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Podcast: Sohail Daulatzai, “The Battle of Algiers as Ghost Archive: Specters of a Muslim International”

The Battle of Algiers

Sohail Daulatzai on The Battle of Algiers’ “competing narratives, a battleground over the meaning and memory of decolonization and Western power, and a site for challenging the current imperial consensus.”

The Battle of Algiers, a 1966 film that poetically captures Algerian resistance to French colonial occupation, is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, having influenced leftist and anti-colonial struggles from the Palestine Liberation Organization, to the Black Panther Party and the Irish Republican Army amongst others. But the film is more relevant and urgent than ever in the current “War on Terror” – having been screened by the Pentagon in 2003 and taught in Army war colleges as a blueprint for U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. This talk will examine the film as a “ghost archive” of competing narratives, a battleground over the meaning and memory of decolonization and Western power, and a site for challenging the current imperial consensus. As the “War on Terror” expands and the threat of the Muslim looms, the films’ afterlives reveal it to be more than an artifact of the past but rather a prophetic testament to the present and a cautionary tale of an imperial future, as perpetual war has been declared on permanent unrest.

Co-Sponsored by Global Studies & Languages’ French Program.

About Sohail Daulatzai

Sohail Daulatzai’s is the founder of Razor Step, an L.A. based media lab. His work includes scholarship, essay, short film/video/installation and the curatorial. He is the author and co/editor of several books, including of Fifty Years of “The Battle of Algiers”: Past as PrologueBlack Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America; With Stones in Our Hands: Writings on Muslims, Racism and Empire; Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop; and Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic.  He is the curator of the celebrated exhibit Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop and Histories Absolved: Revolutionary Cuban Poster Art and the Muslim International. His video/installation work includes short film essay pieces with Yasiin Bey, a ciné-geography with Zack de la Rocha, as well as an installation piece entitled cas·bah /ˈkazˌbä/noun, 1. A place of confinement for the natives, yet reclaimed. He wrote liner notes for the Sony Legacy Recordings Release of the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set of Rage Against the Machine’s self titled debut album, the liner notes for the DVD release of Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme, the centerpiece in the museum catalog Movement: Hip-Hop in L.A., 1980’s – Now, as well as an essay in iconic photographer Jamel Shabazz’s retrospective Pieces of a Man.  His other writings have appeared in Artbound, The Nation, Counterpunch, Al Jazeera, Souls, and Wax Poetics, amongst others. He teaches in Film and Media Studies, African American Studies, and Global Middle East Studies at the University of California, Irvine. More of his work can be found at openedveins.com.

Andrew Whitacre
Written by
Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.

This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.

Rachel Thompson
Written by
Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of an online literary magazine. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education.

Before joining CMS, Rachel worked in Boston-area art museums — the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Essex Museum — with a focus on developing teaching curriculum for makerspaces as well as integrated digital media experiences for visitors.

At MIT, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab under the direction of Lisa Parks.

Thesis: Incomplete Sentences: Exploitation and Empowerment in American Incarceration Media

Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre
Rachel Thompson Written by Rachel Thompson