I am currently working on a research paper, which analyses the reasons why in Algeria the Catholic church, after being an unconditional supporter of colonialism for a century, stood for social change and self-determination during the War of Independence (1954-1962). My research aims to show that this dramatic transformation had its roots in the early 1930s, when the Catholic Action movement – especially groups such as the Young Christian Students – sought to reach out to Muslims and to improve their living conditions. This claim counters the frequent view that only the archbishop of Algiers Léon-Étienne Duval should be credited for the Church’s “decolonization” in the late 1950s. My research more generally focuses on Catholic social organizations, such as the Social Secretary and social centers in deprived areas, as well as on progressive organizations promoting Christian-Muslim collaboration, such as the Association of Algerian Youth for Social Action. It reflects on the global legacy of these projects, with particular reference to the Catholic Church’s new approach to Islam after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
This four-month research stay is part of an academic exchange programme between the MFO and the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) d’Ulm. My status of “Academic visitor” allows me to attend lectures and seminars at the History Faculty.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
The Bodleian libraries are a great place to carry out research. Being an associate member at Lady Margaret Hall, the closest college to the MFO, I also have the opportunity to take part in Oxford’s student life.