Delocalization, Figuration, Archive

Algerian Contributions to a Minor Cinema and the Prospect of Social Solidarity


  • Univ.-Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Büttner, MA †
  • Mag.a phil. Viktoria Metschl, BA

Fields of Research

"Autant et plus qu'une chose du passé, avant elle, l'archive devrait mettre en cause la venue de l'avenir." (Derrida 1995)

The films produced in the ruptures between colonial order and the nation-state’s self-determination in Algeria from the 1950s on turn toward processes of subject and nation building and the adjacent elbow rooms for political actions. These films are at the heart of this project. They were made at a threshold, sprang from an "interiorized outside" (Butler/Spivak 2007) from the very beginning. They sketch fragile situations that incessantly entail the delocalization of times, persons, gazes, gestures, and forms. Conversely, the films are exposed to movements that sometimes make them (nearly) disappear.

The former migrations of these film reels across Europe and Northern Africa outline a pattern of routes that tells of specific political configurations and transfigurations of the solidarity of anticolonial movements and Third Cinema filmmakers. The project examines these solidarities’ traces. This means to explore the films’ coherence beyond representation and homogenization processes, to move within an "indefinite, fumbling community discourse" (Bhabha 1997).

The archive is a place where pictures and community, historicity and the coming of the other, figure and change meet. Having the form of an archipelago, the archive rejects all completion and is subject to ambivalent forces of affiliation and exclusion. The moving images of Algerian Cinema reside between censorship and governmental commissions, preservation and collapse, possibilities and impossibilities of pleading for and showing subjects presented as problematic, such as displacement, exile, escape, and (armed) resistance. They draft a Minor Cinema in the blurry interstice between "making political films" and "making films political," keeping those movements of repeated renunciations of authoritatively established gaze, language, and state orders awake.

"Here and there and never in the same place" (Lipinska 2014), this cinema introduces us to a different idea of mobility. It interlinks the constant factors of abode, remains, upheaval, and departure. The scattered films of Algerian cinema turn into "a place of appeal" (Ebeling 2007) while the images, in the shadows of their historicity, hold "a battle for another world, the promise of another humanity" (Comolli 2013) for the future.


Bhabha, Homi K. "Globale Ängste." In Weibel, Peter/Slavoj Zizek, eds. Inklusion. Exklusion. Probleme des Postkolonialismus und der globalen Migration. Vienna, 1997, 19‒43.

Butler, Judith/Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Who Sings the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. Calcutta/New York/Oxford, 2007.

Comolli, Jean-Louis. "Oralität und Orakel. Zur Trennung von Körper und Stimme." In Kamensky, Volko/Julian Rohrhuber, eds. Ton. Texte zur Akustik im Dokumentarfilm. Berlin, 2013, 228‒251.

Derrida, Jacques. Mal d’Archive. Une impression freudienne. Paris, 1995.

Ebeling, Knut. "Die Asche des Archivs." In Didi-Huberman, Georges/Knut Ebeling. Das Archiv brennt. Berlin, 2007, 33‒183.

Lipinska, Suzanne. "Two Weeks with the Guinea-Bissau Liberation Army I" (first publ. in Africasia, no. 16, 1970). In Abonnenc, Mathieu Kleyebe, ed. Filming with the Balanta People (published to accompany the exhibition L’œil se noie). Ghent/Toronto 2014, 1‒12.