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Our fighting sistersNation, memory and gender in Algeria, 1954-2012$
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Natalya Vince

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719091070

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719091070.001.0001

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Embodying the nation

Embodying the nation

(p.140) 4 Embodying the nation
Our fighting sisters

Natalya Vince

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores how the collective identity of the newly-independent nation was (re)imagined through women under Presidents Ahmed Ben Bella (1962-65) and Houari Boumediene (1965-78), though examining official speeches, nationality law, discourses about marriage and naming, the creation of the Union Nationale des Femmes Algériennes (National Union of Algerian Women, UNFA) and the selection of women to acts as ‘ambassadors’ for Algeria on the world stage. Challenging familiar visions of 1960s and 1970s Algeria as locked in a struggle between Arabo-Islamic ‘tradition’ and Socialist ‘modernity’, the chapter argues that a puritanical revolutionary fervour could fuse religious and cultural conservatism with the desire to build a socialist state, thus ‘making safe’ women’s entry into the public sphere. As a counterpoint to the obsession with women in official speeches, this chapter concludes with an exploration of how interviewees resisted ‘embodying the nation’ by insisting that they were gender-neutral citizens.

Keywords:   Ahmed Ben Bella, Houari Boumediene, Union nationale des femmes algériennes/ UNFA, Collective identity, Nationality, Socialist, Arabo-Islamic, Gender-neutral citizens

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