The Battlefield: Algeria, 1988-2002

The Battlefield: Algeria, 1988-2002

by Hugh Roberts
     
 

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The violence that has ravaged Algeria has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and the right of humanitarian interference, Algeria’s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs. a secular state, terrorists vs. innocent civilians, or generals vs. a

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Overview

The violence that has ravaged Algeria has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and the right of humanitarian interference, Algeria’s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs. a secular state, terrorists vs. innocent civilians, or generals vs. a defenseless society. The prevalence of such simplistic representations has disabled public opinion inside as well as outside the country and contributed to the intractability of the conflict.

This collection of essays offers a radical corrective to Western misconceptions. Rejecting the usual tautological approaches of inherent, predetermined conflict, Hugh Roberts explores the outlook and evolution of the various internal forces as they emerged—the Islamists, the Berberists, the factions within the army, and the regime in general—and he looks at external interests and actors. He explains their strategies and the maneuvers in which they have engaged. The resulting analyses illuminate the startling dynamics of the conflict and the real issues at stake, and identify the implications not only for Algeria but also for this crucial region.

Informed by a deep knowledge of Algeria and Algerian history, these accessible essays guide the reader through the extraordinary politics of the drama in all its complexity.

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Editorial Reviews

Jean Leca
“Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.”
Roger Owen
“No other European scholar has followed the twists and turns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.”
Ronald E. Neumann
“I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearly written and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporary affairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts' unremitting effort to site Algerian problems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrect analogies that so clutter much writing on this subject ... an excellent and deeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the often obscure politics of this troubled and important country.”
From the Publisher
“Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.”—Jean Leca, Professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques

“No other European scholar has followed the twists and turns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.”—Roger Owen, A. J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History at Harvard

“I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearly written and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporary affairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts’ unremitting effort to site Algerian problems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrect analogies that so clutter much writing on this subject ... an excellent and deeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the often obscure politics of this troubled and important country.”—Ronald E. Neumann, US Ambassador to Bahrain, Ambassador to Algeria 1994-1997

Foreign Affairs
A collection of 22 articles of varying length and written at different times between 1988 and 2002 (without later revision) may sound like a miscellany. Not so. This study of Algeria offers thematic unity, but it is detailed and dense. Read first the afterword, which makes it easier to follow the intricacies of Roberts' chronological coverage. Among his major points: The army rules. The rise of the Islamic Salvation Front (known by its French acronym, FIS) was greatly facilitated by the authorities in the late 1980s. FIS, if it had been allowed to take office after its overwhelming December 1991 electoral victory, would not have created an Islamic state because there was too much pluralism in Algerian politics to allow it; all forces, however, can be manipulated by the army authorities. Houari Boumedienne's rule (1965-78), for all its faults, did provide a unifying nationalist mission — one that is now lost. And the renunciation of state socialism has been a political setback, leaving in its wake a regime dominated by the military and beholden to France and the West. Roberts, a leading specialist, challenges prevailing interpretations of Algeria as based on inappropriate outside models. He offers, instead, a constructed-from-within elaboration of Algerian political dynamics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781859846841
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
03/01/2003
Pages:
408
Product dimensions:
6.39(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.29(d)

Meet the Author

Hugh Roberts is a Senior Research Fellow of the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the Secretary of the Society for Algerian Studies and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of North African Studies. He lives in London and Cairo.

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