I’m a historian of the French empire, decolonisation and post-colonial histories. One of the key themes running through my research is how ordinary people shape, as well as resist, seismic political events and social and cultural shifts. Through oral history, I also explore how these experiences are remembered, and how individual memories can produce, contradict or coexist alongside dominant versions of the past. These interests have led me to projects on women veterans of the Algerian War of Independence, West African soldiers in the French army, wartime sexual violence in Algeria and Indonesia – and my current project, on Algerian students, state-building and social mobility during the Third Worldist era of the 1960s and 1970s. I’m increasingly focused on creative, collaborative and widely accessible approaches to producing and disseminating research. This includes the project ‘Generation Independence’, an online series of trilingual documentary shorts, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
- Global histories of decolonisation
- Oral history and memory
- Women’s and gender history
My first book, Our Fighting Sisters: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954-2012 (Manchester University Press, 2015), was awarded the Women’s History Network Book Prize. An oral history of women who participated in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62), it is the first in-depth study of female veterans’ lives after 1962. This includes exploring how these women participated in the production of competing narratives about themselves as part of intense debates around gender, citizenship and historical legitimacy in the post-colonial period.
My most recent book is The Algerian War, the Algerian Revolution (Palgrave, 2020). This provides a new interpretation of the war, its afterlives and the historiography of both, by connecting the local, national, transnational and global across the period 1914 to 2019. In doing so, it questions the frames of Franco-Algerian exceptionality, Franco-Algerian memory wars, unhealed wounds and trauma which continue to shape the field. By moving away from the psychologising bilateral lens, it relocates histories and memories of the war in the distinct political and social contexts of post-colonial France and Algeria, whilst demonstrating how both are connected to international developments in memory politics and law-making.
I am currently completing a research project on students, social change and the post-independence Algerian state. This seeks to challenge dominant readings of post-colonial states as either utopias or failed/ betrayed dreams by telling the story of state-building from the perspective of Algerian students who participated in infrastructure projects in the 1960s and 1970s. This project was funded by a three-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Global Fellowship (705763/STUSOCSTA), and included collaborations with the University of Algiers and the Institut d’histoire du temps présent, part of the French Centre national de recherche scientifique.
I have led or been a part of a number of international research teams. Between 2008 and 2012, I co-led a British Academy-funded UK–Africa Academic Partnership with the Universities of Algiers and Dakar (2008-12), which explored approaches and methodologies for writing a history of decolonisation bringing back in South-South connections, beyond an exclusive focus on North (coloniser) and South (colonised) relations. In 2019, I was a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study as part of the multi-institution research project ‘Comparing the Wars of Decolonisation: Extreme Violence during Reoccupation and Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1975'. In collaboration with a team of filmmakers, artists and translators, I lead the multilingual, multidisciplinary project 'Generation Independence’, which has been funded via Arts and Humanities Research Council Follow-on Funding for Engagement and Impact to explore creative ways to make Algerian post-independence histories visible and audible by and for the wider public.
I've served on the editorial boards of French Historical Studies and Modern and Contemporary France and I'm a long-term mentor of the American Institute of Maghribi Studies international mentoring programme for doctoral students. In Oxford, I’m on the steering committee of the Oxford Centre for European History.
See page on University College website