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Vol. 3 No. 1 (2020): General Issue 2020

Religion, Multiculturalism, and Phenomenology as a Critical Practice: Lessons from the Algerian War of Independence

  • Laura McMahon
February 9, 2023


In the Algerian War of Independence, women famously used both traditional and modern clothing as part of their revolutionary efforts against French colonialism. This paper uncovers some of the principal lessons of this historical episode through a phenomenological exploration of agency, religion, and political transformation. Part I draws primarily on the philosophical insights of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty alongside the memoirs of Zohra Drif, a young woman member of the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale, in order to explore the worldly and habitual nature of human agency in contrast to the Enlightenment stress on individual rationality and autonomy. Part II turns to John Russon’s phenomenological interpretation of religion in order to argue for the ineluctable significance of religion on human existence, in contrast to the modern tendency to oppose religious tradition and secular modernity. Part III analyzes the dynamics of intercultural communication, and argues for the political power of phenomenology as a critical enterprise that enables more just and emancipatory visions of collective human life and political transformation to come to the fore.