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Dossier : L'inévitable prison

et Varia
The Inevitable Prison
Année du Maghreb n°20, vol. I, 2019
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Credits : © Didier Poiraud

With a majority of buildings erected in the colonial era and maintained in use after independence, prison is the ultimate "Panopticon" with which to reflect two centuries of Maghreb history. Specifically Algeria, a settler colony for 132 years, comprising three French departments and marked by two long wars of conquest (1830-1871) and decolonization (1954-1962), offers a rich field of analysis to understand not only similarities in the different prison system built overseas but also the legacies of this system after independence in Algeria as in France. In fact, the prison was a tool of colonial domination, political repression, and economic exploitation. The colonized and the “undesirable” French (military and opponents), women and men, were detained in massive numbers within a prison network complex that encompasses a vast number of sites of repression transformed into prisons (camps, psychiatric hospitals, barracks, etc.). Globally, the prison grouped together the colony, the metropole, and the penal colonies of French Guyane and New Caledonia. It was also, of course, a place of resistance entirely given over to the new Algeria. From a variety of sources (oral surveys, reports of psychiatric expertise, ego-documents, administrative, police, and judicial archives, works of art, etc.), differing approaches of anthropologists and historians, along with some elements of comparison with Tunisia, this volume shows that prison (this "world apart" as indicated by the title of the collage chosen to illustrate the cover) was omnipresent. It still haunts our memories. Inevitable, then.

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