• Monuments Decolonized: Algeria’s French Colonial Heritage
    Susan Slyomovics
    Stanford University Press, 2024
    Susan Slyomovics

Ahmed Benyahia, “Aux libérateurs l’humanité reconnaissante,” 1972, repainted 2013. Oil on canvas, 2.5 m x 2 m. Courtesy the artist

Monuments Decolonized: Algeria's French Colonial Heritage presents the “statuomania” of 36,000 interwar monuments erected in France and Algeria, France's southern colonial provinces. Some 343,000 conscripted Algerians, categorized as indigènes (Muslim natives), were drafted as French subjects but never citizens. Both the imperial drive to colonize North Africa and the post-independence disappearance of the European population from North Africa became reasons for monuments to cross the Mediterranean Sea at Algerian independence in 1962. The French military with the European settler colonial population transferred a mountain of stuff to the metropole with their presumed owners, while post-independence Algerians preserved, vandalized, and repurposed a difficult, colonial monumental heritage. What are French Algeria’s colonial statues in Algeria or France: art in public space or a lament for a lost empire? What national traditions about sculpture do these statues invent and when do art historical concerns about spolia, iconoclasm and heritage become invoked?

Susan Slyomovics is distinguished professor of anthropology and Near Eastern languages and cultures at the University of California Los Angeles. She is an anthropologist of art and critical heritage studies of the Middle East and North Africa region. Her books include The Object of Memory: Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998); The Living Medina in the Maghrib: The Walled Arab City in Literature, Architecture, and History (Frank Cass, 2001), and The Performance of Human Rights in Morocco (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); coauthor, “The Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium” (Indiana University Press, 2013); coauthor, “L’inévitable prison / The Inevitable Prison” (Année du Maghreb series, 2019); editor, “Historic Preservation in North Africa” (special issue of Journal of North African Studies, 2020). She is a Fellow at the Tangier American Legation in Morocco (TALIM) since 2020.