Teaching in a time of crisis: colonial education and the world of literature

Key information

3:15 pm to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery

About this event

Professor Nick Harrison (King's College London)

In the wake of figures such as Edward Said, postcolonial critics and teachers have often been drawn to heroic models of the public intellectual and of political intervention. This raises questions about their own work as teachers, especially if they teach literature. Such work may look like a luxury in a time of crisis. What is more, it may appear contaminated by its historical association with colonialism, nationalism and other outdated ideologies.

This paper will reflect on these questions through a discussion of the work of Mouloud Feraoun (and will assume no prior knowledge of that work). Best known as a novelist, and sometimes dismissed as an ‘assimilated’ figure, Feraoun continued to work as a teacher and educationalist in the French colonial system – as well as continuing to write – throughout the Algerian war of independence. This decision placed his life at risk both from Algerian nationalists and from the French/colon Right. In its way, then, his commitment to education was heroic, but it was a paradoxical heroism, at once political and apolitical. Drawing especially on his moving Journal (French 1962; English 2000) and on L’Ami fidèle , the forgotten, literature-based textbook that he produced for Algerian schools, Harrison will argue that Feraoun's story, and the choices he made, have something to tell us about work as teachers in a time of crisis.

Nick Harrison is Professor of French and Postcolonial Studies at King's College London.