The 1956 Soummam conference is considered a turning point for Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN), due to a platform that asserted the supremacy of political over military objectives and the corollary importance of diplomacy and public relations. For domestic outreach, the FLN turned to a small publication that had debuted months previously - El Moudjahid - giving it a heightened profile and a new importance.
From its founding in June 1956 to the Evian Accords in March 1962, El Moudjahid’s layout evolved dramatically – an evolution most evident on its cover page. The simple style and pamphlet-like shape of the early issues initially shifted to a text-dense “broadsheet” layout, and ultimately by a single photograph. Yet even after the layout stabilized, the page’s various elements continued to evolve. This article argues that these changes illustrate Hayden White’s argument about the “content of the form”: that the physical organization of a page is not inert, but rather influences how readers understand its content. Taking this seriously means turning the analysis from El Moudjahid’s content to its physical structure: its cover page elements and their relationship with the text.
Focusing on El Moudjahid’s French edition, this study addresses ten elements: the language used, the presence, size, and placement of the title, authorship, the presence, size, and placement of the crescent and star emblem, the subtitle “Organe Central du Front de Libération Nationale”, inset articles and notices, the presence and location of the place of publication, the amount and currency of the price, the slogan “Révolution Par le Peuple et Pour le Peuple”, and the presence of the Algerian flag. It concludes by examining two time elements: the publication date and the issue number. Complicating Benedict Anderson’s arguments about the linear nature of “national time”, El Moudjahid presented Algeria’s national time as both horizontal and vertical – linear and sacral. Its publication date and issue number anchored the reader in horizontal calendar time. However, as an “organ” El Moudjahid differed from Anderson’s national newspaper. It added verticality by emphasizing the sacrality of anniversaries, like that of November 1, 1954.
While scholars have used El Moudjahid as a primary-source archive, they have put little analytic pressure on the cover and other constituent parts. Doing so enables a more substantive understanding of the journal, its operations, and its impact, in ways that can only enrich its archival uses in the future.
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Stanton, A. L. (2011). The changing face of El Moudjahid during the Algerian War of Independence. The Journal of North African Studies, 16(1), 59-76. DOI: 10.1080/13629387.2010.515705