the couple, and therefore the institution of the marriage. He explained that the crisis that Algeria was going through at the end of the 1980s is the very image of the crisis of society. In this society, individual destiny is overtaking collective destiny, leading to its disintegration. Since his tragic death at the age of 53, few researchers have examined the question of the family in Algeria on such large scale. There is no comparable audio collection of everyday life in eastern Algeria in the 1980s that is accessible.
This sound archive is not only a confirmation of the work performed by Faouzi Adel in the context of his thesis, but it is also an amazing scientific and patrimonial legacy. The interviews demonstrate a longitudinal section in the Algerian society of the 1980s through family narratives that oscillate between a traditional model and new emerging models. More specifically, these interviews provide information on the colonial period and the analysis of the latter in the heart of Algeria, at the end of the 1980s. They offer thorough information about women’s aspirations, the concepts of private, intimate and public, the evolution of child-rearing, marriage rituals and the way family members are given their names.
Maya Saidani, Algerian musicology researcher currently in France at the EHESS, is listening to and describing it, as part of an internship funded by the ANR PICCH [ANR-21-CHIP-0003]. We chose two sound bites that are referring to the colonial past, recorded in arabic and we have translated them into English. These extracts examine both family solidarity and the schooling process. It highlights the Arabic language learning in Koranic schools, which was done in parallel with French school, starting from elementary school.
We can also observe the struggle between continuing one’s studies and participating in the liberation of Algeria. In fact, being part of one the two societies is not easy. Moreover, the interviews highlight the issue of vocabulary in French and Algerian Arabic: the schools’ names, family members’ names, how the French were called at this time by the French population “the events in Algeria”.
1st extract from the sound archive 5658 on Calames
Translation: My uncle took care of us and his business. He provided my brother, my sister and me with all the necessary means to succeed. The youngest was still too young. We studied at the Koranic school, the [‘medersa’] and the French primary school at the same time. I learned Arabic at the [medersa] and reading the Koran [setîn hizb] (sixty Hizbs) on the traditional ardoise board [lûhâ] at the Koranic school. I did scouts with the AMS (Algerian Muslim Scouts) and it was there where I first saw the Algerian flag and heard the patriotic song [Min jibalinâ]. My brother, who now lives in Germany, read the Koran several times. We went to the [medersa] to learn the Koran at 6 o’clock in the morning and then we went to primary school. In the afternoon, we returned to the [medersa] to learn Arabic. We went to high school and then to college. We used to go to school with the French, we were always well dressed. As we were good students, my elder brother and I went to a military school in Koléa, it was for free. They allowed me to skip two grades. The military officers we had in Algeria were trained in Koléa.My brother pursued his studies in a military school in France but he was sent home because he got involved in demonstrations organized by Algerian students in France in 1960. Our cousins from Batna took part in these demonstrations. The Algerian military officers fled to Germany and my brother got sick. He joined Germany some time later. Because of my training, I was somewhere between a rock and a hard place. I gave information to the Algerians, but they didn’t trust me completely, and I was in the French army, which didn’t trust me either. After my studies in Koléa, I continued my training in a military school in France. Following Algeria’s independence, I received no recognition, I preferred to return to Algeria and start all over again. I spent seven years in France between studying and training in the military (1954-1962). Q: Did you have family in France? No, I was in military school.
2nd extract from the sound archive 5669 on Calames
Translation: I went to French school between 1947 and 1948. I was part of those who were called ‘the indigent’. The school was far from the farm, more than 30 kilometers away. Every week, for 3 years, my father and I went to Beni Azziz, he worked as a secretary to the Caïd while I went to school. But these trips were very tiring and we couldn’t do this anymore. He couldn’t find a place to live and he shifted between jobs, so we moved to Setif in 1961. Q: Why did you move to Setif? For my studies. I was studying Islamic sciences in El Eulma, I had to go to college in Constantine but my father could not afford it, he managed to find a school in Setif Q: Can you tell me about your schooling? In 1947, my father had a job to do for the Caïd at the subprefecture of Ain Lakbira but he did not speak French. He had to pay to be understood. He has since vowed to teach his son French. Q: Did you experience any difficulties while studying at the French school? I was very grateful for my father’s efforts, but I was older than the students in my class. They used to make fun of me and the teacher, whose name was Didier, used to call me the “grand dada”. For all these reasons, I could not learn French. However, I was good in Arabic.
We are still working on Faouzi Adel’s sound collection, taking a close up on words from the colonial world, on how things were given their names, the choice of using Algerian dialect, Arabic and the French language in addition to the narratives behind the independence.
Véronique Ginouvès, MMSH & Maya Saidani, EHESS. Relecture de l’anglais, Fatima Mohti (AMU).
This text is based on a presentation for the PICCH Project, https://phonotheque.hypotheses.org/36376
Crédits photographiques : Groupe de musiciens jouant du tambour pendant un mariage à Tamanrasset (Algérie), vers 1955, photographie de Marceau Gast, CC-BY-NC-SA