Monkey Wrench Books hosts book-signing event for Dr. Brower's latest book
Assistant Professor Benjamin Claude Brower's latest book reveals a different perspective on the part that violence has played in Algeria.
Posted: January 26, 2010
Benjamin Claude Brower
Brower will be discussing his book, A Desert Named Peace, The Violence of France's Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902, (Columbia University Press, July, 2009) on Thursday, Jan. 28 from 7-9 p.m. at Monkey Wrench Books. The bookstore is located in Hyde Park neighborhood at 110 E. North Loop.
The role of violence in colonial conquests has been in the public eye since European powers first embarked upon modern empire with what Rudyard Kipling famously called the "savage wars of peace."
For many decades historians have generally accepted the idea that violence and colonialism go together. And in recent years, public figures ranging from the neo-conservative author Max Boot to President Obama have shown that they share a fundamental belief in Kipling’s idea that violence can bring something called “civilization.”
"A Desert Named Peace marks a departure from such thinking," Brower argues. As its title implies—a title borrowed from the Roman historian Tacitus’s account of the conquest of Britain (“To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”)—this book shows the devastation of France’s Saharan empire.
In the mid-nineteenth century, French colonial leaders in Algeria started southward into the Sahara, beginning a 50-year period of violence. Lying in the shadow of the colonization of northern Algeria, which claimed the lives of over a million people, French empire in the Sahara sought power through physical force as it had elsewhere; yet violence in the Algerian Sahara followed a more complicated logic than the old argument that it was simply a way to get empire on the cheap.
This book also charts new ways of thinking about the violence of colonialism in historical terms. It shows that colonial violence was not always about the force of France’s military campaigns or the uprisings of Algerians fighting oppression (the “Wretched” as Franz Fanon named them), even as it was strongly linked to this basic struggle.
This book stresses the unexpected and overlooked examples of violence in the colonial period. These include the violence of indigenous slavery, the violence imbedded in Algerian Sufism’s paths to authority, and the dangerous implications of French Romantics’ fascination with a desert sublime.
"It offers much-needed background for contextualizing the brutality of the Algerian war of independence (1954-62), as well as Algeria’s ongoing internal war between the government and armed groups fighting in the name of an Islamist revolution, a war that began in 1992," Brower said.