The Crisis of Traditional Algriculture in Algeria
Between 1954 and 1960, in the midst of the Algerian War, more than two million Algerian peasants – a quarter of the population – were forcibly resettled. They were removed from their homes and villages and relocated in camps controlled by the French military in what was one of the largest and most brutal displacements of a rural population in history.
It was in this context of colonial violence that Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmalek Sayad set out to examine transformations in the fundamental structures of peasant economy and thought. By destroying the spatial and temporal frameworks of ordinary existence and reorganizing the life of peasants, the process of uprooting completed what the imperial policy of land confiscation and the spread of monetary exchange had started: the ‘depeasantization’ of agrarian communities stripped of the social and cultural means to make sense of the present and orient themselves to the future. This destruction of the traditional way of life was exacerbated by the quasi-urban conditions of the resettlement shantytowns, which brought about irreversible transformations in economic attitudes at the same time as they accelerated the contagion of needs, plunging the uprooted individuals into a ‘traditionalism of despair’ suited to daily survival in conditions of extreme uncertainty. Through their detailed analysis of these processes Bourdieu and Sayad provide a powerful account both of the destruction of a traditional way of life and of the brutal effects of colonial power.
This classic text, now published in English for the first time, will be of great interest to students and scholars in sociology, anthropology, politics, migration studies, postcolonial studies and the social sciences and humanities generally, and to anyone concerned with the impact of colonization and its aftermath.