Revolutionary Warfare: How the Algerian War Made Modern Counterinsurgency | Terrence Peterson

Revolutionary Warfare: How the Algerian War Made Modern Counterinsurgency | Terrence Peterson

Tuesday, November 12, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

Lunch to be provided for registered attendees. Registration closes Monday, November 11.

About the Event: Can efforts to counter a revolution also be revolutionary? The Algerian War fractured the French Empire, destroyed the legitimacy of colonial rule, and helped launch the Third Worldist movement for the liberation of the Global South. In this discussion of his new book, Terrence G. Peterson highlights how the conflict also quietly helped to transform the nature of modern warfare.

The French war effort was never defined solely by repression. As this talk details, it also sought to fashion new forms of surveillance and social control that could capture the loyalty of Algerians and transform Algerian society. Hygiene and medical aid efforts, youth sports and education programs, and psychological warfare campaigns all attempted to remake Algerian social structures and bind them more closely to the French state. In tracing the emergence of such programs, Peterson reframes the French war effort as a radical project of armed social reform that sought not to preserve colonial rule unchanged, but to revolutionize it in order to preserve it against the global challenges of decolonization.

As Peterson will make clear, French officers' efforts to transform warfare into an exercise in social engineering not only shaped how the Algerian War unfolded from its earliest months, but also helped to forge a paradigm of warfare that dominated strategic thinking during the Cold War and after: counterinsurgency.

About the Speaker: Terrence G. Peterson is a historian of modern Europe with a focus on decolonization, migration, and warfare. His first book, Revolutionary Warfare: How the Algerian War Made Modern Counterinsurgency (Cornell University Press, September 2024) examines how French officers sought to counter demands for Algerian independence from France by transforming war into an exercise in armed social reform. His current work examines the nearly seventy-year history of the Rivesaltes Camp in southern France to understand why migrant detention camps emerged as a quintessential tool of modern governance and remain so today.

Peterson’s work appears in a number of peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Social History, the Journal of Contemporary History, French Politics, Culture & Society, and the Journal of North African Studies, as well as in a book for popular audiences in France entitled Colonisations: Notre histoire (Colonizations: Our History). He has also written for the popular outlets War on the Rocks and the Huffington Post.

Peterson’s work has been supported by the Fulbright Program, the American Historical Association, the Society for French Historical Studies, the Doris G. Quinn Foundation, and the Council for European Studies. In 2021, he received an FIU Top Scholar Award for teaching, and in 2024 he received a Society for Military History Vandervort Prize for outstanding journal article in the field of military history. He currently serves as Secretary for the Western Society for French History and Board Member of the Remembering Spaces of Internment (ReSI) research network.

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