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13 - The Right to Rebel: History and Universality in the Political Thought of the Algerian Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2023

John Robertson
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Emma Stone Mackinnon explores the different ways in which the leaders of the Algerian Revolution, Ferhat Abbas, Mohammed Bedjaoui and Frantz Fanon, deployed history, and in particular the French Revolution of 1789, to support the idea of rightful rebellion against French colonial rule. Critically reviewing Reinhart Koselleck’s identification of the French with the ‘modern’ concept of revolution, Mackinnon shows how the Algerians sought variously to present their revolution as the fulfilment and supersession of the legacy of 1789, and the ‘rights’ it had proclaimed. One route, taken by Bedjaoui, was to adapt the arguments for national liberation championed by the Free French theorist René Cassin during World War II (though Cassin then opposed Algerian independence). More radical, Fanon argued that Algeria must cast revolution in a new form. In each case, temporality and history were crucial: in asserting a ‘right to rebellion’, the Algerians were not invoking universal ideals, but contesting and disrupting the narrative of a gradual diffusion of such ideals from a European centre.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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