Torture: The Role of Ideology in the French-Algerian War

Torture: The Role of Ideology in the French-Algerian War

by Rita Maran


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, February 27
3 New & Used Starting at $69.95


Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, this book looks in depth at the use of torture during the French-Algerian War (1954-1962) to reveal the failure of that liberal democratic state to uphold its obligations on rights. Rita Maran examines the Mission Civilisatrice ideology that justified the routine use of torture during that war and points out that human rights violations traceable to ideology occur irrespective of a state's political system or tradition of rights. The book contrasts the routinization of torture with the contemporaneous global development of norms to assure human rights and abolish torture. Maran concludes that reliance on a state's avowedly benevolent traditions of rights is not necessarily sufficient to protect individuals against state-directed violence, and that international law on human rights can provide significant protection.

The book begins with a brief history of torture in France up to the French-Algerian War. Torture, international human rights law, and civilizing mission ideology are then described and defined. The major portion of the book is devoted to interpretation of the discourse of exemplary people from three sectors of French society—government, the military, and the intellectuals—to demonstrate that reliance on the civilizing mission ideology rationalized the use of torture. Torture is a source of valuable and stimulating ideas for political scientists, historians, lawyers, social psychologists, journalists, ethicists, scholars of colonialism and colonial discourse, and all concerned with human rights as part of international discourse.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780275932480
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/07/1989
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

RITA MARAN writes on torture as a violation of international law on human rights. She is a founding member and member of the Board of Directors of Human Rights Advocates, a California-based organization accredited to the United Nations. She organizes public forums and brings the subject of torture into public discussion on radio and television in England, Europe and Africa, and the United States. Her Ph.D. in international human rights law is from the University of California. She is completing another book on torture as a political tool for governing.

Table of Contents



International Human Rights Law

Mission Civilisatrice: Ideology, Practice, Implications


Narrative of Projected Chapters

Discourse of the French Government

Protection of the Individual by State

France's System of Justice with respect to Algeria

International Legal Norms

Government Responses to Accounts of Torture

Charles de Gaulle

Discourse of the French Military

Substantive Content

Arrangement of Chapter

Discourse of Soldiers

Discourse of the Commanders

Discourse of the Intellectuals

"Intellectuals" in Context


Intellectuals as a Political Factor

Wartime Activities of Intellectuals

Availability of Public Information on Torture

Discourse of Intellectuals

Discourse of Intellectuals Who Were Tortured


Summary and Conclusions

The Civilizing Mission's Historic Underevaluation

The Civilizing Mission in French Theory and Practice on Rights

The Civilizing Mission Ideology and Torture

Antinomies of the Ideology

Rights in France



Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Torture: The Role of Ideology in the French-Algerian War 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
dutts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maran's Torture poses an interesting question but is a little too scattered in answering it. Essentially, she asks how the ideology of civilizing informed those involved in supporting (and executing) torture in the Algerian conflict and those opposing it. There was a certain popular conception of France as a unique nation with a destiny or obligation to spread her conception of civilization to the world. Whether this was a result or cause of her colonial expansion is a question, but by the twentieth century it was an assumption held by most. Maran suggests that this ideology, when it came into conflict with the other popular French conception of the Rights of Man, resulted in an acceptance of torture. Unfortunately, I don't think she was quite successful. If this were the case, then opponents of torture would reject the civilizing mission - to the contrary, she shows how many of the anti-torture activists argued based on "France's role" as a benign patriarch. Torture was a misrepresentation of civilization, not an outgrowth of colonialism in general. If anything, she shows that there was a restraint on thought for both sides. One wonders, what alternatives could have been presented outside this framework?A useful avenue would have been to investigate how those few French that joined FLN support networks thought of France. In what I consider a major oversight, there is no reference to them. Martin Evans' more recent The Memory of Resistance takes an opposite tack; he interviewed French members of anti-colonial groups and looked at how they remembered and constructed their memories. One thing is common: the civilzing mission was an assumption that had to be disturbed somehow before one could come to reject French policy towards Algeria. Even though many of the resistors thought of their actions as a defense of higher French values, the inculcation in colonial ideology was the first thing that had to be overcome.Evans also discovers how the memory of the maquis was critical to later resistance. Nearly everyone he spoke to called on the legacy of the resistance in WWII to explain or support their actions. The resistance was enshrined after the war, but mainly as a legacy of French patriotism (or sometimes anti-Germanism). The resistance in Algeria was no parallel for most citizens in the 1950's. A few, however, identified with resistance in general, and found their way to fight what they saw as an unjust war.Evans' book is intriguing in the way it makes one consider just how one forms an ideology. Different people take the same experiences and events and fashion radically different beliefs from them. History might lay claim to events one way, but often people use them another way.Another key facet of French identity was the belief in the Rights of Man first posed in 1789. Since torture, indefinite detention, and summary execution are all blatant violations of any kind of human rights, the Algerian struggle presented a paradox. Something had to give; either rights became subservient to higher state goals or the belief in colonialism was undermined. Given that the military and government chose to cynically ignore the rights provisions of their domestic and international agreements, and given the increasing lawlessness of that same military, another clear question arises - did the flaunting of some laws breed a discontent for all law? Did ignoring a fundamental image of France lead the military to question the image of France entirely? These are admittedly out of the scope of either book, but suggestive lines for futher investigation.