Algérie: guerres, désignations, discours

Dora Carpenter-Latiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article explores a particular link between the two great conflicts in Algeria, the War of Independence and the ‘second war’ of the eighties and nineties: the way in which language was used to reflect the spiral of destruction and exclusion of the other. In it I explore literary and paraliterary texts that take the two wars for their subject and use tools of linguistic analysis to show the semantic processes at work when discussing those perceived as adversaries. I use my experience as a lexicographer to collect and analyse terms used for the communities involved in the War of Independence, and I have assembled a unique sample of these terms, some of which are not evidenced in dictionaries. Most of these terms were used to show distance if not actual disparagement or hatred of the other. I then demonstrate analogies with the use of language in the second war, with Algerians manipulating language to denigrate minority communities like divorced women and the young unemployed. Likewise, euphemisms of the first war used to refer to torture techniques are paralleled in Arabic for the brutalities of the new military order. I further examine parallels in the political dimension, comparing the French amnesty for crimes in the first war (1964/66) with the ‘law of clemency’ in Algeria in 1995 for Islamist guerrillas. I advance a metaphorical reading of a key passage in Camus’s L’Etranger, where the protagonist explains that he committed murder “because of the sun” as emblematic of the blind submission to malign authority in the two wars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-150
Number of pages14
JournalCELAAN Review (Centre d’études des littératures et des arts d’Afrique du Nord)
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


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