Terrence Peterson

  • Fellowship year:2014-2015
  • University: University of Wisconsin- Madison
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Counterinsurgent Bodies: Social Welfare and Psychological Warfare in Algeria, 1955-1962
  • Terrence's dissertation investigates the non-combat aspects of French counterinsurgency strategies in Algeria's war of independence from France (1954-1962) which aimed at 'modernizing' Muslims and remaking them in the image of Frenchmen. While the Algerian War has served as a strategic model for counterinsurgency in recent conflicts, there has been no examination of the impact of these psychological warfare programs cloaked as social welfare on the conflict, its resolution, or its lasting peacetime consequences. Drawing on extensive archival research and oral interviews in France and Algeria, he examines these 'pacification' programs and their reception by Algerian Muslims to understand how and why the French state sought to engineer Muslim citizens compatible with its particular vision of Republican modernity. Emancipation campaigns encouraged Muslim women to abandon established family structures by removing their veils and entering the public sphere as workers and voters. Hygiene campaigns, youth sporting camps, and cultural education efforts sought to teach Muslims how to embody French cultural, physical, and gender norms. Behind the veneer of reform programs which proposed to integrate Muslims as legal and social equals within the French nation, French army pacification efforts sought to create a form of Islam compatible with the secular demands of French citizenship. But while French social engineering projects sought to reduce differences between Muslims and 'native' Frenchmen, they instead played an important role in crystallizing the idea of incompatibility between Islam and 'Western' culture that currently continue to structure interactions between Europe, the United States, and the Muslim world.