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Title: Immigration, ethnicity and national identity : Maghrebis' socio-political mobilisation and discourse in the inter-war period and during the 1970s in France
Author: Aissaoui, Rabah
ISNI:       0000 0000 6116 7470
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2001
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It has often been argued that post-colonial immigration in France has posed new challenges to the so-called French Republican model of integration. Indeed, French popular, and to a large extent political and media, discourses have presented postcolonial migrants (especially Maghrebis) and their children as constituting a population which is more difficult to integrate than previous, mainly European, migrants. At the core of this widely held belief lies the idea that Maghrebi immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that their cultural, religious traditions and social practices (which are often described in vague and reifying terms) are irreconcilably different from those of the French, thereby ignoring the long and complex historical links that have tied France to North Africa since the colonial era. Equally, the lack of political representation of Maghrebis in France is not so much attributed to the discrimination to which North Africans are subjected as to their lack of political tradition. This thesis aims to challenge these two widely held beliefs by carrying out a detailed analysis of the discourse and mobilisation processes of two important political movements which developed within North African immigration in France in the twentieth century. The first one, the Etoile nord-africaine (ENA), later to become the Parti du peuple algerien (PPA), developed during the inter-war period and became the strongest voice of Algerian nationalism during those years. The second one, the Mouvement des travailleurs arabes (MTA), which was created in the early 1970s in France, saw itself as an Arab nationalist movement which fought for the liberation of the Arab people and against racism within France and beyond. Many academic studies posit the development of the ENA/PPA within the wider framework of colonial liberation movements and as a phenomenon which is linked with the history of Algeria. And further Maghrebi political movements such as the MTA, which have emerged in the post-colonial period, are somehow viewed as rooted in the social history of immigration in France. This thesis challenges this dichotomy and shows that, in spite of their specificities and different socio-historical contexts, these two Maghrebi political movements which developed during the colonial and post colonial eras form part of a consistent political tradition established by the Maghrebi diaspora in France. This study also focuses on the central question of identity and examines the complex social, historical and political processes which shaped Maghrebis' sense of national and ethnic identity during these two periods. Both movements' discourses and actions are analysed through a large corpus of archival documents and publications produced by the ENA/PPA and the MTA on the one hand, and secondary sources pertaining to these two organisations on the other. The primary documents which are examined in detail include newspapers, tracts, reports from militants, personal correspondence, minutes of meetings, posters, as well as police and government reports. This thesis shows that both the ENA/PPA and the MTA viewed Maghrebi national identity as rooted in Arabness. However, their sense of identity was informed by different markers and shaped their political agenda in different ways. On the one hand, the ENA/PPA's sense of ethnic identity marked a nationalist discourse rooted in history and religion which aimed to challenge France's oppressive colonial rule, and establish a modern nation-state within the confines of the colonial territory. On the other hand, the MTA's sense of ethno-national identity was informed by North Africans' anticolonial struggle, by the Palestinian Revolution and by a strong sense of class belonging. Its nationalism encompassed the Arab World and transcended the boundaries of nation-states which had failed to defeat imperialism and its corollary, racism. In spite of these differences, this analysis shows that Maghrebi immigrants, who have been present in France since the early twentieth century, have developed a consistent and original political tradition and discourse in France.
Supervisor: Silverman, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available