Jamal Bahmad is a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Philipps-Universität Marburg (Germany). Completed at the University of Stirling, his doctoral dissertation examined the politics of neoliberalism, everyday life and postcolonial subjectivity in Moroccan urban cinema since the 1990s. Bahmad specialises in North African cultural studies with a current focus on cinema, historical memory and youth subcultures. Among his recent publications are: “Casablanca Unbound: The New Urban Cinema in Morocco,” Francosphères 2.1 (2013): 73-85; “Revolution in Maghrebi Cinema,” Critical Muslim 9 (2014): 109-18; “Rebels with a Cause: Youth, Globalisation and Postcolonial Agency in Moroccan Cinema.” The Journal of North African Studies 19.3 (2014): 376–389.
Jamal Bahmad’s project:
Screens of Reconfiguration: Political Violence and Collective Memory in Contemporary Maghrebi Cinema
This postdoctoral research project aims to provide an interdisciplinary and comparative study of the representation of political violence and its reconfigurations of collective memory and postcolonial identity in contemporary Maghrebi cinema. The three North African countries witnessed dramatic periods of colonial and post-colonial violence. The war of independence (1954-1962) and the civil strife of the 1990s in Algeria, on the one hand, and Sanawat Rassas (the Years of Lead) in Morocco and Tunisia between 1956 and the 1990s, on the other, have inspired dozens of films in these countries and further afield. From Gillo Pontecorvo’s widely known classic The Battle of Algiers (Italy-Algeria, 1966) and Yamina Bachir-Chouikh’s Rachida (Algeria, 2002) through Nouri Bouzid’s Golden Horseshoes (Tunisia, 1989) and Nadia EL Fani’s Lenin’s Children (Tunisia-France, 2007) to Faouzi Bensaïdi’s Alf shahr (A Thousand Months, Morocco, 2003) and Jilali Ferhati’s Dakira muâtaqala (Memory in Detention, Morocco, 2004), Maghrebi filmmakers have engaged the complex history of their nations through aesthetic reconfigurations of political violence, trauma and collective memory. This postdoctoral project will situate this cinematic reconfiguration of violence and its cultural memories within the historical and social transformations of the Maghreb countries over the last five decades, which roughly spans the history of postcolonial filmmaking in the region.
By focusing on how violence on the screen complicates simplistic understandings of history, trauma and human subjectivity, this postdoctoral research project will engage with how Maghrebi films have re-configured questions of national identity and human rights through the complex lenses of trauma and memory. The project will also examine how instead of portraying passive victims of violence from above, the films reconfigure violence as a process of remembrance and resistance by ordinary individuals and subaltern communities. The filmmakers, as we will see, have shied away from spectacularising violence by engaging its complex origins and everyday reconfigurations by postcolonial subjects. Violence in this burgeoning strand of Maghrebi cinema is not a straightforward force visited on innocent, passive individuals. It is rather a complex field of conflictual memories of trauma, opposing interpretations of history and a forcefield of alternative maps of the coming postcolonial nation. The film medium is an apposite site for a critical account of the place of violence and its mnemonic visual cultures in the contemporary history of the Maghreb countries. It is my hope through this project to unearth the complex relationships between Maghrebi people and political violence in their memories of the past and current engagement with a rapidly changing world around them.