University of Nebraska Press
Empire and Catastrophe: Decolonization and Environmental Disaster in North Africa and Mediterranean France since 1954
Date of this Version
Segalla, Spencer D. Empire and Catastrophe: Decolonization and Environmental Disaster in North Africa and Mediterranean France since 1954. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2020.
Empire and Catastrophe examines natural and anthropogenic disasters during the years of decolonization in Algeria, Morocco, and France and explores how environmental catastrophes both shaped and were shaped by struggles over the dissolution of France’s empire in North Africa. Four disasters make up the core of the book: the 1954 earthquake in Algeria’s Chélif Valley, just weeks before the onset of the Algerian Revolution; a mass poisoning in Morocco in 1959 caused by toxic substances from an American military base; the 1959 Malpasset Dam collapse in Fréjus, France, which devastated the town’s Algerian immigrant community but which was blamed on Algerian sabotage; and the 1960 earthquake in Agadir, Morocco, which set off a public relations war between the United States, France, and the Soviet Union and which ignited a Moroccan national debate over modernity, identity, architecture, and urban planning.
Interrogating distinctions between agent and environment and between political and environmental violence through the lenses of state archives and through the remembered experiences and literary representations of disaster survivors, Spencer D. Segalla argues for the integration of environmental events into narratives of political and cultural decolonization.