Tuesday, June 26, 2012
NEH Session on Algeria:
I spent most of the day wrapped up in Franco-Algerian affairs. My day began with my short and very convenient commute to the CISP (Centre Internationale de Sejours de Paris) for our NEH session to be conducted by Prof. Malika Rahal who spoke about the historical intersection of Algeria and France. In an hour that slipped rapidly by, she laid out the current circumstances in which the country has placed itself--afflicted, as it were, by historical amnesia, so that there is no academic work at all on events as they have played out in the coutnry after 1962 when Algeria became free from French colonial rule. I was completely absorbed by the insights she offered, not to mention that fact that she is exceptionally easy on the eye. A stunning woman of mixed race (she calls herself an African-American, having a white American mother and an Algerian Arab father) and a distinct Nebraskan accent (she was rasied in Nebraska), she is tall, slender and has a most delightful smile. Added to these visually attractive features, she is extremely articulate and speaks with a rare clarity on a complex set of issues.
After a brief coffee break, we went into the second segment of her analysis of the reasons for Algerian attitudes towards post-colonial events. I found these insights fascinating especially in light of the mental comparisons I was able to make with the Indian sub-continent and the manner in which India has both, come to terms with her colonial past as well as found a way to move beyond it--to learn from the lessons of hsitory, to celebrate the heroism of her non-violent Independence Movement and yet, at the same time, to have created a distinct national identity that has allowed her to stake her place and be a major player in the 21st century. I can easily see myself doing more research on Algeria and incorporating a comparison between these former colonies and their contemporary status in a future course--perhaps a Seniors' seminar for our Global Liberal Studies students.
Lunch and a Movie Marathon:
Our session ended at 12.45 pm after which we adjourned for lunch. My colleague Noit offered me a lunch coupon which permitted me to partake of a meal at the CISP. I have to say that the Turkey Osso Bucco with the Ratatouile was simply delicious and far from institutional and my colleagues agreed that it was one of the nicer meals they have had there. An hour later, we headed to the opposite end of Paris, the Northwestern parts of the city to the IHTP (Institute de Histoire du Temps Present) to watch two recent movies on Algeria as Malika Rahal wanted us to have seen them recently and in time for her next lecture this coming Thurday. Thus, while I thought I would be getting home about 5. 00 pm, I ended up staying to watch two movies, back to back, in a marathon movie-watching session that was emotionally, intellectually and physically draining.
By the time we finished watching Indigenes (The Indigenous) and Lors Le Loi (Beyond the Law), it was about 7. 30 pm and we were starving (although Cote D'Or Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Pistachios, fresh sweet strawberries and juicy cherries had been doing the rounds while we watched). My colleagues (about 6 of us stayed for both movies as the rest seemed to have seen them earlier), suggested dinner and I decided to join them, not realizing that the venue they chose--a place caleld Le Sardine at Belleville--was a long hike from where we were plus a longer hike from my apartment. Realizing that I had made a mistake in going along with them, I only stayed for a quick beer and then make the hike back home so that I walked in my apartment door only at 9. 45 pm being well and truly knackered.
It was all I could do to stay awake to wish Llew a safe and pleasant flight before I hunkered down in bed and fell fast asleep.
I will be a woman on a mission tomorrow as I get to Charles de Gaulle airport to welcome Llew to Paris, so I better get some urgent shut eye.