Ongoing Projects



Projects 2014-2019

Projects 2008-2013

Projects 2006-2007

Projects 2004-2005

Projects 2000-2003

Projects 1996-2000

DFG - Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice PDFLogo


Sports and Modernity in Colonial Algeria, 1910-1962

Jakob Krais

I  examine  notions  of  modernity  and  ideas  about  the  nation  as  well  as  Islamic conceptions of society in colonial Algeria, focusing on modern sports. The period under study  begins  with  the  formation  of  indigenous  sports  associations  around  1910 and  ends with Algerian independence in 1962. At the beginning of the 20th century, Algeria had  been  under  French  rule  already  for  some  generations  and  even  the Southern  territories  in  the  Sahara  had  been  integrated  into  the  colonial administration.  Around 1910,  in  different  parts  of  the  country,  the  first indigenous sports  associations  were  established,  which  were  founded  explicitly  as  clubs  for Muslims.  In  the  1930s,  there developed  a  specifically  Muslim  scout  movement (al-­-Kashshāfa  al-­-islāmiyya  al-­-jazā’iriyya / les Scouts Musulmans Algériens). The structures of scouting were to become a  sort  of  basic  grid  for  the  nationalist movement,  which  finally  organized  itself  as  the  Jabhat  al-­-tahrīr  al-­-watanī  / Front  de  Libération  Nationale  (FLN).  During  the  Algerian War,  the  FLN  made  use of  soccer  for  its  diplomatic  efforts  in  an  international  context  and formed – even prior to independence – a national team, consisting of professional players who, for the most part, had previously played in France.
The  indigenous  sports  teams  and  scouting  troops  developed  alongside  the already  existing  ones  of  the  population  of  European  origin.  Catholic organizations were  very active  in  the  realm  of  sports  and  were  present  through  missionary schools  or  in  the  patronages  of  the  different  orders.  Apart  from  that,  the  state incorporated  physical education into the school curricula. The colonial state, moreover, employed large sports festivals to demonstrate the integration of Algeria and the other North African colonies into  “greater  France”,  for  instance  in  the  framework  of  the centennial  of  conquest  in  1930  or  with  some  events  celebrated  by  the  Vichy Regime  in  1941/2.  In  the  field  of popular  sports  the  teams,  at  times,  reflected the  origin  of  French  settlers,  who  had  immigrated  from  Spain,  Italy,  or  Malta. In  contrast,  indigenous  sports  clubs  often referred  to  Muslim  identity,  arguably also  to  suggest  an  Arab-­‐Berber  unity,  which  colonialism  not  infrequently denied.  Under  these  circumstances  competitions  could acquire nationalist significance. On the “Muslim” side, the founding of associations and scouts’  groups was promoted  by  nationalist  as  well  as  by  Islamist  movements  –  the  Muslim  scout movement  eventually  even  split  up.  For  the  reformist  Islamic  tendency establishing associations and private schools were among the most important means for the envisaged reform of society. Especially after World War I, with its immense losses for Algeria (and France in general), physical force evolved as a topos in social debates.

At the center of my study will be the question on how modern sports found their way into  Algerian  society  and  which  role  they  played  in  the  new  social  and  political movements that based themselves on the emerging middle class. I start from the thesis that the different ideas of reform, which in the colonial situation had to engage with a modernity,  perceived  as  Western,  aimed  at  a  strengthening  of  the  self  –  for which  physical  fitness  was  crucial.  Modern  sports  equipped  the  colonized  with new opportunities  to  prove  their  agency  in  everyday  life.  Indigenous  athletes’ successes  against  European  opponents,  for  example,  could  contribute  to relativizing  common stereotypes of inferiority. Further questions regard the experience of being modern in everyday  practice,  the  connections  to  emerging  notions  of  the nation  and  debates  on  gender  and  concepts  of  masculinity  and  femininity.  I  will base  my  research  on autobiographical  writings,  the  contemporary  press  and colonial  documents  and  archives.  For  a  comparative  perspective,  I  will  also take into  account  studies  on  Egypt and the Arab East.