Past Event

Incidental Archaeologists: French Officers and the Rediscovery of Roman North Africa: A Conversation with Bonnie Effros and Ralph Ghoche

March 9, 2020
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
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Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, 75006 Paris

Cette rencontre aura lieu à la Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, 75006 Paris

In this conversation about Incidental Archaeologists: French Officers and the Rediscovery of Roman North Africa (Cornell University Press, 2018), Bonnie Effros and Ralph Ghoche will address the impact of French colonization on ancient ruins and the landscape in nineteenth-century Algeria through the mechanisms of military occupation, archaeology, and urbanism. In addition to the intersections of their interests in Incidental Archaeologists, they will discuss connections between the projects of Effros and Ghoche on Christian archaeology in nineteenth-century Carthage and Christian architecture in nineteenth-century Algiers.

In Incidental Archaeologists, Bonnie Effros examines the archaeological contributions of nineteenth-century French military officers, who, raised on classical accounts of warfare and often trained as cartographers, developed an interest in the Roman remains they encountered when commissioned in the colony of Algeria. By linking the study of the Roman past to French triumphant narratives of the conquest and occupation of the Maghreb, Effros demonstrates how Roman archaeology in the forty years following the conquest of the Ottoman Regencies of Algiers and Constantine in the 1830s helped lay the groundwork for the creation of a new identity for French military and civilian settlers. Effros uses France’s violent colonial war, its efforts to document the ancient Roman past, and its brutal treatment of the region’s Arab and Berber inhabitants to underline the close entanglement of knowledge production with European imperialism. Significantly, Incidental Archaeologists shows how the French experience in Algeria contributed to the professionalization of archaeology in metropolitan France.

Bonnie Effros is Professor of European History and holder of the Chaddock Chair of Economic and Social History at the University of Liverpool. She is also the author of Uncovering the Germanic Past: Merovingian Archaeology in France, 1830-1914; Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology and the Making of the Early Middle Ages; and Creating Community with Food and Drink in Merovingian Gaul. Incidental Archaeologists is the winner of the 2019 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society.

Ralph Ghoche is a historian of architecture and urbanism and Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Barnard College and in 2019-20 is a Fellow of Columbia’s Institute for Ideas and Imagination. His current research examines how the Church reshaped urban space in Algiers through the construction, conversion, and erasure of buildings in order to advance its aim of resurrecting Augustinian Christendom in North Africa.


In partnership with the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination.