Making Sovereignty and Affirming Modernity in the Archives of Decolonisation
The French-Algerian 'Dispute' over the archives of French-ruled Algeria is usually narrated in terms of the types of spectacular stories that rhythm the frustrated, annoyed, or angry accounts of many historians, of archives drowned, burnt, thrown away and stolen. This history of archives and decolonisation asks how historical production and archives participate in defining what national sovereignty means post-decolonisation. The history of the Dispute itself, which continues today, offers some sharp insights into the question that Caroline Elkins evokes but that even the most expansive discussions of archives usually avoid. What the French archivists did do with their vague and inapplicable definition 'of sovereignty' was erase exactly what French authorities, for so long, claimed distinguished Algeria from other overseas possessions, whether of France or any modern state: as part of France, French sovereignty was not just exercised in Algeria, it in part was anchored there too.