Languages Research Seminars – Dr Sheila Walsh – Monday 14th March
‘Crossing the line: Thomas Ismaÿl Urbain, renegade and passeur in colonial Algeria.’
This paper will seek to explore colonial identity and specifically French colonial identity through the example of Thomas Ismaÿl Urbain (1812-1884) a peripheral but crucial figure in colonial Algeria during the 19th century. In particular it will focus on the intrusion of a number of phenomena more typically associated with the tropes of postcolonial identity into Urbain’s writings including concepts of relational identity and l’entre deux. This paper will also discuss the potent influence of elements of Saint-Simonian social utopian doctrine, religious conversion in Egypt in 1835 and an administrative career spent in regular transit between metropolitan France and colonial Algeria upon the thought and writings of Urbain. It will investigate how Urbain’s eclectic experiences positioned him as one of the foremost authorities on Algerian society and Algerian affairs in his era acting as an advisor to senior French figures under a number of regimes including the Emperor Napoleon III. As a result of his advisory role Urbain is credited as a key influence upon the concept of Algeria as an Arab Kingdom famously promoted by the Emperor during the 1860s as an alternative to the later assimilationist model of colonisation disasterously adopted by France in Algeria until the prolonged war of decolonisation in the mid-20th century. This paper thus hopes to bring a background figure of French colonisation into the light to examine his fascinating life and identity and to inform our understanding of colonial and postcolonial phenomena still at work on a global scale in today’s world.
Foster Building 302, City Campus