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Wars, Carcerality and Colonial Prisons

Guerres, carcéralité et prisons coloniales

(Hi)Story, Testimonies and Representations

H(h)istoire, témoignages et représentations

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Published on Monday, February 13, 2023


Ce colloque s’inscrit dans la lignée des événements scientifiques organisés en 2015 autour de la thématique des guerres. Cette année, le laboratoire LLC lance une troisième édition qui portera sur « Guerres, carcéralité et prisons coloniales ». Le colloque sera centré sur l’expérience mémorielle / testimoniale et sur les représentations de l’univers pénitentiaire dans le contexte des guerres coloniales et leur impact sur l’incarcération, l’internement, la déportation, l’isolement et les camps de regroupement. Cet événement scientifique a pour ambition d’entrecroiser les réflexions et les recherches sur cette période de l’histoire (fin XIXe et XXe siècle) dans une perspective pluridisciplinaire : histoire, sociologie, psychologie, sciences politiques, droit, médias, littérature, sociolinguistique, arts plastiques… s’articulant autour des guerres et l’incarcération coloniale.



This conference derives from the series of scientific events organized in 2015 on the theme of wars (1st event: Cries and Writings of Wars: When Story Gets Involved in History and 2nd event: Children of Wars: Memories, Testimonies and Representations). This year, LLC research lab is launching a third edition (November 2023) which will focus on Wars, Carcerality and Colonial Prisons. The conference will explore the memorial/testimonial experience and the representations of the penitentiary universe in the context of colonial wars and their impact on incarceration, internment, deportation, isolation and regroupment camps. This scientific event aspires to interweave reflections and research on this historical period (end of 19th and 20th centuries) in a multidisciplinary perspective: History, sociology, psychology, political sciences, law media, literature, plastic arts, etc., focusing on colonial wars and imprisonment.

Wars reality and magnitude shatter all human illusions. The crimes committed against humankind, the atrocities inflicted by the wars and the internal wounds that never heal make it impossible to forget. The spectre of war never ceased to haunt the places and memories of the human beings who experienced the barbarity, fury and woes of colonial rule. Thousands of people were killed, massacred, martyred or sent to prison as a result of anti-colonial riots, conflicts, revolutions and armed struggles.

Exported by the colonizer, the prison was used as an instrument for maintaining order under the colonial power, its mission being to subjugate the local populations and control the territories. Under the guise of civilizing the natives, the colonial administration used the prison to fight crime, affecting all social categories (men, women, adults, minors). Prisons were also an important source of income for the colonial economy.

A real penitentiary structure was built at the time: regroupment camps, detention camps, asylums, housing centres, prison farms, barracks, psychiatric hospitals, detention centres, in addition to colonial jails (Cayenne/Guyana, Île des Pins, Nouméa/New Caledonia, Tataouine/Tunisia, Nosy Lava, la Sentinelle de fer/Madagascar, Obock/Gabon, Poulo-Condore/Indochina, etc.). Colonial prisons were not only an instrument for controlling men and spaces, but also a place of exclusion and execution for all those who had challenged colonial hegemony (resistants, nationalists, rebels, opponents and independence fighters).

The aim of this conference is to examine a confused and controversial colonial past by focusing on the phenomenon of incarceration and the penitentiary universe; to give, in this case, a status to the memory, the testimonies and the representations of the surviving prisoners whose traces of internment haunt memories to this day. Indeed, war is summoned within detention, it is correlated with the phenomenon of incarceration; a colonial past jointly convened by imprisonment, isolation, exile, deprivation, confinement and deportation. 

In this perspective, the emphasis during the two days of the conference will be on the colonial policy of repressive reform in the colonised countries, notably the question of regroupment camps, massive deportations, imposed exile and forced migration, which are still little-known tragic phenomena of the colonial penitentiary system. 

The testimonial discourse and the memorial narrative of male and female prisoners of war who lived through the experience of imprisonment, torture and repression will be at the centre of this scientific event. A discourse that is able to tell and transmit the historical truth of the Algerian war of revolution, the revolutionary uprising in Indochina or Vietnam and other colonised territories that had suffered the same fate, such as South Africa, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Cameroon, Nigeria, Vietnam etc. 

When investigating the modes of representation of the war and the colonial prison, several questions arise: How can surviving prisoners testify to a carceral experience whose memory remains a gaping wound? What image will they be able to transmit of themselves and of their prison ordeal? What discursive and affective processes are employed in their testimonies?  How will these prisoners of war or survivors of colonial prisons contribute to the re-construction of a historical memory based on colonial repression? What about the supervised education of minors inside prisons and children schooling in regroupment centers and camps? What representations of the penitentiary universe are conveyed by the media, fiction, cinema, painting, drawing and photography? Can words and images heal the inner wounds or erase the horrors that the prisoners had suffered within the walls of prisons? 

Memory and testimony are indeed two fundamental vectors in writing History, but they are also paths that invite us to penetrate a dark universe destined for erasure and silence. We know, a priori, that carceral testimony traces the narrative course of a descent into hell in order to show how such an experience was lived before being overcome. Faced with their living conditions, prisoners testify or write about their carceral trajectory in order to denounce physical and moral abuse. This form of expression advocates the factual by resorting first and foremost to the testimonial narrative with the intention of depicting the penitentiary universe and all the traumatic scenes experienced by the prisoner of war or deportee in this space (the life of the prisoners, the functioning of the prisons and camps, the disciplinary sanctions and cell sentences  inflicted on the prisoners, the guards and the supervision of the drudgery, the operations carried out by the tormentors and their methods of execution). It takes the form of a means to denounce such inhumane practices and to fight against all the forms in which they are carried out. 

The prisoners’ accounts often equate the prison with a tomb where Man loses his dignity and finds himself cut off from his loved ones and the outside world. Such is the case of Algerian women who were unable to overcome an obscure carceral ordeal and were forced to keep silent about their internment since independence. Imprisoned by the French army (Aures/Algeria) and forced to undergo appalling interrogations, these women prisoners have buried the traumatic memory of their incarceration deep inside their bodies (tortures, humiliations, anguish, injuries, harassment, rape, suffering, etc).  

In addition to the testimonies and representations of prisoners of war, the conference will also examine the places and networks of incarceration and confinement in the colonial situation. In this context, we can cite as examples some colonial prisons and penal colonies such as Lambèse (the Aurès), Nouméa (New Caledonia), the dry Guillotine (French Guyana), Poulo-Condore (Indochina), Serkadji/Barberousse (Algiers), Fresnes (Paris), les Baumettes (Marseille), Tifelfel (women prison/Aurès), Montluc (Lyon), Tataouine (Tunisia), Douera (Bône), Nosy Lava/la Sentinelle de fer (Madagascar), Paul-Cazelles (Djelfa), Coudiat Aty (Constantine), the red prison /Ferdjioua (Mila).

These places of memory recount the resistance, the descent into hell, and contribute to the restitution of little-known facts. The cartography of these penitentiary institutions or the punitive/carceral archipelago of the French army as an example (in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Indochina and overseas) with their characteristics, their specificities, the categories of prisoners who passed through them, can be considered as a reference to know more about the concentration universe under the colonial empire. 

Relying on facts to explain the prison reality, the witnesses feel obliged to involve scenes and facts that have been kept secret in order to bestow the value of a living memory upon the testimony. Unable to talk about their carceral experiences, these witnesses of the darkness or the surviving war prisoners often choose silence, solitude and withdrawal as a way of life.

In this respect, it seems fundamental to raise questions about what means to implement in order to reconstitute the History of colonial carcerality through the testimonies and the memories of surviving prisoners. How is the double project of the witness realised by revealing historical facts that have been hidden hitherto and restoring the voice of a traumatic prison past for the prisoners of war? How to render the prison experience in the context of the colonial wars? What were the living conditions of the detained (natives or opponents) in front of the punishments and harshness of colonial prisons? How to interpret the silences and the repressed memories of the surviving prisoners in order to carry on living? 

Thus, this scientific meeting proposes to revisit the theme of colonial wars and their abuses by investigating the History, testimonies and literary and artistic representations of all forms of incarceration and imprisonment, including deportation and regroupment camps in the context of colonial wars and revolutions. 

The reflection will focus on the following themes:

  • The cartography of the concentration universe: colonial prisons, regroupment, internment or relegation camps, and penal policies;
  • The carceral system in the colonies and its traces in the memorial trajectories of the prisoners of war; 
  • The penitentiary universe and the carceral economy in the prisoners’ testimonies: penal labour as an instrument of colonial economic exploitation (forced labour, drudgery, labour and production in the carceral environment); 
  • Itinerancy or the crossing of prisons, deportation, exile, transfer of prisoners, repression and forced migration between imagination and reality 
  • Testimonies: the rewriting of the colonial past and the rehabilitation of the History of prisons; 
  • Women fighters, women prisoners: incarceration, torture and feminine resistance 
  • Memories of prison: the carceral journey of male and female prisoners of war (prisoners’ accounts, personal diaries, epistolary accounts, drawings, wall caricatures, photos, poetry, etc); 
  • The contribution of surviving witnesses/prisoners to the memorial Narrative: the colonial prison between individual and collective memory;
  • Colonial prisons and repression in the media, documentaries and cinema; 
  • The penitentiary question and the testimonial, literary, media or film productions of the prisoners of war: aesthetics (stylistic, narratological, discursive, iconographic processes, linguistic registers, affective processes) mobilized by the witnesses in the staging of the carceral experience;
  • The supervised education of minor prisoners and the schooling of children in regroupment camps;
  • Public/private archives, holdings, colonial legacies or the legacy of colonial prison: what is left of the carceral/colonial heritage? 

How to participate

The languages of the conference are French, English and Arabic.  

Papers proposals of about 300 words including a title and an abstract, five keywords and a short bio-bibliographical note should be sent to the following addresses: colloqueguerre@gmail.com  // labolanguesllc@gmail.com 

before 15 April 2023.

The proposals will be examined by the scientific committee of the conference. The participants are to specify the axis in which they will place their communication project. The final programme will be decided on 30 September 2023. At the end of the conference, the scientific committee will select the papers that will be published. 

Participation Form

  • Full Name:
  • University/Institution:
  • Telephone:
  • E-mail:
  • Thesis Director (if you are a doctoral student):
  • Title of the communication:
  • Abstract (300 words):
  • Keywords (5)/Axis:
  • Bibliographic references:
  • Bio-bibliographic record:

Important dates

  • Deadline for sending proposals: 15April 2023;
  • Results of the scientific evaluation of the proposals: 15 May 2023;
  • Final conference program: 30 September 2023;
  • Sending of the communication: 25 October 2023;
  • Date of the conference: 13-14 November 2023.

Registration fees

  • 5000 DA for teachers-researchers and 3000 DA for doctoral students (Algerians).
  • 70 € for teachers-researchers and 50 € for doctoral students (outside Algeria).

Scientific Committee

  • AMORIM Inês (Univ. Porto/Portugal) ;
  • ANDRÉ Marc (Unv. Rouen) ;
  • BECHLAGHEM Samira (ENS – Oran) ;
  • BENDAOUD Ahmed (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BENMANSOUR Sabiha (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BENMOUSSET Boumediene (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BENSALAH Mohamed (Univ. Oran1) ;
  • BERBAR Souad (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BERNAULT Florence (Univ. Wisconsin/Madison) ;
  • BOUDEFLA Amine (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BOUDJELLA Abdelmadjid (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • BOUKHELOU Malika Fatima (Univ. Tizi Ouzou) ;
  • BRINKER Virginie (Univ. Bourgogne) ;
  • DERIVOIS Daniel (Uinv. Bourgogne) ;
  • EL BACHIR Hanane (Univ. Oran 2) ;
  • EVANS Martin (Univ. Sussex/United Kingdom) ;
  • GUGLIELMO Scafirimuto (Univ. Toulouse) ;
  • HAMZI Kamel (Univ. Alger 2) ;
  • HENRY Jean Robert (Univ. Aix-en-Provence) ; 
  • LABORDERIE Pascal (Univ. Reims) ;
  • LIMAM TNANI Najet (Univ. Tunis) ;
  • MERLICCO Giordano (Univ. Sapienza/Rome) ;
  • MOSTEFAOUI Abdeldjelil (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • QUEMENEUR Tramor (Univ. Paris 8) ;
  • REMITA Abdelghani  (Centre Univ. Naama) ;
  • SARI M. Latifa (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • SCHNEIDER Anne (Univ. Caen) ;
  • SENOUCI Faiza (Univ. Tlemcen) ;
  • THENAULT Sylvie (Univ. Sorbonne Panthéon) ;
  • TROVATO Loredana (Univ. Trieste/Italie) ;

Organisation Committee

Chaouch Zineb, Sari M. Latifa, Berbar Souad, Khaldi Ibtissem, Boudjella Abdelmadjid, Benmoussat Amel, Sari Med Leila, Rahoui Khadidja.

The call for papers can be accessed here: https://llc.univ-tlemcen.dz/en

Conference coordinator: Prof. Latifa SARI M.

LLC Research Lab: https://llc.univ-tlemcen.dz/en

Abou Bakr Belkaïd University -Tlemcen: https://www.univ-tlemcen.dz/en


  • Site des laboratoires nouveau pôle - 22, Rue Abi Ayed Abdelkrim Fg Pasteur
    Tlemcen, Algeria (13000)


  • Saturday, April 15, 2023


  • guerre, colonisation, carcéralité, exil, prison, déportation, politique pénale, univers pénitentiaire, camp de regroupement


  • Latifa Sari
    courriel : laboratoiredeslangues [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Souad Berbar
    courriel : berbar [dot] souad [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Latifa Sari
    courriel : laboratoiredeslangues [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Wars, Carcerality and Colonial Prisons », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, February 13, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1aje

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