Pierre Bourdieu’s Photographs of Wartime Algeria


“If you know the work of Pierre Bourdieu, you probably know it as sociology, or perhaps philosophy. Whatever you call the discipline he worked in, the man remained thoroughgoingly concerned with the dynamics of power in every context. This interest extended even to his artistic endeavors, such as the photographs he took in Algeria in the late 1950s and early 60s, when he worked in that country as a university lecturer. The time and place of the Algerian War would have given anyone plenty to document, visually or otherwise, but it proved, for obvious reasons, an especially rich intellectual ground for a Frenchman thinking about power dynamics. Columbia University Press recently assembled the fruits of Bourdieu’s labors with open eyes and ready camera into the collection ‘Picturing Algeria,’ which they’ve spent a week examining on their blog. The photos in this post come from a post of theirs featuring a few selections from the book. ‘Bourdieu’s photography offers a sympathetic and insightful portrait of a country and a people,’ they write there, ‘who were ostensibly the enemies of France.’ Another post offers sociologist and London School of Economics and Political Science Director Craig Calhoun’s introduction to Picturing Algeria, in which he describes the book’s photographs as ‘neither the completely naïve snapshots of a newcomer nor products of a fully formed sociologist or anthropologist.‘”


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