North African Mosaic : A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities [1 ed.] 9781443807685, 9781847182302

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North African Mosaic : A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities [1 ed.]
 9781443807685, 9781847182302

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North African Mosaic

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities

Edited by

Nabil Boudraa Joseph Krause


North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities, edited by Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause This book first published 2007 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing 15 Angerton Gardens, Newcastle, NE5 2JA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2007 by Nabil Boudraa, Joseph Krause, and contributors

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN 1-84718-230-5; ISBN 13: 9781847182302

Les Républiques « unes et indivisibles » doivent laisser la place aux entités complexes des Républiques unies qui sont à même de pouvoir vivre le monde dans ses diversités. “Single and indivisible” Republics must give way to the complex entities of united Republics which are able to live our world in all of its diversity. —An open letter by Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau to the French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, 2006


List of Illustrations ............................................................................................... x Foreword ............................................................................................................. xi Acknowledgments............................................................................................. xiii Introduction.......................................................................................................... 1 Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause List of Acronyms and Abbreviations ................................................................... 8 Berber Chronology............................................................................................. 11 Coptic Chronology............................................................................................. 16 Sahrawi Chronology .......................................................................................... 20 Maps................................................................................................................... 23 PART I: MINORITIES IN CONTEXT Chapter 1 Essentials for Rethinking Approaches to Postcolonial Arts and Cultures: The Problematic of Minoritizing in North Africa Kamal Salhi .................................................................................................. 26 Chapter 2 The Ethnic Mosaic in the Maghreb: Cultures in Crisis Taoufik Djebali and Lee Whitfield............................................................... 63 PART II: THE BERBERS AND TRANSNATIONALISM Chapter 3 Local Songs, Global Circuits: Berber Culture on a World Stage Jane E. Goodman.......................................................................................... 90 Chapter 4 Islam, Laïcité, and Amazigh Activism in France and North Africa Paul A. Silverstein...................................................................................... 104 Chapter 5 Emigration-Immigration: Abdelmalek Sayad’s Sociology of Migration Kay Adamson ............................................................................................. 119


Table of Contents

Chapter 6 The Transnational Nation Building of the Amazigh Cultural Movement-Class, Gender and Marginalisation in a Virtual Perspective Terhi Lehtinen ............................................................................................ 135 Chapter 7 From the Maghreb to al-Andalus: Berbers in a Medieval Islamic Society Helena de Felipe......................................................................................... 150 PART III: JEWISH AND COPTIC MINORITIES Chapter 8 On the Origins and Identity of Indigenous North African Jews Daniel Schroeter ......................................................................................... 164 Chapter 9 Wit, Ruse, Rivalry and Other Keys to Coexistence: Reflections of Jewish-Muslim Relations in Berber Oral Traditions Sarah Levin ................................................................................................ 178 Chapter 10 Schooling for a Modern Coptic Subjectivity in Nineteenth Century Egypt Paul Sedra................................................................................................... 196 PART IV: MINORITIES AND THE MOROCCAN STATE Chapter 11 Dancing for the Moroccan State: Ethnic Folk Dances and the Production of National Hybridity Aomar Boum .............................................................................................. 214 Chapter 12 Nationalist and Islamist Discourse and the Socio-Political Implications of Recognizing Tamazight (Berber) in Morocco Mohammed Errihani................................................................................... 238 Chapter 13 From Jbel Fazaz to Middle Atlas: From Boondocks to Boom towns; the Past as Key to the Present Michael Peyron........................................................................................... 258

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Chapter 14 Contemporary Moroccan and Algerian Painters: Custodians of Amazigh Consciousness Cynthia Becker ........................................................................................... 271 Chapter 15 Colonial Formations in Western Saharan National Identity Jacob Mundy .............................................................................................. 294 PART V: AMAZIGH WOMEN: A DOUBLE “MINORITY” STATUS Chapter 16 The Igurramn, a Berber Religious Lineage in Morocco: A Minority within a Minority Habiba Boumlik ......................................................................................... 322 Chapter 17 Making Imazighen: Rural Berber Women, Household Organization, and the Production of Free Men David Crawford.......................................................................................... 329 Notes ................................................................................................................ 347 Bibliography .................................................................................................... 377 Contributors ..................................................................................................... 411 Index ................................................................................................................ 416


Map 1: Distribution of modern Berber speakers ....................................................23 Map 2: The Almoravid expansion in Spain............................................................24 2-1: Berber-speaking Populations in North Africa.................................................64 1: Smara Camp during a culture “competition” ........................................Centrefold 2: A Sahrawi family that “disappeared”....................................................Centrefold 3: Jewish family from Sous.......................................................................Centrefold 4: Kabyle Girl in Ait-Abdelmoumene........................................................Centrefold 5: Tuareg...................................................................................................Centrefold 14-1: Ahmed Cherkaou, Untitled (1965) .............................................................273 14-2: Kabyle women’s pottery in Algeria............................................................274 14-3: Amazigh bride from southern Morocco......................................................275 14-4: Farid Belkahia, Main (“Hand,” 1980).........................................................276 14-5: Signs adorning the Maison de la Culture Mouloud Mammeri....................277 14-6: Mohamed Mallal, Untitled (2004) ..............................................................279 14-7:Fatima Mellal, Untitled (2004) ....................................................................280 14-8: Fatima with her paintings and woven carpets.............................................281 14-9: A concert attendant at a Berber music festival ...........................................282 14-10: Fouad Lahbib, Ta beghest (Courage, 2002) .............................................282 14-11: Mouhand Saidi’s crocheted bowl cover with a Tifinagh letter “Z” ..........283 14-12: Mouhand Saidi, Tahruyt (2004)................................................................284 14-13: Abdallah Aourik, Assad (Grinding, 1994)................................................285 14-14: Mohamed Ziyani, Fertility (2004) ............................................................286 14-15: Hamid Kachmar, Akham (Tent, 2001) ......................................................288 14-16: Mohamed Nabili, Untitled, 1997 ..............................................................289 14-17: Photo of Denis Martinez, Le Fenétre du Vent (The Window of the Wind, 2002-2004).......................................................291


In 1972 two well-respected scholars of North Africa, Ernest Gellner and Charles Micaud, edited a book entitled Arabs and Berbers: From Tribe to Nation in North Africa. It consisted of twenty-three separate chapters, eighteen of which were devoted to Morocco, written by a distinguished group of Maghrebi scholars from North Africa, Europe, and the United States. If the book reached any kind of intellectual consensus it was that internal ethnic nationalism or irredentism was not a major force in the Maghreb, leading Micaud to conclude that “in the long run the growing force of the state should facilitate the process of nation-building, as the notion of class or interest group tends to replace the tenuous one of ethnic identification.” In North African Mosaic we have a twenty-first century update of that hypothesis analyzed by a group of innovative junior and senior scholars whose multidisciplinary approaches provide a diversity of subtle and complex interpretations of what it means to be an ethnic minority in a majority ArabMuslim context. Incorporated within this “minority” identity is a broad range of subordinated groups who now seek a voice in an increasingly globalized environment in which neither state nor class nor interest group has succeeded in imposing a unified sense of national identity. The conceptual and empirical landscapes covered are far-reaching and intellectually bold. Whether covering schooling for modern Coptic subjectivity in nineteenth century Egypt or Berbers in medieval Al-Andalus or Amazigh painters in Morocco and Algeria, the authors of this impressive and original volume share a common humanistic vision that respects, indeed celebrates, differences whether in language, religion, or ethnicity. Despite what otherwise poorly informed observers of North Africa may believe, the Maghreb is an incredibly diverse region, rich in cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions that neither colonialism nor the postcolonial project could marginalize or eradicate. The timing for such a scholarly endeavor could not be more propitious as North Africa along with other parts of the Arab-Islamic world today suffer under the weight of multiple challenges from both authoritarian political orders and rapacious global actors intent on universalizing humanity into a Western template of materialism, secularism, and rationalism couched in the name of



globalization. As these distinguished authors so ably demonstrate, the multicultural, multiethnic, and multi-religious diversity that is the contemporary Maghreb is alive with accomplishment and promise that gives cautious optimism of a more enlightened future in an otherwise suffocating political landscape. By providing “thick descriptions” and sharp analytical narratives of an array of lifestyles and historic experiences lived by those most affected, the reader emerges with both a better understanding of the region’s “minority” cultures but also a more empathetic appreciation of the complexity within which they operate whether at the local, national, regional, or international levels. This then is a timely, important, and engaging volume whose different authors, through their vast knowledge derived from direct field experience in the region, provide deep insight and analytical rigor on the subject of ethnic pluralism that has for too long been ignored, misrepresented, or vilified. One can now only hope that both lay and specialist readers of North Africa will not have to await another three decades before the appearance of another work of this caliber and seriousness.


The publication of this book would not have been possible without the help of many people. First, we owe a large debt of gratitude to our colleagues at Portland State University for their clear guidance and good friendship in hosting the 2005 North African Minorities conference: particular thanks go to John Damis and Jean Campbell at the helm of PSU’s Middle Eastern Studies Center. The success of the conference was also due to the efforts of Abeer Etefa, Lydia Beyoud, Ryan Hughes, Christopher Baldridge and Sarah Leoni. In the formative part of this endeavor we also wish to recognize the important part played by a grant from the Oregon Council for the Humanities and support from the Center for the Humanities at Oregon State University. A number of colleagues at Oregon State University are also present as intellectual watermarks in the organization of this book and whose generosity must be acknowledged: Joan Gross, David McMurray, Karim Hamdy, and Laura Rice. We are particularly grateful to Genny Turner for the long hours spent pouring over the manuscript and bringing it to fruition at every step from the burgeoning phase to its completion; to Jonathan Katz, William Duvall, Helene Hagan, and David Crawford for their comments and suggestions. Our thanks also go to John Entelis for reading the manuscript and for writing the insightful forward herein. Last but not least, this volume would not have existed without the contributors, whose passion, help and patience have been impeccable. They have kindly responded whenever we needed input or help on any part of the manuscript. Special thanks go to Nelly Shafik, Jacob Mundy, Paul Sedra and Helena de Felipe for their help with the chronologies.


Guiding Tenets This book builds on an international conference organized by the editors in May, 2005, devoted to North African minorities in Portland, Oregon. The conference opened many borders, some of them unknown, some of which had never been crossed. It brought scholars and artists from four continents together for three days of passionate discussion. The conference was also a springboard to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to create a summer Institute in 2007 at Oregon State University, entitled “Berber North Africa: The Hidden Mediterranean Culture.” This book is, therefore, part of a larger ambition: to confer on North African studies a droit de cité, pulling it away from the subordination and intellectual weight of Middle Eastern studies. Why should North Africa, given its own historical specificity, remain harnessed to the Middle East because of U.S. and European academic or political conceptual framings? The geographical and cultural distance between Rabat and, say, Riyad is as great as the separation between London and Moscow, or between Washington, D.C. and Mexico City. A number of significant developments have occurred in North African countries since the beginning of the millennium. Principally, the creation of IRCAM (Institut Royal pour la Culture Amazigh) in Morocco, the riots in Kabylia (Algeria) in 2001 and 2003, the first visits of Pieds-Noirs to Algeria since their departure in the early sixties, and President Kadafi’s changing tone vis-à-vis the Amazigh people in Libya. In their aggregate, these events have changed the post-colonial political architecture in the region and have exerted a huge impact on the everyday life of North Africans. Existing scholarship therefore needs to expand its focus to encompass these shifts. In fact, in this book we make a call for an even larger refocusing. And we make it with a sense of urgency: regardless of European intellectual or moral refereeing, North Africa can only have a stable future if principles of political pluralism are respected. Principles that extend to gender and minority rights. Principles that will allow North African governments to at last claim post-independence victory and embrace a discourse on pluri-ethnic unity.



Decolonization and liberation are not synonymous terms. This is certainly the case in North Africa, where French colonial rule since the 1950s has given way to rigid centralized régimes that have sought, notwithstanding their singularities, to kindle nationalist fervor through ideological and linguistic uniformity. And, in the wake of political independence, ethnic and religious minority populations have found themselves cast on the banks of mainstream national policies, more often than not geographically enclaved and politically voiceless. In Francophone North Africa, decolonization has meant that minority identity has been articulated in national Arabized terms. But in today’s world, the subversion of a vulnerable culture, be it indigenous North American or North African, is a consequence of impersonal forces that transcend post-independence nationalism. However one wishes to define globalization, it is a phenomenon predicated on market expansion, linguistic simplification and dependence on high technology. In the swift current of globalism, nationalist ambitions lose their moorings. Any young Moroccan trying to flee to Spain knows this instinctively. That youngster is not seeking a future in a different country but in a different world. The sense of a new destiny, beyond the limits of a village, beyond the borders of a country, profoundly transforms a sense of belonging. Minority cultures are also fully caught in the global turnstile. There is probably not any way back. But there is possibly considerable opportunity in the reckless forward rush. Up to now, identities have been partial, self-shrinking and by their very nature exclusionary, or at the very least inconsiderate. If there is a new openness by Maghrebi governments to the possibility of minority acceptance, it is because they know that they are no longer fully in control. There is a multiple culturality that they must inevitably accept, if only to survive. They are forced to respond to transnational changes by an unwilling embracing of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s view of cultural multiplicity. The conceptualization of North African minority status is a necessary hopeful starting point for future dialogue within political and academic arenas. But within which framework does one begin that conceptualization? The Voltairian and Jacobin French perspective is beholden to a universalist tradition seeking egalitarianism, along with color and culture blindness, a perspective that became the soul of the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter for Human Rights. But minority rights have never squarely been able to fit into this idealism: as a result France continues to be a country incapable of reconciling the incongruence between its avowed secular and assimilationist universalism and the quotidian racism which flagrantly impoverishes its civilizing ambitions. On the other hand, the U.S. understanding of minority status is predicated on the notion of diversity: individuals are identified by the cultural background or

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


ethnic antecedents to which they belong, a mode of thinking that opens the way to clearly defined categorizations. And so to its own forms of marginalizations. Between the sublime French vision and the highly compartmentalized AngloAmerican understanding of minority, could there be a view which appreciates and legally protects minorities in terms of their necessarily multiple cultural and linguistic everyday selves? A minority is, more often than not, a collection of national identities, which from day to day negotiates different personalities and references. This volume is concerned primarily about these identity shifts. About the very question of multiplicity. It is concerned about the importance of literary writers, of singers and artists as cultivators of memories but also as vehicles for openness and for political pluralism. A leitmotif runs through its pages: that identity and difference are not mutually incompatible. In that, it confirms the major philosophical achievement of Jacques Derrida’s work. Namely that cultural purism should no longer be possible. That a universal imperative for equality has become the norm.1 But the search for clear cultural boundaries and for racially cleansing tidewaters are also ubiquitous: today’s Central Europe gives a good example. Riots in Hungary in September, 2006, were fueled by political forces looking in history’s rear-view mirror to recreate walls, pushing the Roma, Jews and immigrants to the fringes. In this book we join the Hungarian philosopher George Lukás in asking a global question: “Why do we define ourselves in so few words?”2 The future will require identity to be complex, to divorce itself from a narrow nationalist vocabulary. It will require a broad-minded balance between both the first-person singular and the first-person plural. A generous strategy that transcends monocultural nostalgia in favor of multiple identities. Could it be said that we are French, Algerian, European and American? Some in this book would claim that they have thrived for many years on such a dispersed view of themselves. A second directional current is followed in this book: postcolonialism. As useful as it might be as a snapshot term to absorb an amalgam of arguments in favor of diversity, pan-nationalist, feminist and workers’ rights, it is not broad enough to take into account several problems which cannot be precisely defined with surveyor or carpenter’s tools.3 The principal difficulty is that the postcolonial idea seems poorly equipped to negotiate and fully contextualize the political realities that have burgeoned in the last half century. These include an aggregate of repressive policies by independence regimes (such as the National Liberation Front in Algeria) which came to power with socialist credentials and aspirations but which, particularly after the demise of the Soviet Union, were incapable of shedding their military



personalities and intensified repression of both religious opposition and voices favoring minority rights and pluralism. To follow the opening path taken by Kamal Salhi, the primary purpose of this book is to contribute to a rethinking of postcolonial theory in order to support his call for a much needed dialogue in North Africa between liberal and traditional cultural forces. The future does not have to be based on all or nothing. The fusion or hybridizing of the Francowestern, the Amazigh and the Arab world does not have to be posited as unreachable. In more specific terms, this volume deals with the situation of North Africa’s minorities, both ethnic and religious. It brings together essays by leading scholars across many disciplines, all of which attempt to shed some light on the transformational nature of minority status in North Africa. Beyond the philosophical orientation articulated above, its novelty also lies in the fact that it covers a new spectrum of cultures within this region. We have purposely chosen the word mosaic in this title to represent as accurately as possible the diversity of North Africa, a region which stretches from Egypt to the Canary Islands, and from the Mediterranean shores to the desert plains of the Sahara. North Africa in this book is not then limited to the three countries of the “Maghreb,” known as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, but also includes Libya, Egypt and some Sub-Saharan countries where the Tuaregs live, such as Mali, Niger and Mauritania. This collection explores the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious diversity of North Africa, and offers a panoramic perspective on the dynamics between race, nation, identity and power. In an overarching way, it seeks to both validate and reappraise the complexity of these North African cultures by juxtaposing them principally to colonial and post-colonial constructions. In this respect, it is our aim to provide a concise panorama of today’s North Africa as a complex yet positive model for societies founded on a sense of ontological multiplicity, rather than on a national, religious or political affiliation. The word “minority” in this book is meant in a cultural sense and not in numerical or demographic terms. In Morocco, for instance, the Berbers form the majority of the national population, and yet their culture and language have no official status. Similarly, the concept of minority status is not limited to ethnicity, but includes religious groups. The Copts in Egypt, the Jews in the countries of the Maghreb, and the Igurramn in Morocco are all religious minorities which deserve a voice in North Africa’s melting pot. The minorities examined in this book do not seek to be “majorified” but simply be recognized and be given an equitable political voice. Politics has been the primal enemy of their diversity. Instead of praising and probing the richness of plurality, successive governments in most of these countries have tried hard to suppress these multiple voices. Colonial regimes administered suppression by

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


playing one group against the other, and post-colonial governments have followed the same mono-culturalist trend in the name of political unity. More than thirty-five years have elapsed since the publication of the milestone work edited by Ernest Gellner and Charles Micaud, Arabs and Berbers. It was a seminal collection of essays which provided a sweeping overview of North Africa’s minority populations. Since the publication of that work there have not been many studies which appraise the internal shifts that have affected Berbers and other North African minority populations since the 1970s. Certainly, no major works have sought to describe the recent polemics between Islamism and Berberism, or the Berber revival movement accentuated in part by the Algerian civil war in the 1990s.

The Structure of the Book This book is divided into five parts: “Minorities in Context,” “The Berbers and Transnationalism,” “Jewish and Coptic Minorities,” “Minorities and the Moroccan State,” and “Amazigh Women: A Double Minority Status.” Each part highlights a particular angle of vision dealing with distinct minorities or groups of minorities.

Part One: Minorities in Context Part One contains two chapters and is mostly a contextual background on the status of minorities in North Africa. The introductory chapter by Kamal Salhi provides insights on the problematic of minoritizing in North Africa, and forewarns us about the dangerous misconceptions in regards to minority issues and recent trends. The second chapter, by Taoufik Djebali and Lee Whitfield, provides a critical survey on the history of minorities in North Africa in relation to successive waves of colonization and to the French occupation in particular. These two chapters provide the reader with a historical and socio-cultural context for a better understanding of the subsequent chapters.

Part Two: Berbers and Transnationalism Part Two links the Berber diasporic groups to their homeland and explores this minority issue in a totally novel context. Jane Goodman focuses on the globalizing model of branching interconnections which allowed Berber cultural identity to become visible on a world stage. Goodman’s chapter urges us to rethink the question of minority cultural identities in relation to tradition and modernity in the recent globalized world. Paul Silverstein takes up the issue of how Berber activists in both France and North Africa situate themselves vis-à-



vis Islam, pro-secularism, the headscarf issue, and most importantly, the nationalist Islamist discourse. Kay Adamson tackles the issue of emigrationimmigration and explains the complexities of the notion of “nation” in Sayad’s work about minority status in colonial and postcolonial Algeria. Terhi Lehtinen, for her part, analyzes the transnational process of nation-building and minority identity construction through an exploration of the role played by the Amazigh Cultural Movement. Helena De Felipe takes us to another period of history, the Middle Ages, and to another region, not that detached from North Africa, Andalusia. She illustrates how the Berbers faced scorn and exclusion from both Arabs and Andalusis despite the constant help and protection they provided for them against Christian threats from the north.

Part Three: Jewish and Coptic Minorities Part Three emphasizes the situation of both Coptic and Jewish minorities within Muslim Arab-controlled states. The section on the Jewish minority focuses on the relationships between the Jews and the other North African communities, mainly the Berbers, from ancient times to the present day. Daniel Schroeter thoughtfully writes on the various versions surrounding the origin of the Jewish minority in North Africa and Sarah Levin describes past MuslimJewish relations through an examination of the local oral culture in a Moroccan Berber region. Last but not least, in the section regarding the Coptic minority, Paul Sedra elaborates on schooling and the modern Coptic subjectivity in nineteenth-century Egypt.

Part Four: Minorities and the Moroccan State Part Four highlights the economic and socio-political implications concerning the Berbers in relation to the hegemony of the state apparatus. Aomar Boum argues that even though the Moroccan state had to change its policy towards minorities, under international pressure, it still turns to “colonial discourse on dance and nationhood to reinforce its nationalist model of historical authenticity of its past.” Mohammed Errihani develops an analysis of the current situation regarding the teaching of Tamazight in Morocco and the complexity of the obstacles laid by both the nationalist and the islamist discourses. Michael Peyron focuses on the Berbers of the Middle Atlas in Morocco and explains how they have been sidelined for long centuries by both the state and the city-dwellers despite their heroic resistance to successive invaders. Cynthia Becker addresses the issue of art and Amazigh consciousness. Through her analysis of both Amazigh and non-Amazigh artists, she shows how art gives material form to visions of Amazigh identity. Jacob Mundy concludes

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


this part by writing a wonderful panorama on the Western Saharan crisis with a lucid analysis of the most current developments.

Part Five: Amazigh Women: A Double “Minority” Status Part Five goes deeper into the concept of minority by tackling such questions as gender and religion. David Crawford takes on the role of Berber women in rural Morocco and illustrates how they exert power (however hidden) on the household. Habiba Boumlik sheds light on a small community in Southern Morocco, known as the Igurramn. While belonging to the Berber ethnic group, this community forms a minority within this group through religious lineage. Finally, three practical points. First, although this book has attempted to bring the larger question of North African minority cultures to the foreground, it has no ambition to be all-inclusive. The editors recognize that a number of populations have not been brought to center stage, namely, the Haratins, in Morocco, Mauritania, and Western Sahara, as well as the Kouloughlis, who descend from the Turks. There are, obviously, a number of other omissions for which we ask to be forgiven by inviting friends and scholars to improve on this collaborative undertaking. Second, it should be emphasized that in this book the terms Amazigh and Berber are used interchangeably. Berber derives from the Greek word barbaroi (barbarian), referring to all non-Greek speakers. Later the Romans used the term barbari to refer to the people they conquered. Most scholars use the term Berber. But some, political activists in particular, prefer the word Amazigh (plural: Imazighen), meaning “free people.” Lastly, the term “Maghreb,” which in Arabic means the land where the sun sets, is limited to the three countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. This book goes beyond these three nations and well beyond territorial boundaries. Our ambition is to validate peoples and their cultures in order to confirm the position of the celebrated writer Kateb Yacine that Africa has not yet lost its north.



Association de Culture Berbère Amazigh Cultural Movement Amazigh World Congress Alliance Israélite Universelle Agence France Presse Association Fès Saïss Armée de Libération Nationale Association Marocaine de la Recherche et de l’Echange Culturel Association Algérienne pour la Recherche Démographique, Economique et Sociale Association pour la Recherche Démographique, Economique et Sociale Armée Révolutionnaire de Libération de l’Azawad Armée Révolutionnaire de Libération du Nord Niger Association des Ulémas Musulmans Algériens Bureaux Arabes Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l’Homme Comité de Coordination et d’Exécution Comité d’Etudes Berbères Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Amazigh Comité Inter-Etats pour La Lutte Contre la Sécheresse Congrès Mondial Amazigh Conseil National de Coordination Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne Centre National de Recherche Scientifique Compagnie générale des matières mucléaires Collège Royal Coordination de la Résistance Armée Comité Révolutionnaire pour l’Unité et l’Action Direction des Renseignements et de la Sécurité Ecole Normale Etoile Nord Africaine Fédération de France Front des Forces Socialistes Front Islamique Arabe de l’Azaouad

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Front Islamique du Salut Front pour la Libération de l’Azaouad Front de Libération de l’Aïr et de l’Azawak Front de Libération Nationale Front de Libération de Temust First Pan African Cultural Festival Front Populaire de Libération de l’Azaouad Front Populaire pour la Libération du Niger Front Patriotique de Libération du Sahara Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat Haut Commissariat à l’Amazighité Habitation à Loyer Modéré Institut Français d’Afrique Noire Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines Irish Republican Army Institut Royal pour la Culture Amazigh Monde Arabe et Recherche Scientifique Mouvement Culturel Berbère Mouvements et Fronts Unifiés de l’Azaouad United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara Mouvement National Populaire Mouvement Populaire Mouvement Populaire de l’Azaouad Mouvement Populaire, Démocratique et Constitutionnel Mouvement de Renouveau Algérien Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques National Initiative for Human Development Organisation Armée Secrète Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Organisation de la Résistance Armée Organisation spéciale Parti Communiste Algérien Parti Démocratique Amazigh Party of Justice and Development Parti du Peuple Algérien Parti pour l’Unité Nationale et la Démocratie Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie Radio France Internationale l’Union Démocratique




List of Acronyms And Abbreviations

Union Démocratique du Manifeste Algérien Union pour la Démocratie et Progrès Social Union des Forces de la Résistance Armée Union du Maghreb Arabe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization United Nations High Commission for Refugees Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens


7000-5000 B.C. 6000-2000 B.C. 1000 B.C. Around 950 B.C. Around 814 B.C. 500–400 B.C. 500–400 B.C. 146 B.C. 116 B.C. 112–104 B.C. 82 B.C. 46 B.C. 25 B.C. 193 347 354 372–376 395 396 429 430 533 596 647 669

Capsian civilization. Neolithic civilization in North Africa and in the Sahara. Phoenician settlements in North African shores. Sheshonq I (Libyan) founds the 22nd Egyptian dynasty. Foundation of Carthage by Phoenicians. Formation of Berber Kingdoms: Mauretania in the west, Massaessyles in the center, and Massyles in the east. Carthage expands into African hinterlands. Third Punic War; final destruction of Carthage; beginning of the Roman occupation of North Africa. Jugurtha, Massinissa’s grandson, unites Numidia. Jugurthine War; Jugurtha defies the Romans; he is eventually betrayed by King Bocchus of Mauretania. Hierbas unites Numidia and is defeated by Rome. Defeat of Juba I; Rome annexes Numidia and creates the Roman province of Africa Nova. Augustus gives Mauretania to Juba II as a client kingdom. Berber Lacius Septimius Severus from Liptis Magna becomes the first African emperor of Rome. Donatists and Circumcelliones unite against Roman power. Birth of Saint Augustine in Tagast (Algeria). Revolt of Firmus in the Kabyle Mountains, with support from the Donatists. Saint Augustine becomes Bishop of Hippo. Revolt of Firmus’s brother Gildon, with Donatist support. Invasion of Africa by the Vandals. Saint Augustine dies during the siege of Hippo. The fall of the Vandals. Berber uprisings against the Byzantines. Arabs defeat the Byzantine army at Sbeitla; occupation of Tripolitania. The Arab leader `Uqba Ibn Nafi` seizes Tripolitania and Byzacena; foundation of the city of Qayrawan; Berber resistance by Kussayla.


688 695 701 711 827-896 972 1014 1090-91 1147-1150 1159 1415 1514 1515 1517 1609 1830 1857 1858–1860 1859 1871 1881 1912 1916 1921–1926 1930 1933 1937 1940

Berber Chronology

Arab counter-offensive; Kussayla dies. Hassan Ibn Nu`man invades the Maghreb, captures Carthage, but Arab armies are defeated by Kahena, the Berber queen of the Aures (South east Algeria). Kahena dies; end of Berber resistance; the Berbers convert to Islam. Berber general Tariq Ibn Ziyad leads the Moorish conquest of Spain. The Aghlabids conquer Sicily. Malta. Syracuse. The Fatimids leave the Maghrib to Egypt; The Zirids take over the Maghrib. The Hammadid dynasty. The Almoravid conquests of Spain. The Almohad incursions in Spain. The Almohads unite the Maghreb. The Portuguese occupy Ceuta and Tangiers in 1471. The Ottomans take Djidjel from the Spanish. The Ottomans take Algiers. Later, they capture Libya and Tunis. The Ottomans take Tlemcen. Mass migration of Andalusis to the Maghreb. France begins its colonization of Algeria. French conquest of Kabylia. Kabyle uprisings. Uprisings in the Aures region. Al-Mukrani and Cheikh Al-Haddad uprisings. Establishment of a French protectorate in Tunisia. Establishment of a French protectorate in Morocco; Spain controls most of northern and southern Morocco; Libya becomes an Italian protectorate. Tuareg rebels, led by Kaocen, occupy Agadez. Revolts of Abdelkarim al-Khattabi in the Rif, northern Morocco. Berber Dahir in Morocco. Aït Atta resist the French in the Sahara and the Anti-Atlas; battle of Bougafer. Foundation of the Parti du Peuple Algérien (PPA). Emergence of Algerian nationalism.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities

1949 1951 1954 1956 1956 1958–1959 1959 1962 1963 1962–1963 1967 1969 1972 1973 1978 1980

1980–1990 1984–1985 1989 1990


Berberist crisis; Kabyle leaders call for a secular state and for a multicultural Algerian society and opposition to the Arab-Islamic as sole model for Algeria. Libyan independence. Beginning of the Algerian War. Moroccan independence. Tunisian independence. Rif uprising is repressed. Foundation of the Movement Populaire (MP) by Mahjoubi Ahardan. Algerian independence. Revolts in Kabylia against the new government. Creation of Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) by Hocine Aït Ahmed. Tuaregs of Idrar Niforas in northeastern Mali rebel against the Malian government. Foundation of Paris-based Académie Berbère d’Echange et de Recherches Culturels. Mu`ammar Kadhafi deposes the Sanusi monarchy. Second coup d’état attempt on King Hassan II of Morocco. Kabyle activists form Groupe d’Etudes Berbères at the University of Paris VIII-Vincennes. Establishment of Ateliers Imedyazen, an outreach and publication cooperative in Paris to debate and disseminate Berber issues; foundation of Tamaynut Association. Berber Spring (Tafsut): Algerian government cancels Mouloud Mammeri’s lecture at the University of TiziOuzou; Kabyle protests follow; repression of protestors by security forces; foundation of the Mouvement Culturel Berbère (MCB). Proliferation of Berber cultural associations in North Africa and in France Drought destroys about 70 percent of Tuareg livestock. Foundation of the Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD) by Said Sadi; Libya deports Malian Tuaregs. Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) wins municipal and regional elections; defeat and humiliation of the FLN. Tuareg rebellion in Niger; armed Tuareg rebels attack government in Mali and Niger; Front Populaire de






1994-1995 1995

Berber Chronology

Libération de l’Azaouad (FPLA) seeks to establish a new state in northern Mali. Interior ministers of Algeria, Mali, and Niger meet in Tamanrasset to discuss armed Tuareg uprisings; presidents of Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Niger hold a summit to discuss Tuareg issues; Tuareg aim to set up a free Tuareg state. Tuaregs destroy a border checkpoint, erasing border markings between Niger and Mali; Tuareg massacres; Agadir Charter calls for the recognition of the Amazigh language and culture in Morocco. Two Tuareg rebel groups and the government of Mali sign a truce in Tamanrasset (Algeria); concessions included the establishment of a Tuareg autonomous region and the withdrawal of the Malian army from Timbuktu and Gao; the Front Populaire de Liberation de l’Azaouad (FPLA) continues its attacks; Malian army retaliation increases. Niger admits the existence of a Tuareg rebellion and calls for peace talks; Truce between the Front de Libération de l’Aïr et de l’Azawad (FLAA) and the government of Niger. Tuareg refugees begin to return to Mali from Algeria. Massacre of Tuareg civilians by Malian armed forces; Tuareg assaults on Gao. Members of the Goulmima-based organization, Tilleli, are arrested for showing banners written in Berber script (Tifinagh) during Labor Day march. King Hassan II calls for teaching “Berber dialects;” Moroccan television begins broadcasting a daily fourminute news bulletin in Tamazight, Tashalhit, and Tarifit. School boycott in Kabylia. Algerian government creates the Haut Commissariat à l’Amazighité (HCA) to oversee the insertion of Tamazight in the education system and media, but fails to achieve its mission. Peace agreement signed between the government of Niger and Tuareg groups. Malian Tuaregs call on the international community to help solve Mali’s northern problems; continuous cycles of retaliatory killings of Tuareg civilians and Tuareg assaults; Algeria relocates Malian refuges to new camps.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities

1996 1997 1998 2001

2002 2005


Moroccan law restricts the use of Amazigh names. First World Amazigh Congress held in the Canary Islands. Assassination of Matoub Lounes, a Kabyle singer and activist; riots in Kabylia. King Mohamed VI announces the foundation of the Institut Royal pour la Culture Amazigh (IRCAM). Black Spring (riots) in Kabylia; government forces kill scores of protestors; Draft of the El-Kseur Platform which calls for economic demands and official recognition of Berber language and culture. Tamazight (Berber) is finally recognized as a national language (but is still not official) in constitutional revision. Kadhafi Charity Foundation calls on the government of Libya to lift a 1970s ban on the registration of Amazigh names.


42 AD 150 c. 150 c. 200 246 250 284 290-345 300 c. 325 339 c. 350 c. 431 441 451

Saint Mark the Evangelist, the author of the oldest of the Christian gospels, founds the Coptic Church. School of Alexandria is founded in Egypt, quickly becoming a major center for both Christian theology and Greek philosophy. Coptic translation of orig. Greek (Nag Hammadi library). The first Sahidic Coptic Bible translations written in Alexendria. Paul of Thebes retreats to the Egyptian desert and becomes the first Christian hermit. Christian council of Rome, Demetrius bishop of Alex. condemns Origen who in 248 cited the heresy recorded by Celsus. Massacre of Copts under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. Known to Copts as the Year of the Martyrs. St Pachomius establishes the 1st monastery in Egypt. The first Bohairic Coptic Bible translations written in Alexandria. The first Fayyumic Coptic translation fragment of John 6:11-15:11. Athanasius of Alexandria visits Rome accompanied by the two Egyptian monks Ammon and Isidore disciples of Anthony who export the idea of monasticism to Europe. The first Akhmimic (cop. ac) & Sub-Akhmimic (cop.ac2) Coptic translations of John. Building a church of El-Ashmonien, which was one of the sites that was visited by the holy family. Building the white convent (the convent of Anba Shenuda) in Suhag, which is said to have been built by Empress Helena. Coptic Patriarch Dioscorus is excommunicated at the Council of Chalcedon, given his insistence on Christ’s indivisible, divine nature.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities

c. 550 c. 600 642 c. 700 c. 706 AD 750-868 905-935 1003 Twelfth century Twelfth century Thirteenth century c. 1321 Fifteenth century Eighteenth century 1825 1854 1855 1865 1867


The Emperor Justinian starts erecting St. Catherene convent in the eastern desert. The Emperor Arcadius starts erecting the pilgrimage complex of Abu Mina near Alexandria. Omar Bin El-Khatab, the second Moslem Caliph, takes Egypt; defeats Heraclius in Holy War (The Arab conquest to Egypt and the end of the Byzantine Era in Egypt). Building the Church of St. Sergyous (the oldest Church in Old Cairo) upon the crypt where the holy family stayed. The Arabic language replaces the Coptic language in affairs of state within Egypt. Imposing sumptuary laws on Copts under the Abbasid Dynasties. The Fatimid ruler Al-Hakim bi Amr Allah starts a persecution against Christianity. The Coptic Patriarch mandates the use of the Arabic language alongside Coptic in church services. The Syrian convent given to the Syrians as a lien, and the church of The Angel Michael sold to the Jews. Catholic missionaries begin activities among Copts in Egypt. Persecution of Copts by Mamluk rulers of Egypt. The appearance of the architectural style known as Akhmym Style of Churches. The appearance of the architectural style known as 12 Domes Style of Churches. British Church Missionary Society dispatches a representative to Cairo. Cyril IV, who will become known as the Father of Reform, assumes the Patriarchal seat. American missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church inaugurate activities in Egypt. The main mark of Copts' inferiority, the “Jizya” lifted, and shortly thereafter Copts started to serve in the Egyptian army. Church Missionary Society representative J. R. T. Lieder passes away. Violence in Upper Egypt as Coptic Patriarch Demetrius II undertakes tour of area and condemns Protestant missionary activities therein.


1895 March 1911 1919 1933 1945 1952


September 21, 1955 April 19, 1959 1961 July 24, 1965 1966 September 1971 October 13, 1971 July 1975

Coptic Chronology

Coptic Catholics develop a formal organization, with a Patriarch, for their activities. Prominent Coptic laymen, unsettled by the assassination of Coptic Prime Minister Boutros Ghali, gather in Asyut to complain about government discrimination. Copts and Muslims join together in strikes and demonstrations targeting British occupation. Wafd Party adopts strident anti-missionary stand, in light of allegations that a mission school pressured a Muslim student to convert. A library of early Christian texts is discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Coptic lawyer Ibrahim Fahmy Hilal creates the Society of the Coptic Nation, promoting a particularist Coptic identity in wake of sectarian attacks. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Free Officers seize control of Egyptian government, and send King Farouk into exile. Ibrahim Fahmy Hilal seizes control of Patriarchate, only to face arrest by the revolutionary regime. Alleged assassination attempt against Nasser used as pretext to ban Muslim Brotherhood. Law Number 462 eliminates the separate courts, which had administered personal status laws for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities, respectively. Kirollos VI assumes Patriarchal seat. Nasser’s Socialist Decrees tend to disempower Copts disproportionately. Nasser lays cornerstone of Cathedral of Saint Mark, emphasizing national unity in remarks alongside Patriarch Kirollos VI. Chief Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, executed. Nasser’s successor, President Anwar Sadat, grants amnesty to Muslim Brotherhood political prisoners. Shenouda, formerly Bishop of Education, assumes Patriarchal seat. Sadat legalizes two prominent Muslim Brotherhood journals.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


April 30, 1980 1981 January 1985


Legislation proposes to punish apostates from Islam with the death penalty. Shenouda publicly attacks such ‘Islamizing’ legislation. The Patriarch meets with U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the White House. The People’s Assembly declares Islamic law the principal source of legislation in Egypt. Sadat imprisons 1,536 public figures, both Copts and Muslims, from across the political spectrum. Within a month, the President is assassinated by Islamists. Pope Shenouda is finally released from house arrest imposed by Sadat.


Thirteenth Century 1884-1885 1912 1934 1956


1958 1960 1962 1963 1970 1973 1974 1975

Arabization of the Western Sahara begins. Spain begins to occupy parts of the Saharan coast. Madrid and Paris finalize borders of Spanish Sahara and the Franco-Spanish protectorates in Morocco. French and Spanish pacification efforts in the Western Sahara reach their climax. Shortly before achieving independence, Moroccan political elites lay claim to Mauritania, northern Mali, western Algeria and Spanish Sahara as a part of “Greater Morocco.” Irregular guerillas of Moroccan and West-Saharan origin launch a new anti-colonial war in southern Morocco, western Algeria, Mauritania and Spanish Sahara, only to be crushed in a joint French and Spanish counterinsurgency effort. Spanish Sahara is declared a province of Spain. Mauritania achieves independence from France. Algerian independence. The United Nations places Spanish Sahara on its official list of colonies. First indigenous independence movement in Spanish Sahara is quickly repressed by Spanish administration. Sahrawi students in Morocco form first cell of Polisario Front in May, and quickly launched war of national liberation. Spain announces referendum on self-determination, which is soon opposed by Morocco and Mauritania. Morocco threatens to invade Spanish Sahara after International Court of Justice rejects its historical claim. With backing from the United States, Spain agrees to hand over administration to Morocco and Mauritania. Furious, Algeria throws its support behind Polisario.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


1979 1980

1981 1984 1988 1991 1992-1999 2000




Polisario forms its own government-in-exile, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, focusing its Algerian-backed war on Mauritania. Nearly half the native Sahrawi population of Western Sahara joins Polisario, forming four refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria. Mauritania withdraws from Western Sahara conflict; Polisario at height of military success. After years of military setbacks, Morocco begins to construct a series of heavily defended barriers that eventually bisect Western Sahara from north to south by the late 1980s. Morocco's King Hassan II agrees in principle to an Organization of African Unity referendum in Western Sahara. Organization of African Unity recognizes the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic; Morocco leaves the organization. The UN Security Council backs plans for a UN referendum in Western Sahara. Security Council adopts a Settlement Plan for Western Sahara; the UN Secretary-General unilaterally declares a ceasefire in September. The UN Mission in Western Sahara attempts to establish an electorate for a referendum on independence. Following the bloody referendum in East Timor, Security Council pushes for an alternative to a vote on independence in Western Sahara once it is clear that the plebiscite is heading towards independence. Lead UN negotiator, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker presents an autonomy agreement for Western Sahara, which is rejected by Polisario and Algeria but is accepted by Morocco. The UN Legal Counsel reaffirms that Western Sahara is still a Spanish colony under the de facto administration of Morocco. UN Security Council calls for Baker to find an agreement that respects self-determination.




2005 2006

Sahrawi Chronology

Baker presents his Peace Plan for Western Sahara; it offers five years of Western Saharan autonomy followed by a referendum on independence. Polisario and Algeria accept the proposal but Morocco rejects it. France and the United States reassure Morocco that a solution will never be imposed. After seven years as key mediator, Baker decides to resign. Morocco continues to reject any vote on independence; Polisario and Algeria call for the forced implementation of Baker's Peace Plan. The Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara witnesses some of the largest pro-independence demonstrations since 1975; nationalists call it the Sahrawi Intifadah. Morocco announces that it will unilaterally implement autonomy in Western Sahara as a solution to the conflict. Polisario begins to call for a withdrawal of the UN mission and re-opens its military training schools.

Map 1 Distribution of modern Berber speakers. Reprinted from The Historical Dictionary of the Berbers, by Hsain Ilahiane, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006. (Adapted from Brett, M. and Fentress, E. The Berbers: the peoples of Africa. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).



Map 2 The Almoravid expansion in Spain. Reprinted from The Historical Dictionary of the Berbers, by Hsain Ilahiane, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006


Part I: Minorities in Context


The foundation of separate people-hood is rooted in kinship and clannishness that provide for endogamous patterns of marriage and family identity. Inbreeding within a more of less closed bloodline provides a fundamental division between those who are part of the same biological tree and those who are external to it. In itself, the absence of particular ethnic autonomy makes it virtually impossible for any minority to move toward separate people-hood. At the opposite pole is exogamy, leading inevitably toward the stage of assimilation within a larger absorptive community.1

1. Premise of the Study By covering so many cultures and geographical areas in this book and making its range so ambitious, we are positioning the study of marginalized or “minority” cultures as a comparative project in which North African ethnic and religious cultures and the specific alterity they embody inside and outside North Africa are no less essential to the understanding of this diverse region than the history of the successive invasions it has experienced. Colonial rule in North Africa was more successful in sweeping away indigenous political structures than in destroying North African culture as such. The tension between the imported new structures and resilient older cultures is part of the postcolonial war of cultures in the region. Not long ago, North Africa was being torn between the forces of anarchy, on one side, in the shape of decentralized violence, and the forces of tyranny, on the other, in the shape of orchestrated centralized repression. Subsequently, the region has oscillated between civilian rule and militarism. Like the rest of the African continent, it is doubtful that

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


North Africa can go back to its pre-colonial starting point, but there may be a case for at least a partial retreat, which would re-establish contact with familiar landmarks of the past and then provide the starting point for a new journey of modernization motivated by indigenous needs.2 What has happened across North Africa is that multiculturalism, which presupposes cultural diversity and the valuing of this diversity, has become the unintentional by-product of the collapse of the grand vision of the culturally homogenous “nation state” of the so called Maghreb Arabe. The logic of this vision is akin to Massimo d’Azeglio’s statement made on the eve of the unification of Italy: “We have made Italy; all that remains is to make Italians.” This model dominated the postcolonial imaginaries of opposition leaders and other pressure groups, even as some sought to weld diverse and disparate populations that subscribe to different and possibly incompatible belief systems into something called the nation. Since independence, the Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian and Egyptian people have supposedly gained equal rights from their respective constitutions. Their former leaders guided these countries through processes of reform mostly intended to promote emancipation by partly replicating Western sociocultural structures. It is not as if these leaders did not recognize the existence of great cultural diversity within their societies. But they hoped that people would leave behind their particular identities, putting them to one side when they entered the public sphere, where they would assume the identity of a somewhat faceless, abstract citizen bearing no markers of religion, ethnicity, class, gender or caste. Accordingly, the public realm of society would not represent any particular class, gender, or ethnic or cultural group. Instead it would be defined by rights, the rule of law, citizenship and civic ties. Despite these leaders’ absolute power, the recent––perhaps well-intended––reforms have not gone beyond words on paper, and the authoritarian tradition has remained virtually intact because the application of the new laws encounters obstacles in praxis and everyday life. This situation is a consequence of the way North African governments manipulate religion, language and cultural affairs, while the region’s constitutions and laws are ambiguous and opaque with regard to cultural issues. The general attitude toward the native culture denies that it is viable, possibly because it is seen as a threat to other cultures present in the region, prompting the Arab-Islamic sections of the population to consciously and unconsciously assert their superior social authority. One way of maintaining an authoritarian social structure is to suppress people’s feelings of freedom and liberation. This can be done by implanting the idea that if the native culture becomes more powerful it will have a negative impact. The region’s governments have pursued unrealistic cultural policies focused totally on the dissemination of Arab-Islamic culture and ignoring the true composition of their populations. They appear to


Chapter One

believe the entry of committed, visionary nationalists from other backgrounds into the administration would threaten the dominance of Arab-Muslim groups and undermine their interests, particularly as Berber populations have generally been more open to outside influences and secular ideas.3 These arguments should, however, merely be seen as rhetorical methods by which authoritarian ideologies maintain the fixed structure of society, and not as true reflections of reality. The post-Independence desire to keep the system as it is and to do this at all levels and by all possible means, is being maintained across all sectors. Recent history, however, has taken its revenge. During the 1980s, as movements and discourses centered on identity erupted across the globe; issues of ethnic, religious and linguistic identity came to command the theatre of politics. Many nation states had either suppressed distinctive minority cultures or devalued them in the name of national identity. In time, minorities fairly and sometimes aggressively resisted the denial or devaluation of their own cultures. Analogous examples outside North Africa can be found in Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, regions of India, among the Afro-Americans in the United States of America and the Quebecois in Canada. North Africa was part of this global ethnic explosion; minority groups asserted that their distinctiveness and common cultures were not only viable, but that they should be recognized in the sense of being valued by the body politic. They further highlighted the fact that the vision of a strong and centralized nation state, which was superficially free of any particular cultural orientation, had turned out to be a project for the legitimization of dominant understandings and the devaluation of minority identities. This obviously provokes a search for new means to achieve social and cultural integration. The problem of belonging, of collective identity, emerges as the central challenge for modern North African society at the end of the twentieth century. This is an upshot of colonization, coupled with the global conditions that have underpinned the recent rise of communitarianism and other attempts to find moral foundations for modern societies. All the parties involved in the recent social, cultural and political developments in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt have embarked on a search for bonds capable of holding their modern societies together. In public and academic debate, it has become widely accepted that their social institutions cannot survive when they are viewed in terms of rationality and functional efficiency. Of all the concepts that have captured and stimulated new notions of the politically permissible, the umbrella concept of multiculturalism occupies pride of place. It is the latest modish notion to capture the imagination of political and cultural theorists, sociologists and anthropologists. The loosening of established institutions’ authority is reflected in various problems that have intensified the search for bonds. In the reality of the globalized world, liberal Europe (the former colonial powers) and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


the West (the neo-colonial powers) seem to be losing the capacity to provide postcolonial developing societies with commonly accepted rules and institutions legitimized by a binding base of shared values. Migration has also undermined myths of cultural or ethnic homogeneity, despite some demagogic attempts at resistance. How do critics and theorists seek to explain these sorts of ethnic and cultural processes? Most research into ethnicity and culture seeks to explain the emergence and mobilization of ethnic identities by reference to shifts in macrostructures or historical conditions. This field of research has focused on determining which factors can be held responsible for shaping the opportunity structure for identity entrepreneurs, ranging from nationalist and regionalist actors to ethnic “minority” movements. The following discussions situate these approaches in ways that hopefully provide insights into how situations conducive to ethnic and cultural conflict are structured, in terms of the opportunities for, and constraints on, the adoption of certain minority codes and related forms of collective action. They also attempt to examine the limits on these types of approach and suggest how widely held, derivative conceptions can be used more adequately within the framework of possible models of thinking about postcolonial cultures and the arts that sustain these cultures in North Africa.

2. Challenging Concepts in Inflexible Contexts Each distinct ethnic group will undoubtedly be known by its specific collective character. Its individuality is a cherished collective product, a native identity, bearing authenticity of uniqueness. The aspects of culture are many in principle, and each minority retains its own mix of attributes.4

The term “culture” can be used in various ways, covering a range of descriptive definitions, such as those devised in the nineteenth century by scholars like the German Gustav Klemm and the Briton Edward Bennett Tylor, as well as more modern interpretive conceptions like that of Clifford Geertz, in which the emphasis is on meaning as distinct from description. Tylor defined “culture” as a complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.5 Although Tylor’s conclusions were published in the nineteenth century, his concept still retains currency for the “descriptive,” as opposed to the “interpretive,” understanding of culture and has recently been described by John Thompson as a “classic definition.”6 A more contemporary, but still very similar, conception of culture advanced by Marvin Harris defines it as the total socially acquired life-way or life-style of a group of people, consisting of the patterned, repetitive ways of thinking, feeling and acting that are characteristic of the members of a particular society or segment of a society.7 Accounts of


Chapter One

culture usually belong to one of three broad categories. The first comprises those relating to the mind, such as religion and education, which come under the general headings of knowledge, belief and morals in Tylor’s definition, or thinking in Harris’s definition. The second category is formed by several areas of artistic life, such as literature, the performing arts and theatre, which belong generally to the sphere of art in Tylor’s definition, or thinking or feeling in Harris’s definition. The third category is to be found in the relationships that bring together or separate human beings, which belong to the realms of custom, law, morals and other habits in Tylor’s concept and of feeling and acting in Harris’s definition. However, in the postcolonial context of North Africa, a region dominated by Arab-Muslim hegemony, none of those options allows for the representation of cultures as entities or groups of people in their own right. Furthermore, the increasing urbanization in the region heightens all the complexities of the ethno-social and ethno-cultural trends there. The growth of towns and cities, for example, can be associated unsuitably in social and theoretical analyses with the processes involved in asserting symbolic boundaries and forming a collective identity. If we seek to explain processes of ethnic identity construction, mobilization and conflict in North Africa by identifying various structural features, we may end up claiming that these factors cause collective ethnic action. This would inevitably lead to oversimplification, especially as militant ethnic discourses in North Africa and multicultural France often correlate the presence or absence of such macrostructural variables as language, religion, gender and social/economic inequality with the presence or absence of ethnic conflict or mobilization. One reason why ethnicity on its own may not be a suitable analytical concept is that definitions of the term will often be rejected on political grounds, as has been manifestly demonstrated by the successive pro-Arab hegemonic elites in the region. Gaining an ethnic tag can often generate rewards in terms of claims to group rights and self-determination, and the proposition of a definition of ethnicity that excludes competing claimants of rights to self-determination is certain to elicit criticism from those excluded. The concept of ethnicity, particularly when it implies recognition of minority structures, can therefore find no definition free of its own political consequences, and in practice ethnicity is increasingly distorted to further these political outcomes. This is why ethnicity is likely to be a contested concept in the context of postcolonial North Africa, practically in the resolution of conflicts and theoretically when attempts are made to understand the region’s cultural mosaic, and why research into “minority cultures” should replace this contested concept with genuinely analytical approaches. Culture is not just constituted by our collective images of ourselves, but also by our collective images of others. And those inherited images may be utterly

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


destructive. The mere fact that a habit of mind is authentic does not mean that it is helpful. Prejudices, hatreds, patronizing generalizations, false assumptions and contemptuous attitudes may be deeply rooted, venerable, time-honored and steeped in tradition. Conversely, toleration, respect, a willingness to embrace diversity and sympathy for people unlike ourselves may be the products of very recent experience: hence the hasty description of cultures or peoples who lack any official status as “minority” or “marginalized” groups, even though in North Africa they actually make up a majority of the population and have deeper roots there than the ruling caste. North Africans may eventually develop a way of describing the pre-colonial cultures in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt by reference to indigenous terms. Until those terms are researched, agreed upon and widely understood, we have to make do with European/Western concepts. Discussions about minorities do not pose problems for the hegemonic ideologies of North Africa and its various regimes as much as they do for those who are culturally, politically and ideologically repressed by these regimes, since those in power do not even accept that there really are any minorities with issues to be addressed. The recent liberal, “democratic” current in the region, with its experience of confronting ethno-historical questions, has not developed theories of minority rights, but has instead rushed to create new ministries or national institutions to safeguard human rights, deliberately mixing-up these concepts to sow confusion. This confusion is a response to international pressures and a way of controlling and manipulating local unrest more than it is a recognition or accommodation of ethnic difference and cultural blending. These supposedly democratic institutions do not pay attention to the “minority rights” of national minorities––if they are to be so called––that cannot be assimilated into the larger, artificial Arab-Islamic community. In Western terms, “minorities” often denotes people identified as belonging to minority nationalities or permanently settled immigrants with distinguishable, coherent traits marking them out as cultural groups. One of the major features of North Africa is its ethnic diversity– –the result of its various indigenous cultures and centuries of settlement and colonization from outside. Although the French and Ottoman empires have now left the region, it still bears witness to their presence. However, any attempt to identify all the ethnic populations in the region would be controversial since it would mean classifying them, and it is not easy to agree on a single criterion of classification. Any attempt to do this would spark a complex, sensitive debate on whether the defining criterion should be cultural, linguistic, geographical, spatial or religious, or whether a combination of these criteria should be applied. Government officials do not recognize the existence of distinct ethnic groups with practices or languages that deviate from the officially proclaimed homogeneity of Arab-Muslim culture. The minority groups in North Africa tend to be the original inhabitants of the territories occupied by the region’s states,


Chapter One

who were socially and politically autonomous before being incorporated into these larger hegemonic units. They tend to view themselves as separate peoples. It is difficult to accept the argument that the supposedly democratic states of North Africa are ethnically and culturally neutral. On the contrary, all the region’s democracies–if there has ever been a democracy in colonial or postcolonial North Africa–have developed a degree of linguistic and institutional cohesion as part of their process of nation building. In North Africa, the official discourse presents that unity as having been achieved through integration into the culture of the state, i.e. a culture only found within its territorial boundaries and centered on a shared language disseminated to all members of the nation through state policies (and institutions, such as those of the education system and the mass media) in both public and private life. If ethnicity is considered a valid concept for the understanding of North African perceptions of culture, these socio-cultural categories are not necessarily well defined and delimited because the real majority, the Imazighen (Berbers), for example, are still struggling to become visible while the “ethnic minorities,” such as the Jews, the Copts, the Christians, the Europeans and the Turks, are other-defined more often than self-defined. The term “ethnic minorities” has never been officially used. Rather, the term “ethnic group” or “ethnic people” is sometimes used. In reality, the term “ethnic people” implicitly refers to those who are not ethnic Amazigh or Arabs, although the Amazigh may sometimes be referred to as an “ethnic group.” As a direct consequence of these blurred categories, the identity and culture of some “minority” individuals are disrupted. They fail on both counts: they do not fit in with the majority identity and culture, as they do not entirely share all the social and cultural attributes of the majority. Nor do they fit into the ethnic minority culture per se. For them, the connection between identity and culture was lost during the period of Arab nationalism and the post-Independence years when the construction of “new Arab men” was supposed to remove all particularist and “reactionary” identities. One impulse behind the recent cultural resurgence has come from the activist cultural movements that have pursued confrontational approaches in responding to the existing situation. Successive postcolonial governments have failed to put in place policies that have genuinely promoted self-determination. These problems have arisen with the creation of the new nation-states in post-Ottoman North Africa. The French colonial territories that became independent were very often populated by various peoples and tribes, each with its own language and culture. The various languages spoken in these states often differed in many ways, making it difficult, if not impossible, for adequate communication to take place between different groups. During the colonial period, the dominant language for intergroup communication was the language of the colonial power. After World War

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


II, there was a general feeling that the North African peoples would only be successful in their struggles against French colonialism if each country could be united into a single social, cultural and, especially, political force; hence the commitments made by political leaders to the establishment of a single, united state, a single nation and a single language, all in the name of independence. It may seem strange that the Algerians and the Moroccans, for example, nations with populations of millions of Imazighen, gave up their own languages in favor of Arabic, which was in reality foreign to them. As I have noted elsewhere,8 the term “minority” denotes the smaller in number of two aggregates that together constitute a whole. However, this statistical definition of a minority neither reveals anything about the social status of a minority group in relation to the majority group in a given society, nor reflects the minority group’s attitude toward the majority group and vice versa. It refers only to two aggregates, thus neglecting situations in which there may be more than two constituents that together form a composite whole, as is often the case in North Africa. Should all North Africa’s countries then be characterized as being made up of linguistic minorities? Such a definition of minority may even include dominant elites that, despite being tiny in number, happen to exercise power and control resources that are not available to the subordinate, but majority, group in the population. Only a small percentage of the total population of North Africa can claim standard Arabic as their first language, yet it is the tiny elite groups that promote this language who are the most privileged and powerful sections of these societies. Another perspective through which the semantics of the concept of the “linguistic minority” has been circumscribed introduces the notion of “language power” based on a wider range of usage in a certain domain, greater degree of control over the speakers of another language, and higher status and prestige in the eyes of the general populace. Language power brings out the dichotomy of the dominant versus the dominated. In fact, it is common to speak euphemistically of dominated groups as minorities, and, it is possible to speak of languages as minority languages even though, in some cases, their speakers actually represent a majority in a given population. Such definitions may obliterate the distinction between the general mass and ethnic or linguistic minorities. For example, the Amazigh communities are not, in any real sense, minority groups, and it is important to distinguish the issues faced by these groups from those of the separatist movements active within some ethnic minorities. While the Berber cultural movement, for example, is led by a group that is numerically in a majority in resisting the domination of an elitist numerical minority, the resurgence of ethnic movements all over North Africa is largely due to the struggles of minority groups for linguistic or ethnic survival in the face of repressive dominant majority groups. Within the developing nations, we find at least two distinct types of minority groups, those that are gradually


Chapter One

losing their cultural and ethnic distinctiveness and consequently find themselves in the process of changing ethnic identification; and those that have become militant after reaching a state of crisis in their struggles for survival.9 In this particular instance, ethnicity is a category denoting a particular way of organizing groups by reference to attributive identity markers. The way in which the term is often used in public and academic debate seems to insinuate that characterizing such phenomena with this category is a major step toward understanding them. This reasoning is highly problematic in that academic discourse materializes and legitimizes identity constructions by promoting cultural traits as essential to given social groups, whereas in reality they are in flux. Differences, both between and within groups, change significantly over time. As a consequence, ethnicity becomes the fundamental reference point in analyzing politics and patterns of conflict in a linguistically, culturally, religiously and artistically diverse region like North Africa. This is exactly the perspective within which identities acquire the character of a historically given foundation on the basis of which collective interests are formulated and political forces mobilized. Opinions about language are usually passionately held and often give rise to considerable controversy. This passion, which in essence demands the acceptance of subjective judgments, mixes with the often-held moral belief that it is the duty of successive generations to preserve their language. On the other hand, there are fears that such moral passion may be asserted without any objective grounds and therefore be less amenable to public criticism or even academic critical analysis. Subjugated populations such as the Berbers, Copts and Jews are suspected of not merely substituting material purposes for philosophical beliefs, but acting with the force of their moral passions within a materialistic agenda.10 This is precisely where righteousness, passionate moral obligation and ethical commitment can be perceived in North Africa as a sense of pride and arrogance. This may be manifested in passionate opposition to segregation, discrimination, racism and injustice in general, and is particularly prevalent among those who have been militating for linguistic and cultural rights. Nevertheless, linguistic issues are rarely discussed from a legal point of view, despite the fact that the law can be used to resolve many problems in this area. However, there is an increasing tendency to deal with language problems by legal means, as when zealous pro-Baathist parliamentarians introduced the Arabization law in Algeria or when parents in Morocco were compelled to choose names for their new-born babies from an official list. There have also been cases of amendments being made to national constitutions and new legislation. For the most part, these questions are addressed from the perspective of “minority rights.” The issue is therefore reduced to a debate about linguistic rights and their treatment by the central authorities, or the rights of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


individuals and communities subject to language legislation. Legislation about the use of Arabic has a high profile in North Africa. The official approach has two distinct aspects: policy concerning the language itself and policy concerning its use. The implementation of the Arabization Law in 1995 fulfilled old demands that had not been satisfied by the legislation adopted previously. Algerian law now imposes heavy penalties on public bodies, institutions, individuals and private companies that fail to comply with the country’s language regulations. The tendency toward regulation has also been strengthened in the years since 1992, which have seen Islamist and nationalist political parties working to deepen mutual co-operation. This has encouraged governments to make greater efforts to maintain the standards of the “common language,” particularly through state television and education programs. This is perhaps the reason why Arabic has been such an important matter of state during the recent period and, therefore, an object of official language policy. Policymaking on the use of Arabic has historical roots and is underpinned by philosophical considerations. Since these ideas are closely related to the unilateral Arab understanding of the Republic and its citizenship, the hostility shown toward other languages is less a cultural problem than a feature of the hegemonic vision of the country’s political elite. It is relevant to ask whether there is any justification for placing a single national language above the other languages spoken within North Africa and whether it is right for Arabic to be given special treatment while other languages are oppressed. The thinking behind some aspects of human rights legislation, particularly on language, necessarily involves a drift into relativism. It involves a movement from legislating against discrimination to requiring non-discrimination between practices, cultural structures and education sectors in the states of the region. The fact of having to legislate for what is culturally and historically obvious encourages a negative, judgmental approach. This inevitably gives the debate antagonistic overtones, at both the philosophical and practical levels, and any attempt by central authorities to determine what people should be thinking hinders the dispassionate examination of issues that are often of great importance. This is precisely the reason for the failure of the Berber Cultural Movement leaders to reach agreements with the authorities in the past, and the inability of the Aarouch (tribal) leaders to resume the negotiations with the Government that began after the Black Spring of 2001 and resolve fundamental linguistic and educational issues. North Africa finds itself at a crossroads. The people’s desire for democracy has recently compelled the official recognition of different identities. Recent laws have recognized at least the existence of indigenous peoples. The governments of Morocco and Algeria have granted some form of constitutional status to Tamazight.11 Tunisia once belonged to the Berbers, most of whom have


Chapter One

assimilated into Arab culture over the 1,300 years since the Arab conquest of North Africa. Barely 2-3 percent of the population of 10 million still speaks the language or regards itself as Berber. In fact, Berber identity seems to have been almost completely erased from the collective psyche of Tunisians and there is little cultural awareness amongst the Berbers there. The country’s repressive government shows no interest in reviving Berber culture in Tunisia. Yet there is the population of the Tunisian island of Jerba, which is composed of a mixture of Jews and Berbers, whose harmonious coexistence gives reason to question the bounds of the nation and reappraise who belongs and who is excluded. There are many possible answers to the question of exactly what defines a Tunisian and therefore, we could say, many measures of Tunisianness and multiple kinds of Tunisian identity. While conventional analyses of North African culture focus on dichotomous comparisons between narrowly defined categories of “Arab” and “non-Arab” a greater understanding of contemporary North Africa can only be gained by investigating the cultural complexity of these categories and their intersections and borderlands. For this reason, attempts to unravel the region’s ingrained cosmopolitanism and define its constituents as minorities have resulted in a complex, problematic set of hazily defined entities. Scholars face a series of complicated questions in this region, which has experienced successive invasions and seen a series of cultural layers build up over the centuries: What is Berber? What is Arab? What is Muslim? What is Jewish? What is Turkish? What is Coptic? The unquestionably cosmopolitan culture of North Africa cannot be reduced to simple bodies of people that anthropologists could count, classify or analyze statistically at will. Minoritizing––an approach to policy that treats various groups differently––is a form of intervention intended to smooth over the historical, political and aesthetic aspects of an issue marked by deep-seated contradictions. The minoritization of cultures could therefore be seen by postcolonial governments as an act of positive identification that makes it possible to distribute rights, justify hegemonic power and legitimize repression; while legitimate parties might see it as a decision to exclude certain groups or an opportunity to participate in the emergence of new social and cultural movements, creating a mode of public discourse characterized by a strong affective and imaginative charge. Thus, Berbers, Copts and Jews would identify themselves with the cause of the minority not only out of principle, but also out of a passionate commitment. Minoritization could turn these people, to use Hannah Arendt’s terms, from engagés into enragés12. An illuminating example is the Berber Cultural Movement, which seeks to defend the specificity of Berber culture, language and history that led to the popular uprising of Tafsut Imazighen, the Berber Spring of 1980 that presaged Le Printemps Noir, the Black Spring of 2001 when dozens of young Kabyles were killed by government forces. In this

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


respect, the Copts who live under Arab-Muslim hegemony always fervently maintain their collective distinctiveness and pride. Like fervent activists of the Berber cultural movement, they question the make up of the nation: “Our Coptic population exceeds by far the population of most Arab countries. We Copts share so little with Arabs and should not be identified with them.”13 Both Copts and Berbers had combatively faced the twentieth century in the hope of receiving full and equal recognition by the successive authorities. Discussion of the Berber problem was suppressed during the anti-colonial struggle, only to come to the fore again after Independence had been achieved. Although the conflicts and rivalries of clan chieftains have sometimes taken on a regionalist aspect, questions of language, identity and culture mark the claims put forward by Berber leaders. The increasing use of Arabic, combined with opposition to any official use of Berber, has brought the Amazigh problem to the surface since the 1960s. The repressive approach adopted has made itself felt in official discourse, which interprets any criticism as subversion. In the run up to the popular explosion of April 1980, it was possible to distinguish two currents within the Berber Spring. The first was an activist pan-Berber movement that recruited its members from the whole spectrum of society and propagated a political discourse that was heavily influenced by anti-Arab sentiment and called for the establishment of an Amazigh Nation. The second current was based in the universities and generally more moderate, concentrating on the teaching of Tamazight, linguistic and cultural planning and the publication of relevant works. The Berber Spring called into question the regimes that had ruled Algeria since 1962, and no serious study of the country can be regarded as comprehensive unless it considers the roots and genesis of these events. Of course, what is true of our images of other cultures is just as true of a culture’s images of out-groups within the nation itself. We like to think of culture as a generous, all-embracing, inclusive concept. It can be about all of those things, but it is also, inevitably, about power. The power to define a culture also contains the power to define who is not really part of it. To describe someone as uncultured is to imply that they are inhuman, unworthy of the rights of the citizen. And the easiest way to become “uncultured” is to be ignored by cultural institutions. Simply by painting them out of the picture and writing them out of the story, the marginalized and those seen as Others can be rendered at best invisible, at worst intolerable. That in itself creates two of the preconditions for conflict: prejudice on the one side and alienation on the other. One example that illustrates this is the position of the hill tribes, who are known in French as les montagnards, in Algerian Arabic as djbaliya and in Moroccan Arabic as beldy, or even referred to degradingly as aarubi. Even today, the use of these pejorative terms in postcolonial North Africa follows the paradigm of the French legacy in accentuating the difference between low and high culture,


Chapter One

between “us” and “them.” These words refer to the highland minorities mainly residing in the mountains or transitional zones between the foothills and the lowland plains where most of the towns and cities are located. The notion of hill tribes was constructed during colonization for political reasons to establish a contrast with the majority of lowland people, who often live in the cities, refer to themselves with the high-status label methadrin and see themselves as civilized people who have inherited the Roman and Ottoman legacies of urban culture. Amazigh groups like the Kabyles in north-central Algeria, the Shawi in eastern Algeria, the Rifi in the north of Morocco and the Shelhi in the Moroccan midlands of the Atlas Mountains fall within the hill tribes category––though the Mzab, Tuareg and At Sous live in the lower lands of the south––and the official censuses carried out by the colonial administrations always defined them in this way as a matter of course. The postcolonial process of recognizing and defining their cultural identifications and boundaries has been highly problematic. Firstly, because these ethnic groups are not compact, but loosely dispersed across several borders; secondly, because their cultures are essentially overlapping, interactive and internally negotiated, evolving in dialogue with other hill tribes and Tamazight and Arabic-speaking groups. A cultural determinist approach to the study of these cultures would be irrelevant because there are distinctions to be made between internal restrictions and external protection. The methodological models adopted should combine both respect for personal autonomy and cultural engagement, freedom within the minority group, and equality between the minority and majority groups. However, this may ultimately erase the very cultural dividing lines that are at stake. The critical issue here is who defines cultural communities and institutionalizes their boundaries. This is highly contentious in that it involves the politics of recognition and cultural representation. For example, can we geographically distinguish the Moroccan Atlantic coast as the home of a particular ethnic group since it is along that coastal region that Jewish culture is spread? What about Assila, a city near Casablanca where the Jewish community is concentrated with its own cultural practices? What about the Atlas, Hoggar, Guardaia, Batna and Tassili, with their various groups of Berber inhabitants? Ethnic approaches to North African cultures may essentialize the invention of groups in the same way as the post-1980s mainstream education programs that include the teaching of Tamazight language and culture–but still exclude the teaching of Jewish and Christian religious thought and culture. Both ethnic approaches and mainstream education maintain a dichotomous way of thinking about the world in which each individual belongs to a distinct cultural group and these groups are integrated as enduring entities within the boundaries of the nation state. The issue is often framed as simply whether the minority should

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


become the same as the majority or be allowed to remain different. For example, there have been debates about whether Tamazight should be compulsory in all schools in the same way as Arabic and indeed French, and not just in schools located in Berber-speaking regions. However, deeper questions remain to be faced about the way in which boundaries are maintained, shifted, and redrawn in the course of struggles over the nature of the nation. Contemporary North African society is being subjected to pressures to expand the bounds of the nation as global forces impose stresses on society, pushing it to open its gates. As they become more diverse, the region’s states are also struggling to maintain unity among their citizens. But the old assimilationist strategies of promoting nationalism based on an ideology of homogeneity fail to integrate both newer and older cultures. The intolerance and prejudice that spring from ethnocentrism lead directly to discriminatory policies and social practices. A related argument highlights the hermeneutic requirements of modern societies. The roots of the drive toward homogenization within modern nationalism lay in the relationship between absolutism and the revolutions that swept it away. Absolutist attitudes were often based on the concept of a homogeneous state, whereas the revolutionary ideas were based on the concept of the nation as an organic body, usually incarnated in the state. It was argued that this nation should therefore only use one language, because the use of any other language would weaken the state. Theories of ethnic conflict that link industrialization, linguistic change and ethnic conflict are particularly applicable to Algeria’s revolutionary postcolonial industrial ambitions. These ambitions, which demanded that production, trade, training and therefore governance be organized over a wider territory, led to the need for a common, “universal” language within the industrial economy. The resulting desire to homogenize language use within national boundaries led to conflict between majority linguistic groups and minorities who have become disadvantaged within the broader modern national community now replacing kin or village. The resolution of the various conflicting pressures is problematic, because any policy of changing or maintaining the status quo imposes some costs in relation to national objectives or regional and local goals. Such a resolution may be sought in several kinds of policies with different sets of implications for people’s ability to communicate across linguistic boundaries. A foreign language may be declared the country’s sole official language; or a local language may be given a titular status while the real official language is a foreign language; or a local language and a foreign language may both be made official languages. In education, the role of a foreign language may be strengthened, or it may be drastically weakened. Decolonization led to ineffective forms of linguistic action. Officials in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have enthusiastically implemented Arabization policies with varying degrees of


Chapter One

success. The state struggles with its attempts to confine indigenous cultures as minorities, marginal, disenfranchised and disposable, while these cultures ask to be accommodated in an equitable manner and given the social space to express their own cultural and religious identities. These issues move beyond the local, and even national, levels and impact on the inter-regional, international political scene. At the individual and group levels, citizens should be endeavoring to develop a more open and multicultural North Africa and actively challenging various modes of racism and discriminatory practices. Ethnic diversity poses great challenges, demanding not only recognition of minorities and acceptance of the Other, but also profound consideration of the big question: Who are the North Africans? Expanding the bounds of the nation means more than just reforming restrictive laws and policies and involves matters of the heart and soul. Like many other countries and regions, North Africa confronts its transforming image in the mirror, raging against the relentless signs of movement, trying to gracefully accept loss and embrace the gifts that change brings. Yet we still tend to think of culture as a force for peace and stability. One of the most wrong-headed assumptions of the late twentieth century was that there was a direct relationship between cultural unity on the one hand and social and political equilibrium on the other. Looking at the unpleasant fate of Algeria in the 1990s, it is tempting to conclude that the violence and hatred expressed there were an almost inevitable consequence of the presence of so many different cultures within one space.

3. A Latent Cultural Drama Beyond the essential elements that define separate people-hood, there are energizing elements that help arouse a national awakening in what appears as a previously nonexistent or dormant community. From this perspective, the process of collective group fermentation can suggest the newness of people-hood and seem sterile historically, without roots in the distant past. But we should concede that even the more mature and older national communities experienced their beginnings at certain points in time, suggesting a birth of “something from nothing.14

It is sometimes claimed that if the Arabs, Francophones, Kabyles, Shawi, Muzabit, Tuareg, Muslims, Jews, Christians, believers and non-believers were not all different, they would be able to live together in peace and harmony. Difference creates conflict. Similarity fosters an attitude of co-operation and mutual sympathy. This interpretation seems to make obvious sense. Even in our personal lives, after all, we take it for granted that we can be most intimate and most relaxed with a compatible partner, with someone whose basic thoughts, feelings and instincts are the same as our own. Cambodia, for example, was

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


geographically compact, with a dispersed population, linguistically unified, ethnically homogeneous, socially undifferentiated, culturally uniform, politically undeveloped and economically undiversified. If cultural difference is at the root of conflict, Cambodia should have been a haven of tranquility. And yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, it became the scene to one of the twentieth century’s worst campaigns of systematic extermination, in which about 20 percent of the population was wiped out. The truth is that every culture, by its very nature, has within itself both a tendency toward sympathy and solidarity, and a tendency toward hatred and conflict. Differences between peoples are not racial or biological, but cultural. They arise from a very definite process of experiences and encounters. They are cultural constructs, invented and reinvented to further particular ends at particular times. The two basic words in the formation of every culture are “us” and “them,” and they are inextricably linked to each other. We define “us” as “not them.” We identify ourselves by contrast with others. The very process by which we come to see ourselves as part of a society and a community is also the process by which we begin to exclude others. The generosity and openness that make us feel responsible for members of our own culture may become, under stress, the prejudice and cruelty that make us feel we have no responsibilities toward members of another culture. Art and literature share in this condition. The same epic poem about battles of the past that makes Berbers feel inextricably bound to one another may also encourage them to slaughter Arabs. The cinematic myths of the vengeful Kabyles in Belkacem Hadjadj’s film Machaho (1999) and the vendetta that helps to bind a family together in Mohamed Ifticen’s Les rameaux de feu (1984) celebrate the outbreaks of hatred between Kabyles themselves. Much of the great architecture that defines the public spaces of Ottoman and European cities was built with the spoils of war, slavery and colonization. Many of the most powerful images in the history of photography are images of war and impossible to imagine in the absence of the most appalling upheavals. Conflict has often been a spur to creativity in all the arts. The discursive constituents dramatists and comedians like Slimane Benaissa, Fellag (Moh Said) and Mohia (Muhand Ouyahia) make their own throughout their theatre work are impressive and extremely appealing because the conflicts in their culture have evolved to such a degree of complexity that only verbal dexterity can resolve the conceptual problem of rendering them accessible to audiences. It is here that the dramatists’ reflection on conflict in general and ethnic conflict in particular starts and that the first theoretical indications of their orientation appear. The dramatist’s view of social interaction leads us to a model of situations that treats groups defined by “us” and “them” as players who are forced to go onto the public stage and address a public. This should encourage us to imagine the interactive order that


Chapter One

emerges in the process of defining boundaries as a play or film in which actors follow scripts, enter the stage of human interaction with such scripts and try to impress others with what they do. In cultural and historical terms, the construction of boundaries is a specific type of collective practice. Rituals are among the practices in which boundaries are expressed and their representation by these means is common in most artistic forms used by North Africans engaged in the process of ethnic identicization, in which individual actors assert particular elements of their identities. Ethnic, nationalist or localist clashes can be described in the terms of staged or filmed events that become symbolic boundary markers and have two possible variables. The first situational variable is the absence or presence of antagonistic elements in the audience whom the speaker addresses––here the characters in the play or film. Interaction presupposes the presence of both the speaker and the antagonist in a situation. The actors are able to immediately pick up responses from the protagonist they are addressing. They can modify their communication according to these responses, and they can tone down, repeat, radicalize or emphasize their messages. If there is no protagonist present, the speaker does not receive immediate responses of this kind, which makes it more difficult for them to fine-tune their communicative strategies. The speaker lacks the necessary counterpart to whom and for whom he or she is talking. Communication among non-present actors therefore requires functional substitutes for the presence of the audience. One way to do this is to stimulate face-to-face encounters, to imagine a strong bond of commonality between speaker and audience––in the same way as ethno-political and ethno-cultural communication is stimulated in North Africa by proactive official agents. The speaker can appeal to moral or religious convictions, point to an “enemy” from outside or raise the danger of the decay of tradition and sociability. The collective identity of speaker and audience is thus constructed, staged and imagined by referring to cultural codes, the validity of which is assumed to be unquestionable and self-evident. This is precisely the complex process that social, political and ethnic actors follow as they navigate through the patterns of real life in North Africa, marked as they are by antagonistic intercommunication and mosaic arrangements. The second situational variable is the degree to which interaction and communication are open to observation by third persons who are not directly addressed by the speaker in the theatre––for instance, the various Berber revolts can be regarded as examples of situations in which such “third persons” are present or absent. This cannot be changed through interaction with others, as the actors have to treat it as an unalterable condition of the success of the interaction process. In fact, the participants in this kind of private interaction do not have to account for the reactions of third parties. By analogy, in the real dramas of North Africa, political leaders (speakers) always resort to internal politics and methods of

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


addressing cultural and minority issues as if they were purely domestic in nature, disregarding the international implications of many issues at a time of increasing globalization. Like the characters in the drama of Benaissa, Mohia or Fellag, leaders can engage in more radical and exclusive positions. They can challenge or provoke and be ironic without the risk of offending outsiders. On the other hand, this restricted or unexposed communication is more vulnerable and sensitive to a lack of consensus between the speaker (the leader) and the hearer (the people). The speaker needs some kind of corroboration from his or her counterpart in order to maintain the situation. Another distinction is that between communication or interaction in the open as opposed to behind closed doors. When meetings and rallies take place outdoors, it is impossible to exclude the possibility that outside observers will react to the form or content of the communication. Theatre welcomes situations of this kind, but real politics fears and therefore resists them. Psychology might analyze situations staged in the theatre in terms of the adversaries’ interior states; by contrast, sociology might view them in terms of observable behavior. For the dramatist and artist, the particular conflict is defined as a situation in which the actors use conflictual behavior against each other to attain incompatible objectives and/or express their hostility toward each other. In reality, this definition is more complex than might be supposed. Characters, whether engaged in monologic or dialogic relationships, do not only represent the behavior of sole individuals but of groups as well. This highlights the tendency to describe the actions of individuals in collective terms, a practice common in the performing arts in North Africa. When the process of identicization sweeps across a society with a predisposition to minoritization, this development is manifested as thousands of separate dramas, hundreds of subtle exclusions, dozens of devious jokes, thousands of hopes raised, hundreds of pairs of eyes lowered, selfish thoughts of betrayal, new pacts, new alliances and new collectives engaging in new projects. These separate human dramas unfold in an endless series of actions, such as the decision to make a divisive political speech, to perform a particular story, to work for the good of a given public or to admit that an interethnic alliance or interaction has become unprofitable. The actions of the actors involved in these separate situational tragedies, whether in theatre, film or real life, can be explained by a theory of action that assumes rational choices are taken by the individuals involved. However, such an argument is problematic when applied to a fictional world that represents a mosaic society because the stage or the screen that is supposed to illustrate the idea of individual choice comes under considerable strain in situations of ethnic identicization. One cannot call upon a simple interpretation of rational action that would present actors as utility maximizers, ignoring the fact they are embedded in these dramatic events. The


Chapter One

point here is to make sense of rational action in the course of such dramatic proceedings. A theoretical approach would assume that rational grounds are sufficient to account for the course of events. For example, it would view the patterns that mark filmic, written and performative narrative accounts as following from the logic of the situations they depict. Yet, in a North African postcolonial context, it is analytically necessary to model these processes in ways that go beyond rationalist strategies. An account of such phenomena would make sense of the drama of separating the “we” from the “them,” of including some and excluding others from an order even when some of those separated are members of same ethnic community, regional group or tribe. The location of the key conflicts in this system of thought should not be perceived as the particular private individual or even a small group, but as the community or the entire body politic, which signifies the dialectics of experience and shared social and cultural relations. This complex model of representation has been internalized by artists who have ethnic and identity concerns, particularly when they come from an ethnic or “minority” background, and applied systematically across their work. The arts, therefore, should be the opposite of bitter envying and strife: art, whether written, performed, painted or sung, hates hatred; art has one great passion, the passion for light. But in our times light is not the most obvious quality of culture. It is not just that creative people are ultimately powerless against guns and prison camps, that the cultured person is at the mercy of the ignorant killer. It is something much intricate. For example, North African intellectuals and artists have sometimes almost taken the lead in conflicts. Their brilliance has sometimes been used and exploited to create hate-filled propaganda. Their rhetoric has in some instances stimulated unhelpful passions. To mention just a few examples of mainstream Kabyle artists whose work might have been used to fuel vehemence in this way; Ait Menguellet sings: “ufighd arab di-tfarkaw ssarghaght-id s w-hlalas” (I found an Arab in my field, I blasted him to death with my gunpowder); Matoub15 is no less explicit with “laqbayel maci d-araben” (Kabyles are not Arabs) and, in resentful mood, “yeddar w-arab ahraymi di djardjar yerzayi…ur-d kiren-ara at zlun” (the daring Arab-man defeated me on my Djurdjura mountain, and none had the courage to slit his throat). Their exaggerated attachment to their own culture has fed a sense of superiority that can only be assuaged by domination. The 1990s most ferocious and single-minded act of irrational violence––the killing of Algerian civilians–– occurred not in some uncivilized backwater, but at the heart of cultured, postcolonial Algeria. As George Steiner,16 in analogous context, alluded to not only did the general dissemination of literary, cultural values prove no barrier to totalitarianism, but in notable instances the high places of humanistic learning and art actually welcomed and aided the new terror. Barbarism prevailed on the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


very ground of Christian humanism, of renaissance culture and classic rationalism. It is known that some of the men who devised and administered Auschwitz had been trained to read Shakespeare or Goethe, and continued to do so. To understand the kind of misfortune or cultural drama North Africa has experienced, we need to enter the loop of theories about the construction of ethnic boundaries; the loop that includes the decisive moment of processes of ethnic conflict, such as the dramatic involvement of actors in situations beyond their control. That is to say actions embedded in situations of social, cultural interaction that give them their objective meaning. A rational choice may then appear as a marginal case of human action, the more so in situations when collective identities, the sense of belonging to some relevant other, are at stake. Consequently, when approaching cultural drama, we need to generalize about the extent to which non-rational categories are applied when choices are being made. The cultural ethnicity that defines a minority should be treated as one instance of a more general phenomenon, that of collective identity construction. As in plays, films and song lyrics in which artists, dramatists and directors with Berber, Jewish and Francophone backgrounds look at the tools with which actors reinforce collective identity, theoretical projections would have to start with the codes that lie beneath the script of action. These codes, whether in the context of the social and cultural history of North Africa or in the dramatic arts, contain collective narratives that are at times modified by reconstructions of the narrative order that make them meaningful for individual social and dramatic actors. When drama itself, whether in the theatre or social life, talks about different worlds, our thinking has to move to alternative strategies of analysis. The notion of culture has thus become much more complicated and is no longer associated exclusively or even predominantly with ethnicity or socio-economic class.

4. Images and Counter Images of the Stereotype Kabyle poetry from the time of the insurgency against the French reflected the sadness of a people defeated by a foreign Christian power. Islam was weak, though the traditional self-image of the Kabyles was one of bravery and honor. But the French subdued Kabylia whose people were not especially willing to die for the faith, but for their freedom, lands, and dignity.17

The nature and complexities of North Africa’s mosaic culture, in which contradiction and confrontation are founded on centuries of simmering unrest, replicate inherent challenges and movements that have sought to settle old scores rooted in irreducible and irreversible gulfs of cultural difference. Research in this field requires analyses that introduce different ways of coding


Chapter One

symbolic boundary markers. Constructing methodologies of cultural diversity is a good way of objectifying detachment and establishing distance from the drama of social and cultural life. Cultural analysis may be favored over anthropological and sociological analysis, which tends to act as if the texts that actors follow are normal events beyond any emotional involvement the actors themselves may feel. Holistic studies are the trademark of anthropology, but there are sound reasons to doubt the supposed boundedness of minority cultures. Are minority cultures to be studied as bounded units or should they be seen as outcomes of cultural interrelationships and historical processes? The practical objective here is to seek to chart the limits and drawbacks of the various different perspectives that represent the state of the art in explaining what might be better called intellectual ethnicization; a system of thought or consensus of thinking that has grown in militant minds since the Berber revolt of spring 1980 and has benefited from the results of academic studies. During the disintegration of Algeria in the 1990s and the vicious conflict that ensued, artists sometimes fed fantasies of national pride, of a mythic cultural greatness that had been shamed and needed to be re-asserted. In the development of hard-line Berber nationalism, for example, the key document, published in 2001, was a memorandum drawn up by distinguished intellectuals and artists claiming that the Berbers were a persecuted people and proposing that the integrity of the Berber people should be the major aim of all future policy.18 This autonomist movement’s document, the work of cultured artists, has been seen in retrospect as a virtual manifesto for the Greater Kabylie policies pursued at intellectual centers in the 1980s and 1990s. There is indeed, at the deepest level, a close connection between the artistic imagination and the nationalist impulse. Nations, as we know, are not the products of nature or biology. They are not really the expression of blood and soil. They are cultural constructs, emerging, just as surely as a novel or a play or a photograph does, from the intersection of a given historical reality and the imagination of memories and desires. And precisely because they are invented, they are always open to the possibility of being imagined differently. That possibility is, for many, too disturbing to contemplate. It leaves too much open, allows for too much uncertainty. Consequently, there is always a strong temptation to forget or deny the act of invention and to pretend that the nation is eternal, that its truth is contained in the glorious past and that the main task of artists and cultural institutions is to preserve the purity of a timeless, immemorial impulse by cutting away, either metaphorically or in extreme cases literally, that which is and those who are impure. There is a particular temptation to pretend that what artists, dramatists and writers are doing in the here-and-now is merely a revival of something old and authentic that has been buried by inauthentic foreign elements, which have crept in from the outside. They are, and must be, acutely aware of tradition, of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


long history of the forms they use. Connecting their own work with some tradition gives it a dignity and a status that seem all the more important when they come from a culture that has been oppressed, marginalized, abused or minoritized. The act of reclamation, reasserting the value of a lost or suppressed culture, can be immensely liberating, releasing pent-up energy and giving a voice to those who have been silenced. Popular culture and rai music are officially disseminated through national festivals and state television programs, while Berber resistance culture, particularly the music that has played a crucial role in the emancipation of confined populations and the fight of the underclass, receives little attention. Instead, a version of Berber culture is constructed out of the stereotypical images the region’s governments disseminate to attract the materialistic tourism they seek to promote, images that are often devoid of true Berber content. Television and cinema, therefore, are central to the appraisal of cultures because special attention should be given to routine, everyday structures and values in trying to locate mechanisms of domination. Many of the clearly bigoted images that are still being presented on the screen by the North African state television channels can be explained in hegemonic terms, particularly the reductive representations of minority cultures. It might at least sensitize us to the complexities and unpredictability that ethnicization involves. It should remind us that no ethno-cultural relations are immune from potential conflictualization. That some historical contexts make conflict more likely, but that none make it inevitable; and that no understanding of these processes would be complete without a focus on the motivations and constraints of real actors in their social and cultural contexts. In other words, an understanding of the contexts that trigger eagerness, shame and thwarted desire. The hegemonic Algerian ideals of supremacy are even encoded in television comedies that illustrate the stereotypes of post-Independence society. Basic images in the grammar of prejudice are often employed. One is the stupid Kabyle, usually the dependable, chaste, devoted farmer accompanied by his faithful farmhand, both of them attached and devoted to their backward traditions and highland home. Another image is that of the greedy immigrant Kabyle with his pathetic French accent and eccentric manners, a laughable double stranger. Kabyle women appear on television performing dances that display their bodies to the male gaze, which sees them as specialists in the erotic who play carelessly with sensuality. These images satisfy masculine desires while stamping Kabyle women as femmes fatales who lead men to their destruction. In this context, the female body is represented as the property of a patriarchal society that never was; Arab hegemony always wants to reverse the stream of history. It removes Arab patriarchy from the screen and viewers hardly ever see the belly dances performed by the Arab Bedouin sub-minority on Algerian state television. The underlying message of such images is clear:


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the Kabyle is someone who is other, uninterested and remotely confined in himself/herself, willing to serve only his/her tribe and village. Such images of devotion leave the viewer with an impression that displaces any guilt about the Arab history of cultural hegemony and dominance. However, the consequences are compromising consent, on one hand, and, on the other, a form of consensual control under which individuals assimilate the hegemony of the dominant group. This practice has been made acceptable and therefore goes unquestioned. The destructive potential of such images is evident––especially when one considers that these Kabyle figures have been prominent in many post-Independence television dramas and comedies. Simultaneously, the Kabyle is also depicted as unpredictable and capable of turning nasty in terms reminiscent of the image of the native in other cultures. In the North African mind, their primitive nature makes Kabyles cheating, cunning and immoderate. These unsophisticated images of Kabyles demonstrate the attempts of the pro-Arab regime to show that Kabyles are suited to the servile positions that have given rise to the label Kabyle de service. The fear of their roughness and explosive temper provides a justification for maintaining control over them, while the image of the civilized Arab-Islamic man confronting his destiny makes the exercise of this control not only acceptable, but also respectable. Another variant is that of the comical, spirited character, which implies Kabyles have an innate sense of humor. Interestingly, no distinction is ever made as to whether viewers are laughing with or at the character; overt racism is rare in the North African media; rather, it tends to be implied, except when it comes from the President, as on the occasion of his electoral speech given in the Kabyle capital Tizi Ouzou, when he publicly called Kabyles “dwarfs”. When television presenters refer to Kabyles, they do so full of smiles and courtesy yet with an air of righteous indignation. No one on television shouts racist abuse at Kabyle people. No one on television physically assaults Kabyle people. They simply feed the viewer a diet that suggests Kabyles are the problem. This is inferred and reinforced in the routine structures of everyday Algerian thought. The behavior of North African television broadcasters reflects the survival of the outlook that underlay the media, including the theatre, of the late-colonial period, which refused to work in the linguistic medium of the majority of the population and reflected the debased image of the native North African society that their colonial sponsors required. This gave rise to a tacit tradition of anti-national media and artistic activity that, given a new lease of life by the cultural commissars of the postcolonial states, has persisted to this day. Paradoxically, Berbers themselves perpetuate these stereotypes, for example, with the creation of the Paris-based Berber television station BRTV (Berber Radio and Television), which––as a cultural ghetto–appears to further confine

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Kabyles as a distinct Berber sub-minority. This flourishing newcomer to the media scene is regarded as a response to official apathy and negation. This implies that it is possible to go on pretending that there is still a separate cultural space in Algeria removed from the bipolar world of the social and political conflicts taking place there. Many Berber artists and intellectuals instinctively fall for the assumption that this culture is a realm of sweetness and light that acts as a corrective to the bitter strife of everyday life. Many persist in the notion that this self-reliance and self-rediscovery is implicitly and necessarily redemptive, that even though it is Kabylocentric, BRTV’s output makes people better and more humane. But for anyone who knows the world in which North Africans live, these comforting illusions are not an option. Danger can come from any direction. Artists and intellectuals who engage with the reality of a conflict can become implicated in the conflict itself. They can end up, consciously or unconsciously, becoming propagandists. They can succumb to the allure of being the voice of the tribe, of dignifying squalid deeds with beautiful images. Artists have, though, some built-in mechanisms for avoiding these dangers. One is their horror of cliché. The cultural constructs that are used to promote conflict are always saturated with clichés. They always depend on hollow caricatures and hackneyed assumptions. They inflate minor differences into huge issues. They distort rich, complex and vibrant traditions into grotesque self-parodies. The history of the media as a social and cultural institution is important when examining the construction of ethnic representations. The struggle between the North African transmission of discriminatory, hegemonic ideology and dogma and the efforts of oppressed Berber groups to claim control over their own image is part of the legacy of the French mass media. The failure to recognize the Arab-Islamic hegemony over media production plays a central role in the continuance of oppressive representations. Recent changes that have occurred in the portrayal of cultural minorities also demonstrate how current television programs continue to disseminate oppressive images. Kabyle people and organizations began to express their dissatisfaction with public service broadcasting, objecting to their poor representation and misrepresentation as well as their lack of access to the resources required for media production. The response in Algeria was a daily news bulletin in alternating varieties of Tamazight–Kabyle, Tashawit and Tamzabit––and a monthly one-hour magazine program in Kabyle. Similar changes took place in Moroccan television. Then there was the highly important launch of the independent, privately financed broadcaster BRTV in Paris with its minority-interest remit, providing hope for media practitioners outside the hegemonic mould imposed by officialdom. Meanwhile, in Algeria, the 1990s saw those who had been politically detached developing a liberal conscience. Individual Kabyle film directors who had


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established their own production companies responded to the Berber cultural movement by producing ethnically specific historical films.19 Despite these apparently positive developments in Algeria and France, the hegemonic hold over the television and film industries appears to have merely created different, but equally harmful, cultural representations and to have repackaged the old stereotypes into forms more acceptable in a post-traumatic society. One prominent problem is that throughout North Africa the media are still dominated by pro-hegemonic government-supported practitioners. Producers and directors may consider themselves to be acting liberally in trying to bring minority cultures and ethnic issues to the screen, or in avoiding the traditional clichés, but largely they rely on the stereotypes that they have assimilated as Arab-Muslim people living in a discriminatory society. Reliance on preconceived ideas about minorities can be seen as a form of elitism in which open-minded media practitioners see themselves as intellectually superior to the people their programs are about or for. From a theoretical angle, it becomes easy to imagine that a full and effective knowledge of visual language will spring whole from any group of people as soon as their blindfolds have been removed, and to imagine that their blindfolds can be removed by showing them the mechanics of a silkscreen or a film editing suite. To believe this is to fall into the naïve romanticism which one might expect a politically motivated community or minority artists to exhibit. Ironically, however, the way out of this dilemma is not less theory and more common sense, but the opposite, a well argued theoretical framework that provides a basis for the questioning of lazy assumptions. Postcolonial North African art, in this context, is an ideological construction, a generalization with a complex history through which its meaning has both shifted and narrowed. In its current practice, its purpose is to confer an apparently inherent value on certain activities and the products resulting from these activities, while denying this value to certain other similar activities. This is how the term “art” has come to function in post-Independence culture, as one of a series of categories that have the purpose of assisting in the construction and preservation of a hierarchy of values which, having been constructed, can be made to appear as both natural and inevitable. Processes in which superficial concessions are made and depictions of ethnicity reformulated to maintain hegemony are evident in other contemporary attempts to bring change to television and cinema that purport to improve the position of minorities. Programs aimed at minority cultures have tended to presume that the lives of these groups revolve around their ethnic identity and the problems it faces. One consequence of this is that minority cultures are only recognized in relation to a presupposed majority, thus further marginalizing these groups. The very existence of separate Kabyle, Shawi, Rifi or Shelhi programs can be seen to compound the problem. In fact, minority programs,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


where they exist as such, encourage a mild fascism that has the potential to foster cultural apartheid. I see theatre, cinema and television programming intended for minority ethnic groups as a form of tokenism under which the existence of multicultural departments lets everyone off the hook of having to deal with minority cultures and perpetuates the thinking that as long as there is one of something then sufficient progress has been made. Multicultural programs and separate artistic enterprises can form a ghetto that represents a trap for the cultures in which they are rooted. It is an innovation based on prejudice. The media and cultural provision for national cultures approved by ministerial officials are merely superficial concessions. This provision can be labeled as being “for” minorities so that even if it circulates positive representations, it is merely preaching to the converted. While clichés can make for successful politics, they can never have a place in successful artistic work. In this sense, it does not matter greatly whether artists and media practitioners are good or bad people. If they are to be skillful artists, they are forced to make things new, to alter the angle of vision, to deal in complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions. In doing so, they bear witness to the fact that reality itself is not as simple as the propagandist would have us believe. They make fixed ideas potentially open and malleable so that the artistic method resides in its particularity. Whereas those who create conflict tend to deal in abstract generalizations, art has to deal with specifics. Even what is called abstract art has to be precise in the way it uses its materials. Art exists in its details which inevitably tend to humanize the subject. The closer we get, the more clearly we see and recognize the familiar humanity in the face of the Other. And there is, finally, the natural contrariness of art. The very decision to make art, particularly in a situation of conflict, is a perverse one. It is out of keeping with the times. And it often begins with the act of trying to imagine that the world is not the way it is. It tends to start with the question “What if?” And that, of course, is the very question that those who have an interest in sustaining cultural conflict do not want to ask. Art is the most important characteristic of a national culture, strengthening the nation and the identity of its members. Artists have in many conjunctions expressed their deep concern at the alarmingly poor situation regarding all national arts. Intellectuals, media practitioners and artists do not have to choose between isolation and non-involvement, on the one hand, and participation and collaboration, on the other. They can, if they are sophisticated enough, find forms of engagement that do not involve collusion. They can identify with their “own side” by holding the mirror up to its failings and absurdities. They can use traditional, accepted images, but subvert their approved meanings. They can identify the contradictions within their own cultures and use them to open up what has been closed down. Sometimes, when they can do nothing else without


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being killed or tortured, they can make work that is so dense, so metaphorical, that its real meaning will only become clear once the dark times have passed. Then, at least someone in the future will be able to say that not everyone within this society went along with what was being done in their name. These may be small consolations, but there are times when humanity itself survives only in the seemingly insignificant details. The Holocaust, the Berber mass expulsion of 1871, the Berber Black Spring and the gassing of the Kurds were, for some, details of history. None of the qualities outlined actually resolves conflicts or deflects the injustice, prejudice and cynicism that cause them. But together they do constitute a set of resources that can be deployed, especially in the wake of conflict. Artists and cultural institutions do not stop atrocities or solve political dilemmas. But they can influence the way in which conflicts are imagined and interpreted. And since the interpretation of past conflicts is often at the core of new ones, that is not a negligible role. One of the most difficult, and yet most crucial, problems in contemporary North African culture and the resolution of its conflicts is that of dealing with the memory of suffering and injustice. Should art keep alive the memory of past wrongs in a spirit of resistance? Or should it urge forgiveness in the name of a peaceful future? How can the victims of conflict be honored and commemorated without implicitly demanding vengeance?

5. Doomed Alternative Identities and the Essence of Cultural Conflict The need is obvious and real for some effective principle or mode of conflict resolution in cases of minority presence within majority-based states. Ideological and institutional solutions may theoretically work; perhaps old conflicts can be resolved by new techniques. But the memory of historical antipathy will not easily be erased. Ethnic incompatibility touches on the deepest sentiments in the lives of traditional peoples. In like manner, new states will jealously guard their sovereignty and hesitate to share power with smaller contenders. Ancient patterns and images of political repression, in the spirit of “Oriental despotism,” offer little room for compromise and mutual trust. The enduring deprivation of a marginal minority can easily become a veritable permanent law of history in the eyes of the weak. Incidentally, religion may in these circumstances become an escapist route for collective emotional relief.20

One sphere of North African culture that normally illustrates ethnic identities with particular clarity is literature and the arts. Contrary trends have been evident over the postcolonial period, but while there are signs of individual nationalities developing a national identity, they are scarcely prominent enough to prevail over the integration of North Africa as a single culture. The overall

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


trend has been in the direction of an integrated culture but with strong local, regional and national characteristics. During the colonial period, the major literary and artistic figures worked in favor of a vaguely unified “Arab” or North African culture, even if they belonged to the “minorities.” Many of them hardly even mentioned their Berber, Jewish or Coptic identity, let alone emphasized it. At the same time, this was a period when local national traditions were generally in decline or in some cases even dying on account of the legacy of French colonial hegemonic culture. In the 1960s and 1970s, a few of the minorities were influenced by modern trends, mainly from the left. Across North Africa, literary, theatrical and cinema figures came under Soviet and Middle Eastern influence. The pro-Baathists reacted strongly against the prominence of indigenous art forms and intellectual production. Their attempts to root out these cultural forms ultimately forced them to adopt more modern and very clearly pro-Arab nationalistic approaches to literature and the theatre. Neither in Algeria nor in Morocco did literature or drama assist the integration of the minorities into post-Independence culture or the new state. The impact of globalization has definitely been to promote the integration of minority literatures, films and theatres because it has imposed such clear ideological goals, which are the same everywhere, and artistic forms that had formerly been used mainly by cultural activists spread among all the peoples of North Africa. At the same time, those in Algeria, for example, who governed during the unrest of the 1990s encouraged what had until then been considered minority arts, such as Berber folk music and rai, to revive and emphasize their “national” character; a process that was initially successful but was cut short by the eruption of Islamic fundamentalism that led to the exile of so many artists and intellectuals. To establish the cultural identity of a person, group or nationality means to determine those features that can define them and serve to distinguish them from others. “Who am I?” and “How am I different from others?” are questions that loom large in a place where all-pervading hegemonic official ideologies appear to determine how people should think, what attitudes they should hold, what arts they should like and what lifestyle they should observe and follow. In the literature, performing arts and new cinema of the North African Berbers, central characters are often prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to establish an authentic identity they believe has been robbed from them by colonization or the authoritarian post-Independence regimes that have pursued assimilationist policies. As a concept, cultural identity is psychological and social. It applies not only to individual people, but also to groups or nationalities. These principal characters speak not only as individual persons, but also as representatives of social and cultural groups. It is as members of these minorities that they feel their identity has been subverted. Other kinds of identity have been forged in the region––such as the localism expressed in the literature of Berber writers in


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French like Mouloud Mammeri, Mouloud Feraoun and Mohammed KairEddine, the writing of Copt writer Lewis Awad or the Sephardic literature of the Jewish Francophones El Malah, Annie Cohen, Albert Bensoussan and Marcel Benabou. Jewish writers have made individual choices, but all produced texts that have played a role in the evolution of a particular literary category that differentiates them from other North African writers. The originality of their writing is brought to the fore by textual practices that, through an emphasis on certain formal and thematic aspects, have created a highly specific rhetoric, which simultaneously combines their Jewishness and their North Africanness. Many of their texts have an unmistakable character, both at the level of the writing and that of its inspiration. This form of literary expression is not characterized solely by its originality, because to the extent that it commemorates the presence and history of the Sephardic Jews in North Africa, its scope contributes to the enrichment of the cultural sphere. As complementary to, and not conflicting with, other literary forms, it contributes in its own way to the transformation of the structural modes of knowledge and thought in North Africa. Texts by Jewish-North African writers demonstrate an attachment to a vision of North Africanness that is close in many ways to the ideas of Berber authors. The majority of the texts are distinguished by writing that nostalgically recalls the quest for identity and the experience of exile. The reader will also find in them social images, of life, the mixing of languages and races, sounds and smells, and personal histories that are reunited with a collective destiny dominated by the evocation of origins and genealogies lost in the wake of time. Just as the identity of a person––who that person is––can be summed up to a large extent by their experience or biography, so a nation can be identified by its history. As Benedict Anderson puts it, from somebody’s experiences comes a conception of personhood, identity. In the same way, it is what he terms “the biography of nations” that largely defines what they are; it is their experience that “engenders the need for a narrative of identity.”21 In historical terms, ethnic identities in North Africa are rediscovered or even reinvented on the basis of imagined past identities. It is becoming fashionable or advantageous either politically or socially to establish one’s identity as an ethnic or other minority. Various groups have therefore used history to find again an identity that may have been lost or invent one that was rather hazy in the first place. Feelings of identity can therefore change. Communities may feel hardly any allegiance to an ethnic group, but rather to a religion or a leader at a particular time, yet come to feel ethnic identity at another. Among remote communities, improvements in communications may well strengthen the consciousness of belonging to an ethnic group. The two themes of ethnic identities and integration are in many ways dichotomous. The more tightly integrated a nation-state becomes, the more one would generally expect hostilities among ethnic groups to fade. If

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


pride in a particular nationality grows, pressures for its secession might grow. But at the same time, identity does not necessarily mean statehood. It should be within the ingenuity of contemporary leaders to find new kinds of regional standing for national communities that have no state of their own. It is possible for one people’s feelings of national identity to survive and even prosper within a larger nation-state populated mainly by the members of another ethnic background, and it is very much this possibility that encourages autonomist movements across North Africa, the MAK (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia) being a leading example. However, what is extremely ironic in the case of Algeria is that the feeling of identity and cultural integration among the country’s so-called minorities both appear to have strengthened in the 1980s and 1990s, when the acculturation of large swathes of the population into “Algerian culture” was accompanied and countered by a resurgence of the “minority” identity occur. Berber writers, artists and filmmakers have conferred a mythical character on their literary and artistic enterprise by making repeated use in their works of scenes showing idealized, sacrificial victims. The incarnation of conquest, resistance and glory has a particular historical resonance in novels and films by Berbers, especially as the role of sacrifice in the legitimization of the sacred has occupied an important place in recent cultural productions, such as La Montagne de Baya by Azeddine Meddour and Les rameaux de feu by Mohamed Ifticen. This inclination to myth is a part of Berber culture and thought that has encouraged a great deal of innovation. The levels at which this influence can be appreciated are to be found in the coverage of anthropological terrain, the development of new spaces in the geography of the fable and legend, the renewal of characters in fiction and the reaction against the real danger of deberberization. Removed from their homelands and then ill-treated in the ArabIslamic hegemony of the independent states, deracinated North Africans have developed new cultures, in this way negating the system’s attempts to interfere with their souls. This resistance to spiritual oppression has been conveyed with great creativity, which derives from a tenacious vitalism that has been highly fruitful in the anthropological and artistic domains. For many scholars, North Africa is a region of true cultural dynamism, and Berber cultural production constitutes it as a vast space of mythical projections. As we know, North African history has been shaped by a host of factors: the political beliefs of the people; the individuals who have held power; social customs; economic structures––how people produced what they needed to survive and thrive; and the patterns of family life. The origins of Berber groups, for example, often bear strongly on their identity because they are able to define in the realm of myth what distinguishes them from more powerful rivals. That is why the quest for “roots” and “ancestors” has become so fashionable among Amazigh groups and


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minorities who feel they have been marginalized and discriminated against. This is a feature common to nationalisms of all kinds, whether the “nation” has its own independent entity or is still considered a minority within a larger state. Thus Berbers feel pride because they belong to a particular ethnic group and can point to its attributes and accomplishments. This frequently occurs even when other people within the same ethnic group are not enthusiastic about particular attributes. The word “chauvinism” is found in many European languages as a term for the worst kind of narrow-minded loyalty to one’s own side. It invokes the flagwaving patriot who supports his country right or wrong; the swaggering tribalist who believes in the innate superiority of his own identity. It is widely believed that the term comes from a famous French warrior-patriot, Nicholas Chauvin, whose exploits in the Napoleonic wars made him the living image of extreme and belligerent nationalism. There was a Nicholas Chauvin who displayed all of those attitudes. But Chauvin was not a real man. He was an artistic creation. He was invented for the mid-nineteenth-century French stage.22 He is a peasant who retires to his farm after the wars, but keeps his musket oiled and his uniform hung with medals near at hand. He tells the city dwellers his lurid tales of how he slaughtered foreigners on the battlefield. While ploughing his fields, he regularly turns up the bones of those who died for la patrie in the past. In the same way, the myth of blood and soil deeply rooted in the Berber popular consciousness has been expressed through images represented in literature and the other printed media, the visual arts, jewelry and ornamental work, symbolizing the battles and struggles of figures such as Kahena (a Berber Queen), Fadhma N’Soumer (a leading woman warrior), Massinissa (a Berber King) and even, more recently, Matoub Lounes (a legendary Kabyle protest singer). The analogy here, I hope, will illuminate the broad-based North African ethnic revival seen in the last three decades. This was a period in which the hegemonic assimilationist ethos was found wanting in many ways, by many groups and in many places. The rejection of centralist cultural, educational and language policies, the Berber cultural movements, their anti-Arab sentiment and their counterparts abroad, particularly in France, had a powerful impact. Centralism was profoundly uncongenial to many different segments of society due to its purported materialism, violence, intrusiveness, bureaucracy and demoralizing effects. The ethnic revival was a genuinely natural reaction to centralism. The victim mentality is both a cause and effect of centralism. It promotes a culture of victims who have a perpetual claim on society and the government. The result is the division of society into political interest groups with conflicting demands that cannot all be met. Recent cultural and identity proposals from radical activists have attempted to inculcate the idea that ArabMuslim hegemony is the worst of all social systems, just as some groups seek to

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


demonize the classical Western liberal order. As a result, people are taught to view themselves as victims. This perspective is based on the relativistic assumption that since cultures are claimed to be inherently equal, differences in wealth, power, and accomplishments between cultures are, for the most part, due to oppression. Thus, in order to establish cultural equality, multiculturalists emphasize either non-Western virtues or Arab-Muslim oppression, dismiss the illiberal traditions of other cultures and attack the idea of a common culture based on an intellectual, moral, and artistic legacy derived from the Arabs and the Koran. We tend to think of art and culture as the opposite of violence and narrow-mindedness, but it is important to remember that Chauvin was a figure created by writers. For chauvinism and the conflicts it engenders are often rooted in the very things that artists work with: a sense of belonging, an awareness of tradition, an attempt to create powerful and emotive images of the life of a people. And culture, that broad but pervasive set of assumptions, values and meanings to which all art relates, has a far more ambivalent relationship to conflict than we often expect. If this century has taught us anything, it is that culture is no defense against barbarism. Just as ethnic conflicts have been seen as epiphenomena of religious conflict, they have been explained as the outcome of linguistic differences. Theorists have identified various ways in which linguistic difference impacts on the process of ethnic conflict. The focus has been on the relationship between language and democratic participation, and it has been claimed that democracies need a common language to operate successfully. Thus the political demands of the Berbers, for example, are read as a result of the fact that groups speaking a language other than the language of national government are inevitably excluded from decision-making. One mark of identity that contrasts with pride is struggle, especially against opponents/adversaries, with dislike or hatred of “otherness” playing a prominent part. The rethinking of postcolonial methodological approaches in this respect is summed up in the words of Erik Erikson: “In its individual and collective aspects, psychosocial identity strives for ideological unity; but it is also always defined by that past which is to be lived down and by that potential future which is to be prevented. Identity formation thus involves a continuous conflict with powerful negative identity elements. In times of aggravated crises these come to the fore to arouse in man a murderous hate of “otherness,” which he judges as evil in strangers–and in himself.”23 North African minority cultures have certain shared experiences by virtue of their similar, antagonistic relationships to the dominant colonial or postcolonial cultures, which have generally sought to marginalize them. The ideological unity to which Erikson refers is assumed to be secular, which is due to either the nature of the cultures themselves or, in the case of North Africa, the French legacy of laïcité. But in the last decade, religion has assumed greater social, and even political, importance in many parts


Chapter One

of North Africa. Islam has reasserted itself as a symbol of identity in quite a few of the newly independent states of what used to be Numidia or Tamazgha. In part, Islam’s role in defining identities follows directly from the failure of other post-Independence ideologies, especially Nasserism, Boumedienism, Bourguibism, Baathism and to some extent even the materialism of the liberal capitalism that has inspired the Moroccan and Tunisian governments. However, Berbers have cultures that are sometimes much more deeply religious than that of the Arab-Muslim population. They have traditions almost comparable with Confucianism that make their civilization notable for its secularity. Certainly, Berber traditions, celebrations and commemorations, performed collectively, have played a crucial role in the emerging sense of identity found among local and regional populations and indeed the two million Berbers living in France. The foundations for greater Berber self-confidence there were laid in 2004 at Issy-les-Moulinaux under the banner of the Coordination des Berbères de France (Coordinating Group of Berbers of France). Migration from North Africa is contributing to the strengthening of Berber ethnic identification in France, for example (and similar processes are taking place in Quebec as well). Migration is a means of transferring information from the countries of North Africa to France. The growing pan-Berber movement has spurred a range of changes in metropolitan France, including increased levels of cultural production and literary and media activity, which are enabling this group to articulate its concerns more effectively. Condemnation in various forms, direct or indirect, has come swiftly when intellectual or cultural activities have threatened the unitary “Maghrebian” or “Arab” political culture various governments of North Africa have tried to promote in France through the official media, cultural institutions and other channels such as the organization of arts festivals.24 One tendency has been to read and write historical literature as the embodiment of a process of cultural racination, founded either in an idealized pre-Arab culture, or in an equally idealized modern North African nation. To some extent, the colonial experience has resulted in a form of displacement. The educated people of French and Arab-administered North Africa did not become French or Arab, but rather found themselves culturally hybridized, not as they once were and not entirely as the French and Arab assimilation policies had intended. This reflects the spirit of resistance inherent in the Berber character, which oscillates constantly between tradition and modernity. Ever since the early days of Berber literary and artistic production, audiences have constantly been faced with this fractured identity and confrontations born from the undesirable situation of people who are “other” to themselves. The end of French rule did not reverse this situation, as people have spent more years under totalitarian regimes than egalitarian governments. This has resulted in attempts to create national identities that disregard the realities of an emerging

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


postcolonial cultural legitimacy. In many parts of pre-colonial and colonial North Africa, the village was the world. The myths and legends of these societies focused on the immediate community, and the people concerned sometimes visualized themselves as directly linked to the origins of their kind. The ancestry of the tribe was often equated with the ancestry of all humanity. There was a tendency to globalize the village or the tribe. What North Africa has experienced, especially in the more recent postcolonial period, is the momentous transition from the village as world to the world as village. Visual appearance has become central to economics, so that the value of, for example, a crafted piece of jewelry or a dress has but a distant relationship to the materials and labor used to make it and is mostly determined by the aura generated around it by the filmmakers who create adverts for it, the copywriters who think up slogans for it and the stars who lend their glamour to it in return for vast sums of money. Successful election campaigns are now run as selfconscious dramatic narratives, scripted, costumed, designed and performed with the kind of deliberation that used to be reserved for the theatre. Inevitably, as culture has become more central to the real world of power and money, it has itself become a battleground in the conflicts that power and money generate. Eloquent chauvinists have shifted their ground of argument from the claims of race and biology to the claims of culture: since it is no longer acceptable to attack other communities on the grounds of racial inferiority, they tend to attack them on the grounds of alleged cultural incompatibility. In reaction to the forces of globalization, nativist movements have rallied to the defense of supposedly endangered cultures. In response to social and political upheavals, cynical leaders have manipulated a sense of cultural distinctiveness to mobilize popular sentiment. Disagreements about the political and economic direction of society are re-imaged as “culture wars,” expressions not merely of competing interests but of fundamentally opposed mindsets.

6. Concluding Thoughts The sense of a common past, composed of the glory to celebrate and the grief to commemorate, is at the core of separate people-hood. In recollecting the historical record, a people enjoins its members in educating their children to store up the collective memories and carry them on to the next generation. In this fashion the people strengthens the conviction of a shared fate. More recent items in its collective experience thereby become part of the fund of continuous national self-crystallization.25

The question that remains is how North Africa copes with its difficulties. This is precisely where literature, art and film play an important role as they relay and replay the contradictions of postcolonialism. If we attempted to draw


Chapter One

on the theories of writers and filmmakers with a Berber background, relating them to the European psychoanalytic thought of Jacques Lacan, for example, the difficulties that derive from the reliance on a single mode of discourse to express subjectivity would soon become transparent. Within this possible experiment, these contemporary authors and film makers would be seen to negotiate a new discursive space that operates in the interstices of the competing ontological claims of race, identity and nationality. These authors and filmmakers exploit a variety of re-inscriptive techniques to create innovative discourses capable of articulating a rhizomatic identity that manifests itself through the celebration of difference rather than its exclusion. To refer once more to Lacan’s theories, identification replaces differentiation as the privileged mode of relation. Therefore, as assimilative phenomena give way to new perspectives on social relations in postcolonial North Africa, cultural identity may be re-conceived as hybrid. A sense of the essence of North African identity is vital for an understanding of the culture of the present, informed by the recognition that all cultures have had other identities than the ones they appear to have now. Recognizing this will help us to appreciate how North African cultures have been either misread or misappropriated and, in some cases, distorted so that those who were involved in the making of history, including Berbers, Jews and Copts themselves, have been displaced from that history. Rethinking the cultural history of the last few decades would mean reconstructing how stories and narratives are put together and questioning how this is done in the name of ethnicity, religion or the nation. In words that, if anything, grew in relevance as the last century moved toward its bitter end, the philosopher Hannah Arendt, whose work was overshadowed by the history of National Socialism and the Holocaust, reminds us that political action is impossible without the capacity to forgive and be forgiven: “Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover. We would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell.”26 That release from the consequences of what has been done is a part, too, of what cultural institutions, including BRTV, must try to achieve. It is not, of course, easy for communities in conflict to come to terms with history, especially when each of them can, with some justification, regard itself as the victim. Grief and grievance, when they are not shared but brooded over, give people a hostile but firm foothold on the present. The balance between the kind of obsessive return to past wrongs that imprisons people in the past, in the mountains, within walls and in the kind of willed amnesia that consigns the hard-won lessons of the past to oblivion is a difficult one. We know, because we are told so often, that those who do not

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


remember history are condemned to repeat it. But it is just as true that those who cannot forget history are also condemned to repeat it. What artists, writers and film directors have to do is not forget the past or let themselves be trapped by it, but find a way of remembering it that releases us from the belief that its consequences are inevitable and inescapable. They have to find a way of telling the story in which it remains possible to re-write the ending. But if we favor the value of Arab concepts for the elucidation of the contradictions between the claims to universalism made by European thought and the apparent particularism of some North African thinking, we may not combat the essentialism that reduces North Africanness to a single, common denominator. It can all too easily become a dangerous lie. It is a short step from asserting the value of a culture to claiming a special superiority for it. The very process of defining Arab or Berber or Coptic or Islamic or Judeo-Christian culture too often begins with the word “not.” Berber culture is whatever is not Arab. JudeoChristian culture is, above all, not Islamic. Genuine Egyptian culture is that which is purged of all things that are not Coptic. Whatever is the opposite of them must, by a process of elimination, be us. And, under pressure, that process of elimination can become all too literal. By denying the priority of the present over the past, by insisting that there is, or ever can be, such a thing as a pure culture, the search for authenticity that underpins nationalism can also underpin the most terrible atrocities. One factor in national identity over which heated and violent debates have raged is whether it necessarily implies the right to autonomy as an independent region, federation or even state. Most of the ethnic nationalists whose actions have torn certain regions of North Africa apart certainly thought that the right to regional autonomy or full statehood followed automatically from their own feelings of national identity. Such an opinion has become fashionable in Western/European countries. The intellectuals, who argue that the Kabyle region should be granted autonomy, or that Coptic ethnic autonomy should make progress toward territorial independence, justify and defend the institutionalization of internal boundaries, be they geographical or linguistic/cultural, between communities within a nation state, fundamentally challenging other North African approaches to the “minority question.” Their concept allies itself to William Kymlicka’s widely followed political theories27, which demand that support be given both materially and symbolically to the efforts of non-dominant cultural groups to maintain their minority cultures and defend the institutionalization of cultural communities. In terms of the arts, autonomy for the “minorities” means that the special features of style and content should be maintained and developed, but only as long as they contain nothing hostile to the people. In France, for example, a debate about the communautarisme that seems to be undermining French society has been going on for many years. To prevent


Chapter One

such a debate reaching North Africa, advocates of autonomy should perhaps test out the practical applicability of Kymlicka’s concepts of multiculturalism and citizenship against empirical findings derived from a possible postcolonial assessment of tribal culture. Western liberal theories of “minority rights” have rapidly penetrated into third world studies, and Kymlicka himself has raised the issue of whether his theory can be extended to handle ethnic problems in Africa and Asia. However, fundamental questions remain to be asked about whether North African approaches to minorities can be regarded as founding tribal and ethno-religious rights, whether they can be endorsed by tradition and whether they can be used to develop minority rights and transformed to support and defend them as well. Ultimately, we need to study the limits of cultural traditions and philosophy, be they Amazigh, Jewish, Coptic, Muslim and Arab or French and Christian. North Africans ought to be engaging in a badly needed cultural dialogue between liberalism and tradition. Cross-cultural engagement would be useful in producing some positive intellectual results that would help bring different political ideas in different geographic areas into contact with each other and clear away obstacles to thinking about what can be done to settle the minority question, as it is known. One of the big things that has happened in the late twentieth century is that the cultural sphere has grown enormously in North Africa. It used to be possible to think of culture as a relatively free space, at a distance from economics, politics and everyday social life. This freedom may have been somewhat illusory and the distance may have been much less than we like to imagine, but both were nonetheless real. In the last few decades, however, there has been a remarkable expansion of culture throughout the social realm, to the extent that everything in social life––from economic value and state power to the very structure of the North African psyche itself––can be said to have become cultural.


The topic of stability in the Maghreb does not draw the attention of the western academy as it once did, especially in the Cold War era. However, the question of ethnicity in the region is a matter of global importance, in light of current North-South tensions as a clash of cultures. In the Maghreb, as elsewhere, the collapse of Empires led to subsequent states that developed new forms of exclusivist national ideologies. They identified, oppressed, and expelled groups in their populations that do not possess the right ethnic credentials. This process has led to discrimination against new out groups and mass population displacement. It has also resulted in mass voluntary emigration and expulsion of refugees. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the relationship among pre-colonial policies of ethnicity, imperial policies, and the consequences of imperial collapse. Our analysis of these historical developments in the Maghreb seeks to explain why the links between ethnicity, politics, and emigration deserve scholarly attention. We have limited our focus to those North African countries once under French colonial rule, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The Maghreb extends east to west from Libya to Mauritania and north to south from the Mediterranean to the borderlands of the Sahara. But these three French-influenced nations offer the richest material for the themes we seek to examine in the character and changes of Maghrebi ethnography. These themes are official political attitudes toward ethnic groups and their cultural judicial status in the pre-colonial, protectorate, and independence periods. Scholars of Maghrebian and Islamic studies claim that almost all contemporary Maghrebi peoples are not true Arabs. They are descendants of the Amazigh or Berbers whom Arab rulers attempted to Arabize. Most of the people are now Muslim. But among them, Berber Muslims do not claim Arab but rather Berber ethnicity. This was also true for Berber Christians and Berber Jews of the Maghreb whose ethnicity remained distinct from their Arab rulers.1 For


Chapter Two

contemporary Berbers, their ethnicity distinguishes them from their Arab neighbors but it does not in any way prevent them from blending in with the larger community. The Berbers were the first known inhabitants of North Africa, and they retained their numeric majority until the Arab conquest in the seventh century. Jews first settled in North Africa more than 2,000 years ago, and the coming of Islam found the Maghrebi Jews well assimilated in urban and rural settlements throughout the region. Christians who fled oppression have also found refuge in North Africa. Figure 2-1: Berber-speaking Populations in North Africa

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


The Maghreb has been the target of invaders from Greece, the Levant, and the Roman Empire. All of these conquerors have hugged the coastal areas of the Maghreb, and their primary interest in the labor value of their victims did not extend to altering the native linguistic, religious, and cultural identities of the different ethnic groups. But the goals of Arab conquest were more ambitious. At each successive stage of penetration in North Africa, the followers of Mohammed imposed Islam and Arabic as the dominant culture of the Maghrebi peoples. Even while Arab domination extended from coastal to mountain and desert societies, Arab conquest did not accomplish the destruction of ethnic integrity among Berbers and Jews. Thus, the Arabs did not succeed in eradicating Berber or Jewish languages, rituals, or cultural practice. Neither did the Arabs nor their Ottoman successors seek to convert Maghrebi Jews or Christians. We follow the Berbers through the age of Ibn Khaldun, under Ottoman and French rule in the Maghreb, into the era of independence to discover that the ethnic identity of this group evolved, adapted, but remained intact. Berberism, as a cultural and political movement forms part of society in contemporary Morocco and Algeria. The tenacity of Berber ethnicity is well documented in the works of Berber humanist and author Mouloud Feraoun and other scholars. It is also demonstrated in the vibrancy and current renaissance of Berber culture in music, literature, and drama. Just when Maghrebi nationalists were relegating Berberism to the display cases of museums of folklore, Berber culture and vitality have reemerged in new guises. Such vibrancy pays tribute to the characteristic resilience of the Berber people. As has been their historic role, contemporary Berbers pose problems for their militant Arab officials who seek to eliminate the ethnic mosaic of the Maghreb.2 Similar though different claims can be made about the endurance of Jewish ethnicity in contemporary Morocco and Tunisia, but not in Algeria. As recently as the early nineteenth century, the Jews of Morocco formed three linguistic or ethnic groups: Judeo-Spanish, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Berber. The towndwellers referred to Jews in the rural South as Shleuh, people speaking the Berber dialect of Tashelhit.3 The network of schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in North Africa, a Franco-Jewish organization founded in Paris in 1860, followed in the wake of colonial penetration. The AIU succeeded in assimilating some Jews to a largely secular, francophone educational tradition. They achieved the spread of French language, but French literacy made limited progress among the vast majority of Jews, many of whom did not abandon their native Arabic or Berber dialects.4 Since 1948, even with exodus of the majority of Maghribi Jews to Israel, France, and elsewhere, the Alliance, under its new name of Ittihad-Maroc has continued to operate. In Casablanca, nine Jewish day schools have opened in the


Chapter Two

1990s. In Tunisia, filmmaker Farid Boughedir's recent film Summer in La Goulette offers a nostalgic view of Tunisian ethnic diversity in the 1950s and 60s, when the nation still counted a large Italian Catholic and Jewish population. Most of them left in the aftermath of Tunisian independence in 1956. Many Tunisians view their contemporary difficulties, in large part, as stemming from the exodus of Tunisian Jews and Christians. Their departure in mass produced a brain drain from the Arab world to Europe, Israel, and the United States.5 A fragile ethnic mosaic, nonetheless, persisted in the Maghreb through the era of independence. Evidence shows how French colonial practice sought to inject dissension in ethnic relations among the peoples under its dominion. Such colonial instrumentalization helped to create the preconditions in which tensions developed among ethnic groups in post-independence Maghreb. Two separate themes emerged in the era of decolonization and its aftermath. First, PanArabists such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Islamic fundamentalist orators, in an effort to consolidate their own power, fully exploited the legacy of troubled ethnic relations under colonialism. Second, this weakened ethnic mosaic left ethnic minorities in a situation of ambiguity. For example, in the decolonization phase, Jews were active in Zionist movements in the Maghreb. But smaller numbers of Jews also participated in a Jewish-Muslim entente with the nationalist movements. Westernized Jews were caught between attachments to France, Israel, and the Maghreb. Faced with that dilemma, the vast majority of Jews left a region that continued to give their ancestors refuge, but others did not. Much of the literary fiction of émigré Maghrebi Jews has addressed the Jewish condition of hyphenated or collective identity: Jew and Arab, French and Maghrebian, secular and Jewish. “This may be the mark of modernity but it nonetheless defines the continuity of Jewish culture in North Africa.”6 Making this condition a subject of irony, Guy Sitbon ends his novel Gagou with the conversation: “Let's be clear: are you Jewish or Arab?” “Both.” “Half and half?” “No, both, fully.” “And when they fight each other, what side are you on?” “On the wailing side.”7

Today, Western views of Africa distinguish the Maghrebi people or North Africans from those Africans elsewhere on the continent. Most Africans view their North African neighbors as inauthentic Africans, yet not European, not black, nor white. To outsiders, Maghrebi identity represents a cultural limbo within Africa and elsewhere. The Maghrebi Arabs show this conflicted perspective as well. Most problematic in Algeria, the Arab state view Berbers

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


and their ethnicity as alien and unacceptable to national identity. Arab disparagement of fellow Berber citizens has been based on two reasons. Algerian Arabs have alleged that the Berbers speak an incomprehensible (unintelligible) Arabic. In a similar fashion, the Arabs in the Middle East find the Arabic of the Arabs in Algeria incomprehensible. Arabs in Algeria have also claimed that France's civilizing mission achieved the irreversible corruption of the Berbers. This chapter seeks to consider the contemporary condition of Maghrebi ethnicity in light of its complex history. Our hope is also to query the past for insights about contemporary threats to an ethnic mosaic which has endured in the Maghreb for over three thousand years. In the era of independence, the notion of Maghrebi ethnicity refers to the diversity of linguistic and cultural identity. The case of Algeria, distinct from those of Tunisia and Morocco, shows official repudiation of pluralism and multiculturalism. The Algerian official position has led to ethnic strife and a significant Berber exodus to France. There, the cultural resurgimento of the Parisian Berber community is changing the meaning of French culture.8 The question in the modern period is: what is the fate of the ethnic mosaic in the Maghreb should Algerian attitudes penetrate officialdom in Tunisia, Morocco, and elsewhere in the Maghreb.

1. The Genesis of the Maghrebi History The history of the Maghreb began with the history of the Berbers. They are not only considered the original inhabitants, but are the only ethnic community inscribed in each phase of Maghrebi history. Their history of racial blending has made Berber languages and their cultural expression their basic mark of identity. In other words, the Berbers cannot claim to represent a distinctive racial rather than ethnic identity of their own. The history of the Maghreb is one of foreign invasions and Berber resistance. The Cretans established “posts” in the north of Tunisia in the course of the second and third millennium B.C. But the Berbers, largely interior communities, became an integral part of the known Mediterranean history with the Phoenicians. In 1200 B.C., the latter established colonies on the coastal regions of the Maghreb. Carthage emerged as a powerful and feared empire in the Mediterranean basin. The Phoenicians were a maritime and commercial power that gradually set up exchanges with the Berbers. This led to Phoenician influence in the Maghreb in commercial and agricultural forms, exported from the Levant: monetary economy, ceramics, weapons, and a new agricultural system. Indeed, the Phoenician presence led to change among the Maghrebi Berbers from a tradition of primitive solidarity to a system of improved political and social complexity.


Chapter Two

Ironically, it was under the Berber leader Massinissa that the community, in alliance with the Romans, made a significant contribution to weakening the Phoenician stronghold from Carthage and the eviction of Phoenician rule in the Maghreb in 146 B.C. Therefore, the political structure founded on an oligarchy of the rich came to an end. Roman rule in the Maghreb imposed its command only after defeating Berber resistance. The Romans did not begin an immediate policy of territorial expansion. Only in 40 A.D. did the Maghreb, from Tripolitania to Mauritania, fall into Roman hands. As many as 270,000 Berbers were then integrated into the Roman army of North Africa.9 Thereafter, the mingling and collaboration between the Romans and Berber chiefs intensified resulting in the emergence of Maghrebi social elites that became urbanized, Christianized and impregnated by the Roman way of life. The absence of a broader strategy to integrate the Maghreb into a social, political and cultural entity with Rome reduced the presence of Romans to a few thousand soldiers and an economic aristocracy whose role was to exploit the local land and population. This resulted in a general discontent and a widespread rebellious mood notably amongst the Berbers. Indeed, local populations, whether Numidians or Moors, after periods of internal wars and conflicts, found a common ground for understanding their hatred for the dominant Romans and their rejection for the social hierarchy and system they were submitted to. The debate about whether the Maghrebi Berbers developed a sense of collective identity in opposition to the Romans is still unsettled. It is more likely that they were simply reacting to an aberrant situation in which they had suffered exclusion, marginality and exploitation. Coupled with the inability of the Church to federate the Romans and the Berbers, this social exclusion resulted in the weakening of the Roman presence in North Africa that ultimately ended up in their defeat and annihilation. The Roman presence ended in a total political confusion. Even the Vandals (of German origin), who became the new masters of the Maghreb in 429, had hard times to impose their grip on the Berber population and the Romanized landed classes. On the whole, the Berbers were able to maintain their religions and cultural patterns inherited from the pre-Roman period, and the Romanized elite and clergy, under the early instigation and inspiration of Saint Augustine (died August 28, 430) continued to wrestle with the new rulers to the end. This conflicting context led the Vandals to commit unprecedented atrocities in the land. However, part of the excessive cruelty and barbarism displayed by the Vandals that haunted the imagination of North Africa and Western Europe was a pure fabrication of the Catholic clerics. By 455, Roman authority had almost virtually disappeared from the Maghreb. In this context of power vacuum in some parts of the Maghreb, some

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


powerful and stable Berber tribes and kingdoms appeared mainly in the western part. The Vandals turned out to be weak occupiers. They lacked at once a powerful, prestigious, advanced “civilization” and a significant human presence that might have impacted the demographic and political structure of the Maghreb. However, with the exception of the urban and power elite, the Berbers were satisfied to be left alone by their new masters. They were able to build confederacies on the outskirts of the Vandal state. The Antalas Confederacy, founded around 510 was very active in southern Tunisia, and was particularly hostile to the Vandals. Their prestige and influence increased dramatically when they defeated the Vandal army in the central Dorsale. The Berber resistance and the persistent hostility of the Roman population brought the Vandal rule to an end after a century of domination but of no great construction. Indeed, despite the relative prosperity they were able to enhance, the Vandals did not leave any major imprint. Contrary to the Phoenicians or the Romans, who left ever-lasting stamps on the Maghreb, the Vandal presence is almost wiped out from the physical landscapes of the Maghreb and even from today’s historiography. However, only the economic prosperity they were able to ensure could explain why they were able to rule North Africa for more than a century. The conquest of the Maghreb by the Byzantines in 533 came as a large scheme of restoring the unity of the Roman Empire. Ironically, the century of Vandal rule had not wiped out the persistent belief in the Maghreb of the universality of Roman rule and its legitimacy. Though the Byzantine territorial rule went beyond the Vandal’s, it never matched that of the Romans. However, in a few years, the Byzantines were able to extract every Vandal political and social influence. With no scruple, all the members of the Vandal royal family as well as the nobility and warriors were either killed or sent to Constantinople. Resistance to the Byzantines in the Maghreb came again from the Berbers. Their social structure and the complexity of their lifestyle impregnated them with rebellious spirit and allowed them to excel in war tactics. Even the pacification attempts and the concessions made by the Byzantines to make them allies failed completely.10 The Berbers resented mostly the Byzantine attempts to expand their influence on territories that had been autonomous under the Vandals. Even the victory of the Byzantine emperor over the Berber rebels and the military insurgents among his own soldiers did not bring the Maghreb to a stable situation for a long period. Whenever provoked, the Berber tribes systematically rebelled and only reinforcements from Constantinople were able to put down their uprisings. It seems then that what precipitated the collapse of the Byzantine rule in the Maghreb were the hostility of the Berbers, who opposed the political and economic choices of the Byzantines; the opposition of


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the Jews and the Arians, whose religions were banned in favor of Catholicism, and the successive attacks on the eastern borders of the empire. Like their predecessors, the Byzantines did not modify the ethnic structure of the Maghreb, which continued to have a strong Berber identity. Even the ban on Judaism, did not prevent this religion from remaining influential notably among the Berbers. However, if the Vandal presence went unnoticed, the numerous Byzantine fortifications still visible in the Maghreb today speak eloquently of the tumultuous and insecure atmosphere that characterized the Byzantine rule in the Maghreb.

2. The Rise of the Minaret The Arabs, who concentrated their attacks on the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, started the penetration of the Maghreb. After the fall of Alexandria in Egypt in 642, the Arab army moved westward and occupied Tripoli the following year. However, in their raid of the Maghreb, the Arabs avoided the coastal areas, better fortified and potentially more dangerous. They first attacked Fezzan, deep in the desert, where they got booty of black slaves, and proceeded northward to reach Gafsa in today’s Tunisia. After a period of hesitation, the Arab army entered Tunisia without encountering any resistance from the Byzantines, who had already alienated the Berbers, the Jews and the Arians. Moreover, most of their North African army was sent to fight a pretender to the throne in Sicily and another part was sent to the eastern front as reinforcement. In their quest to move west, the Arabs encountered a swift resistance from the Berbers under the leadership of Kusaila. The latter succeeded in federating the Berbers, including the Christianized and the sedentary ones in the Aurès region (Algeria). Despite the defeat of Kusaila, Berber military resistance to the Arabs continued for a long period, spearheaded by the Jarawa Jewish tribe and their legendary queen Al-Kahina (the Princess) who was able to defeat the Arabs before being defeated herself and killed by Arab warriors allied to some Islamized or defeated Berber tribes. With the death of Al-Kahina, the Maghreb entered a new era in which the ethnic, political, and religious structure was to change forever. Indeed, the Arabs were quick in wiping out the legacy of the Roman and even Byzantine rule. Only the impressive monuments were left. As for Christianity, it almost disappeared with the exception of a few enclaves that remained in Morocco until the end of the ninth century. What is sure is that by the twelfth century the lands of Saint Augustine became a totally non-Christian area and Christianity became limited to European foreigners who came to the Maghreb on a temporary basis.11

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Open to dispute among historians is the claim of relative ease with which the Arabs conquered the Maghreb, and then Islamized and pacified its ethnic populations.12 Historians point to four factors that explain why the Arabs succeeded, while their predecessors, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Vandals, and the Byzantines failed. First, the Arabs found a situation of political chaos when they invaded North Africa. Second, the Maghrebi Berbers felt greater racial and ethnic affinity with their Arab invaders. Third, ideology strengthened Arab imperialist motivations. Their goals combined the spread of Islam with those of economic and political expansion. Finally, Arab conquerors mitigated the hostility of their Berber subjects by integrating them into the military and power structure of the North African Arab empire. Arab efforts to convert the Maghrebi Berbers to Islam proved relatively successful. Yet they failed to subdue the Berbers' cultural integrity and to Arabize them. At the behest of the Egyptian Fatimid caliph in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Arabian tribes under Bannj HilƗl and Banu Sulaiman wrested the Maghreb from Berber control. It was at this point that the Arabic language took root in the Maghreb. It achieved linguistic dominance in officialdom and as the language of commerce. With the exception of a few Berber enclaves in Morocco and Kabylia that continued to use Tamazight, Arabic became the dominant language of communication in urban and rural communities. Soon afterwards, the Maghreb was unified under the Almohads (1147-1269). Under this Berber dynasty, political, cultural and social identity began to emerge. And despite the linguistic diversity, the Maghrebi people began to have a strong sense of belonging that set them apart from the Mashreqi people. Interestingly enough, Berbers who were still impregnating the Maghreb with their culture and language, were completely pacified as they were integrated into different spheres of power and influence. This happened at a time when the Arabization process continued at a fast pace. This is revealing of the nature of Berber identity which has been maintained and sometimes reinforced not necessarily in opposition to the Arab presence but basically as a rejection to Arab hegemonic and arrogant attitudes that from time to time characterized the Maghrebi political regimes notably since the disintegration of the Almohad dynasty. Since then, the Maghreb has entered a period of decline and political confusion. Because of its strategic location, the Maghreb attracted some European countries motivated by new imperial designs. Only the intervention of the Ottomans prevented the Maghreb from falling completely into the hands of the Spaniards. The Ottomans, though Muslims, symbolized the decay of the Arabs and the rise of religion (Islam), and not language or ethnicity (Arabic), as the rallying cry across the Muslim world including the Maghreb. Indeed,


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repelling the Christians became a priority for different Arab countries, anxious about the hegemonic intentions of Western Europe. In this context, Istanbul imposed a ruling class on Tunisia and Algeria. Only Morocco retained it own ruling Sherifian dynasty, and avoided Turkish tutelage. Arabic continued to be the official language of government and commerce. Yet in the centuries of Ottoman rule in the Maghreb, the ethnic and social structure did not significantly alter. The Turks assumed the position of the aristocracy and the Berbers constituted a marginalized community. These two populations joined other ethnic groups including a rising black population that was brought into North Africa through the trans-Saharan slave trade, and the Jewish community whose numbers increased dramatically in the three Maghrebi countries following the Arab defeat in Spain and the Inquisition. Though most of the Jews joined the Mellah neighborhoods in Morocco and the Haras in Tunisia, many of them got involved in professions such as commerce, craftsmen, doctors, salespersons and merchant intermediaries between Muslims and Europeans.

3. French Colonization and Identity Politics Other than in Morocco, the Maghrebi peoples tolerated Ottoman rule as a hedge against Spanish occupation and control. A military oligarchic government under Ottoman control dominated Algeria. Tunisia's Hussainid dynasty retained virtual control. The independent Moroccan realm continued to consolidate its sovereignty, unaffected by the weakening power of Ottoman Empire. But Ottoman’s decline left North Africa vulnerable to European influence and conquest. In 1830, the French subjugation of Algeria marked the turning point in transforming the ethnic, political and cultural structure of the Maghreb. Indeed, the colonization of the Maghreb sparked cultural, religious and political reactions throughout the era of French rule. The Moroccans, humiliated by European intervention, accused their Sultan of incompetence and collaboration. They turned to their traditional instinct of rebellion. Tunisians, with a longer tradition of cultural and economic exchanges with Europe, tried to reform their political, economic and educational system.13 All of these reactions proved useless in deterring the nefarious effects of French imperialism. However, their mutual opposition to French rule ultimately galvanized the Maghrebi peoples to unite in spite of their traditional political and ethnic divisions. Islam became the unifying force that was to constitute the core of the nationalist movement. In 1830, the French extended their control in Algeria from one of localized military retaliation against the coastal rulers to that of military occupation in Algiers. But the French soon launched an aggressive scorched earth policy that ended in occupation of greater Algeria. The largely Islamic Algerian population

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


of Arabs and Berbers sought the aid of their Muslim brethren in Istanbul, Tunisia, and Morocco to defend them against the European Christian aggressors. In the absence of support from Ottoman, Moroccan, and Tunisian rulers, the Sufi orders of the Maghreb forged an indigenous resistance movement among pastoral communities that assumed national scale. However, the French military benefited from the Sufi religious orders’ refusal to unite. This forced Abdul-Qadir, the galvanizer and leader of Maghrebi resistance to fight not only the French but also some of the Sufi religious orders. 14 By 1847, the political intrigues, superficial alliances, and narrow interests within the Algerian resistance movement permitted the French to consolidate their rule and to defeat Abdul-Qadir. France sought to expend few people and resources to control Algeria. Their colonial practice therefore aimed to divide the Maghrebi peoples against each other in order to rule them. The colonial regime created separate judicial systems for Muslims and Jews. They retained only those current indigenous institutions which were compatible with the aims of French colonization. The French expedition to Tlemcen in 1836 also demonstrated the colonial strategy of “ethnic division.” The invasion was launched on the pretext that Arabs were persecuting the Kouloughlis, a community whose members were largely of mixed marriages between the Turks and indigenous women. The French claimed that the Kouloughlis required their protection. They were actually allies of the French in the eastern part of Algeria. The French completed their conquest of Algeria in 1857, only after submitting the region to a scorched earth policy and subduing fierce and sustained Arab and Berber rebellions. The French also penetrated and subjugated the Berber enclave of Kabylia. The Maghrebi populations demonstrated their widespread hostility to their new French overlords. Algerian resentment remained latent and festered under the yoke of colonialism until the Algerians gained their independence in 1962. Throughout their era of colonization of the Maghreb, the French tried to promote the image of the Arab as backward, barbarian and bloodthirsty. Their representation, comparable in its nature and content to the representation of the Native Americans in eighteenth and nineteenth century Anglo-American literature, aimed at arousing hostility to the Arabs and justifying the French mission civilisatrice. It took the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs (Bureaux Arabes) many years to understand the complexity of Algerian society and its multiethnic and multilingual character. They showed their basic impertinence of ethnic complexity in lumping all Algerians into the singular category of Arabs. However, even after the French occupation of Kabylia, the French regime deemed Arab the ethnicity of the indigenous North African.15 When France conquered Algeria, Berbers and Arabs equally divided the linguistic landscape of the country. As has been documented recently, the proportion of ethnic Arabs


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in the Maghreb has remained marginal, with the Maghrebi people primarily being descendants of Arabized Berbers.16 Hence, Arab ethnicity denotes political and cultural hegemony, not one based on the real identity of the descendents of the Maghrebi people. Ethnic Berbers constitute then the base of the Maghrebi identity. Though, ethnicity here is understood as linguistic and religious affiliation, it is interesting to note that the linguistic picture of the Maghreb reflects the history of invasions and conquests. Tamazight (Berber language) is widely spoken in the western regions of the Maghreb. Like Romanization or Christianization, Arabization came from the east, and its influence weakened as it moved west. Therefore, when France colonized Morocco in 1912, two thirds of the Cherifian kingdom were Berber. French colonizers provided the instrument for curtailing Berber linguistic expression in Morocco. French schools promoted only Arabic and French. After the French dispossession of Berber lands in the wake of Berber uprisings-notably the 1871 Mukrani rebellion-thousands of Berbers were forced to flee their land and to relocate in Arabized areas.17 Contrary to widespread use of Berber language in Morocco and Algeria, it has seen limited expression in Tunisia. Tunisia lacked important mountainous resorts. It was quickly urbanized, Islamized and later Arabized because it lays at the crossroads of Arab commercial links with Western Europe and the Maghreb. Tunisia also became the site of the first Arab and Muslim city in North Africa-Kairouan. Today only 2% of the population still speaks Berber, and there is no government policy (museums, educational programs, media) to promote Tamazight. It is obvious that as non-African peoples extended the urbanization of the Maghreb, they favored their own languages over that of the indigenous Berbers. Even among the largely Berber populations of Algiers and Marrakesh, they deployed the Arabizing factor of Islam and Arabic linguistic domination in political institutions and in commerce. The French continued the use of nonAfrican languages as a tool of hierarchy and domination, perpetuating the Arab reduction of the Berber language. The French colonial objective was to favor neither Arabic nor Tamazight as the spoken or official language of the Maghreb. In that light, the French targeted Islam, the unifying force of the Maghrebi people. Cardinal Lavigerie, archbishop of Algiers (1867-1892) proclaimed that only conversion to Christianity permitted the Maghrebi population to evolve from their state of barbarism to one of civilization. In 1867, he said of the Berbers, “Our mission is to take our civilization, which was that of their fathers, to the Berber populations. We cannot leave these people with their Qur'an. France must give them the Gospel or else they will roam the desert, far from the civilized world. This program of forced conversion will be coupled with the confiscation of land and the expulsion of the inhabitants to the mountainous and rocky areas, as per the injunction of Governor-General Tirman. It is necessary

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


to instill terror in the natives!”18 Lavigerie was discharging the current strategy of French colonial policy. But when the Cardinal gathered some 1700 Muslim orphans in charitable foundations and refused to release them to relatives, he faced vehement Muslim hostility. In 1911, the colonial regime sustained fierce opposition from Muslims in Tunis against the transfer of the control of the Jellaz cemetery from religious authorities to that of the civil administration. In 1932, Tunisian religious authorities imposed a Fatwa to forbid the burial of naturalized Tunisians in Muslim cemeteries. These reactions to French imposition of their culture on the Maghreb demonstrate how Europeans deployed religion to control and transform North Africans of different classes, religions, languages, and ethnicities. From the occupation of Algeria in 1830 to its independence in 1962, their fervent attachment to Islam or their own ethnic identities unified and mobilized the Maghrebi peoples against their colonial regime. Interestingly enough, resistance movements used “Arab-Muslim” identity as the sole marker to distinguish them from their Christian colonizers (roumis or nsaras). Berbers chose not to politicize their ethnicity in order not to permit their Islamic Arab neighbors to question their loyalty. As for the Jewish community, the Islamic majority associated them with the French colonizers.

4. French Colonization and the Maghrebi Jews As we have noted, the Jewish presence in the Maghreb is very old. However, the demographic and political influence of this community before the Arab conquest remains unknown. Only the active resistance of the Judaized Berber tribes has been fully documented. When the French invaded the Maghreb the Jews had already been integrated in the economic and social structures of the three North African states. But by no means did integration mean equality with Muslims. In fact, the assessment of the Jewish situation in the Maghreb has been influenced by the favorable comparison with European Jews. However, noting that the Maghrebi Jews were better treated, protected and integrated than the European Jewry should not eclipse the fact that they had been second-class citizens. Because they were part of the dhimmi category (from dhimma = protection), they were submitted to certain rules: special tax (al-Jizya), prohibition to bear arms, own land. Legally, Christians had to be submitted to the same rules but the special treaties with European powers and the threat of European intervention protected Christians from a degrading status. In its campaign to denigrate Islam, portrayed as concomitant to North African “backwardness,” the French tried to reinforce the religious divide by feeding the antagonism between Islam and Judaism and appropriating the


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position of the protectors of the oppressed Jewish minority. Contrary to the Jews of the seventh century, who rose against Arab invasion, and those of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries who stood by their Muslim countrymen to repel Spanish attacks, those of the nineteenth century Algeria and Tunisia and those of early twentieth century Morocco had a much more ambiguous position that ultimately sided them with the French and alienated most of them from the Muslims. To a certain extent, French intervention in the Maghreb was hailed as a liberating move that would allow them to get rid of Arab-Muslim domination. Whether the Jews were motivated more by the humanitarian ideals of the French republic or their degrading status in the Maghreb is open to question. There is no doubt that the Jewish community had little to lose, at least from the perspective of the nineteenth century, by siding with the French. But this was neither the reaction nor the calculation of the Muslims. Though oppressed and left in ignorance and poverty, their reaction was instinctively patriotic and mostly religious. It was also an understandable reaction of a community that refused to be submitted to a foreign power. Additionally, even the poorest of the poor Muslims found comfort in the subordination of the Jews, a reaction comparable in its nature to the reaction of poor whites in America to the emancipation of Black slaves. In their resistance to the French, Muslims also showed disdain for the Act of Capitulation that read: “the liberty of the inhabitants, of all classes, their religions, their properties, their trade, their industry, will not be violated.”19 To a certain extent the French did not work hard to build an alliance with Algerian Jews. Right from the beginning, before even the completion of the occupation process and the establishment of permanent French rule, the Jews chose their camp by relating their destiny to that of the new masters. Two examples show how quickly this alliance was built. First, when the French army was obliged to retreat from the city of Blida in 1830, the Jews had to follow in order to avoid Muslim reaction. Second, when in 1833 Oran was besieged by Muslim insurgents the Jews participated, alongside the French army, in defense of the city. The fact that this was not seen either in Tunisia or in Morocco reflects the absence of a strong sense of nationhood in Algeria and the intensity of religious animosity in this country. Finding in the Algerian Jews a vector for their domination, the French encouraged and enforced Jewish institutional and cultural separation from Muslims. French policy singled out the Jews, projecting them to Muslims as potential “collaborators” of colonialism. They allowed individual Jews to obtain French citizenship, and they entrusted to the French courts the judicial matters of the Jews in the ordinances of 1841 and 1842. In the view of Muslims, the preferential French policy for Jews turned them into traitors, complicit with the colonial regime. The ordinance of 1845 created Jewish Consistories in Algiers,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Oran, and Constantine modeled those consistoires français in France. This moved those of Jewish ethnicity, at least symbolically, closer to the French and French-like institutions and away from their own traditional institutions led by Qaid el-Yhud. In the new environment of French-inflicted tensions between Jewish and Muslim populations, the Jews welcomed any French action that aimed at integrating them into French social, economic and political currents. In that light, most Jews in 1860 viewed as positive Louis-Napoleon's decision to make conscription compulsory for Algerian Jews. But only a handful of Algerian Jews chose to naturalize their French status (142 in five years). This paradox reflected their identity crisis and awareness of their potential vulnerability under a return to possible Islamic rule. Naturalization, a renouncement of a millennium of their history in North Africa, was a step that few Jews chose to take until that the entire community moved in that direction. Indeed, already in 1865, most Jewish households supported such a petition presented to Napoleon III. That petition, calling for a shift of the French policy of individual naturalization to a collective naturalization of the Jews, became law in 1870 with the Crémieux decree. Mostly, Jews in metropolitan France had already achieved the status of French citizenship with the French Revolution. But they longed for this decree to emancipate Algerian Jewry, a move they considered of comparable significance to the abolition of slavery in 1848. The Crémieux law also furthered the goal of France to increase its demographic presence in Algeria vis-à-vis the Muslim population. It elevated the FrenchEuropean population by 37,000 persons.20 The decree stipulated: The Jews, indigenous to the departments of Algeria, are declared citizens of France. In consequence their civil status and their personal status will be regulated according to French law, effective with the promulgation of the present decree: all rights acquired to this day remain inviolable.21

The Crémieux decree tied the fate of Algerian Jews to that of European and mainly French settlers. And though the new laws did not modify the social or political structure, they reinforced the Muslim conviction that the Jews, like Christians had no legitimacy to remain in Algeria. In other words, they were thought to be conspiring with European Christians in humiliating and subjugating Islam. Ironically, none of the Jewish leaders anticipated the European settlers’ reaction to the decree, nor the concomitant feeling of anxiety and insecurity that was to provoke among their community. A group, called the Pieds noirs, came not only to distinguish itself from the indigenous Muslim population but also to develop racist attitudes and behaviors against the Jews that culminated in their violent campaign of 1898. Formed by French, Spanish and Italian colons (settlers), who found unity in the law of 1889 that gave French nationality to their children born in Algeria, those Pieds noirs


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appropriated the role of custodians of European culture and civilization in the Maghreb. The Jews could not be integrated into this ideology. European settlers exported their anti-Semitism to the Maghreb. They expressed their bigotry against the Maghrebi Jews in political and economic discrimination. But they also demonstrated it in violent forms, especially around election times. However, the intrigues and manipulation of some European leaders did move the Muslim population to emulate their structured and aggressive anti-Semitism behavior. The Jews had a different experience in Tunisia and Morocco because of their status under the French protectorates, rather than as residents of departments annexed to France. Historians like Bernard Lewis and Norman Stillman have portrayed the abysmal situation for Jews living in Muslim lands, especially in Morocco, from the eighteenth century onwards. More recently, studies have found that certain Moroccan Jewish communities such as nineteenth century Essaouira, enjoyed increasing prosperity in trade and other activities, rather than degradation. They managed a complex network of exchanges within the port city, and between Essaouira and its hinterland. This was possible because of ties between Jewish merchant elites and the Moroccan ruler, as well as fruitful relations among various social groups—Muslims, Jews, town-dwellers, tribesmen, political authorities, and provincial officials. Some Moroccan Jews held positions of informal power in southwestern Morocco and at the sultan's court.22 Most Moroccan elites were not moved to adopt the universalist ideals of the French Enlightenment. This insensitivity to the nineteenth century claims of nationhood and citizenship led Moroccan society to continue marginalizing those of Jewish ethnicity. As a collective community, Moroccan Jewry retained the status of protégés, and not entitled to the same rights as Muslims. With Moroccan subjugation to the French protectorate, French colonial leaders widened the gap between the Muslim and the Jewish communities. As Islam, like in Algeria, became the basis of Moroccan nationhood and nationalism, Arabs and Berbers alike accused the Jews of benefiting from colonial rule by becoming the privileged community of the new political and economic order. Therefore, it came as no surprise when most Muslims found satisfaction in the considerable degradation of the status of the North African Jewry during the Vichy government and Nazi domination. In 1938 on Moroccan radio, the leader Mekki al Nassiri denounced the French overlords but also the Jews: “We hate France, the enemy of Islam and religion, because it is governed by atheists and Jews, by Mister Leon Blum “in particular.”23 In the context of the French colonial era, Maghrebi Jews in Tunisia and Morocco had similar experiences. Long before the ascent of the Vichy government, the Third French Republic had refused the petition of Moroccan Jewry to enact a naturalization law for them comparable to that of the Crémieux

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


legislation for Algerian Jews. The French refused their entreaties on the grounds that the Crémieux decree had brought about the expansion of anti-Semitism and social unrest. Any comparable law in Morocco or /and in Tunisia was likely to result in greater political and social agitation against Jews among the European settlers. The Jews in Tunisia pressed hard for French nationality. They were systematically faced with indifference and refusal. The petition sent by the leader of the Jewish community to the French parliament is revealing: We beg the Parliament to submit us to the jurisdictions of French courts, which alone have the power to render an impartial justice […] Hence the treaties of 1881 and 1886 allow France to act in the name of justice and humanity […] The realizations of our desires can only increase the influence of France in Tunisia.24

However, World War I finally brought a change in French policy toward the Maghrebi Jews. The participation of more than a thousand Jews in the French army and the violence inflicted by Muslim masses in 1917 on urban Jews precipitated the French decision of 1923 to allow the Jews to apply for citizenship. The number of Jews who were naturalized reflects the political situation in France rather than that in Tunisia. Between 1926 and 1928, more than 4000 Jews attained French citizenship. But only 180 Jewish applicants were successful in the period between 1933 and 1938. So too, between 1940 and 1944, the number of Maghrebi Jews gaining French citizenship slipped to less than one hundred.25 As with European Jews, the Vichy/Nazi era stands out as the most tragic years for Jews of the Maghreb. The French alienated them. Many Muslims detested them, and sympathized with the policies of the Third Reich. Maghrebi Jews only found relief and relative security when the Allied forces liberated North Africa in 1942-43. Before independence, the Jews experienced comparable policies in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. In the pre-colonial era, Jewish ethnic and religious culture persisted within Islamic theocracies, where Jews lived apart from the larger community inside the Mellahs or Haras. Jews were free to practice their religion and cultural specificity. Unlike the condition for Jews in Europe, in the Maghreb the Jewish people maintained their identity, solidarity, and autonomy. The arrival of the French colonial regime in North Africa altered the Islamic framework of cultural and economic equilibrium for the Jews. The French Republican education instilled in a privileged minority of Jews Enlightenment values and ideals. Jews gained a different judicial status under the French as well. The French thus drove a wedge between the Muslim majority and the minority Jewish ethnic population. Their changed status under French rule posed a dilemma for Maghrebi Jews. The rabbis, who for long centuries had fought to preserve the soul of their community, were unequipped to face the


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French assimilationist challenges of modernity.26 French colonization distanced Maghrebi Jews from their Muslim countrymen, but it did not allow them to adopt fully the identity of French culture, ideas, and legal status. Tunisian Jewish author Albert Memmi describes this state of “cultural schizophrenia:”27 The memory which is assigned him [the colonized Jew] is certainly not that of his people. The history which is taught him is not his own. He knows who Colbert or Cromwell was, but learns nothing about Khaznadar; he knows about Joan of Arc but not about Kahena.28

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 accentuated the ambiguity of Jewish identity and loyalty for Maghrebi Jews. Less than a decade later, French decolonization led to the large-scale emigration of Jews from the Maghreb. But for Maghrebi Jews who remained in North Africa, official policies and attitudes in independent Morocco and Tunisia stand apart from those of Algerian leaders. Before his death in 1999, King Hassan implemented measures to protect the 6000 members of the Moroccan Jewish community. At present, Morocco has one of the most tolerant environments for Jews in the Arab world. Moroccan Jews hold leading positions in the business community and government. The community is in the process of aging as its younger generation tends to continue its higher education abroad and not return. Casablanca has the largest Jewish community, about 3000 people, and has experienced a revival with ten new schools to serve 800 students. Tunisian Jews, who numbered 100,000 before independence, emigrated in large numbers in 1956, and again in 1967, when the Six-Day War sparked antiJewish rioting. The policies of President Habib Bourguiba and his successor Ben Ali have insured Jewish religious freedom and full citizenship and support for Tunisian Jews. The nation was among the first Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Government officials celebrate the artistic collaboration between Muslims and Jews in cinema, art, and literature.

5. Arabs, Berbers and the Rise of Ethnicity Under Ottoman rule, Islam helped to ease tensions between the ethnically distinct populations of Maghrebi Berbers and Arabs. However, French colonial practice aimed to disrupt the relative harmony between these communities. To that end, France encouraged the linguistic and cultural specificity of the Berbers. The French also constructed and reinforced negative images about the Arabs in contrast to their relatively positive portrayal of the Berbers. The regime also passed laws in Algeria and in Morocco aimed at segregating the Berbers from their Arab and Muslim neighbors, just as French policy had done with the Maghrebi Jews. They implemented preferential tax policies for the Kabylians

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


between 1858 and 1918. In 1930, France promulgated the Berber dahir, providing exclusive customary law tribunals for Berbers. Unexpectedly, these laws ignited nationalist fervor in both countries as the Berbers refused to side with the French to marginalize the Arab community. The Berber reaction was driven more by the attachment to Islam than to the Arabs. Interestingly enough, the religious factor that motivated the Jews to side with the French brought the Berbers together with the Arabs. In their quest to isolate Arab Muslims, the French sought to create a francophone elite among the Algerian Berber populations. These elite were to constitute, alongside the Jews, an intermediary force between the Muslim masses and the European settlers. The French also sought to have these ethnic minorities disseminate French culture in the Maghreb, and to legitimize French colonization among the general population. French goals through the process of French education,29 at the expense of traditional and religious schools, failed to achieve their ends. They did not gain the loyalty of Berber francophone elites to colonialism. On the contrary, they schooled the Berbers in the European ideals of freedom and equality, ideals which the educated Maghrebi elites adopted for themselves. French schools contributed to the ideological formation of the nationalist movements in Morocco and Tunisia. The outcome of French education was also to bring Berbers together with Arabs in Algeria to fight against colonization. Therefore, the French attempt to divide the Maghreb along ethnic lines did not produce the expected results. Indeed, the French-educated elite remained negligible in numbers and influence. Even the Berber elite of Kabylia, while protective of its Berber identity, decided to leave aside the debate about pluralism so as not to jeopardize the nationalist movement. Most Berbers believed that their culture and identity would thrive once Algeria attained its independence. The Amazigh Movement became an extension of the nationalist cause. Berbers consciously chose, therefore, to focus on independence rather than on preserving their cultural specificity. The Arab leaders of the nationalist movement did not hesitate to denounce the disuniting effect of Berberism. The Bureau of the Maghreb, created in Cairo, Egypt in 1947, encouraged this strategy. This period saw the Maghrebi nationalist movements turn to a panArab more than a pan-Islamic character. This ideological trend would dominate the newly independent countries. Indeed, the constitutions of the three Maghrebi states refer to Arabic as the national language. The Moroccan Constitution, for example, refers to Arabic as the official language; the Constitution of Tunisia mentions Arabic [as] its language. In Algeria, where the problem of linguistic and cultural identity had been the most divisive, the Constitution reads: “[Arabic] is its national and official [language].”


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6. The Era of Independence With Algerian independence in 1962, the leaders sought to unite the wartorn new nation-state and to consolidate their power over the ethnically diverse population. Integral to their strategy was to impose monolithic Arabic identity as the sole legitimate credential for Algerian national identity. President Ben Bella’s rhetoric expressed the denial of the ethnic and linguistic reality of the Algerian people. The Algerian president's propaganda, such as “We are all Arabs,” “Algeria is Arab, Arab, Arab,” “Without Arabization, we will always lack an essential and vital dimension,” proclaimed the Algerian leadership's goal for imposing Arabization and pan-Arabism in Algeria and across the sovereign nations of the independent Maghreb. The Algerian charte nationale of 1986 demonstrates the negation of Berberism and the Berber reality of the Maghreb. It defines the Algerian citizens as “an Arab and Muslim people,” a contradiction of the ethnic mosaic in Algeria. French and North African observers predicted, in the first years after independence, that Berberism, as an ideology and a political movement, was on its way to extinction. This is particularly striking since Berber resilience was already evident under French colonialism. The Berbers collectively refused to play the role of the fifth column for French imperialists. The proliferation of French schools in Kabylia relative to other regions in Algeria did not produce the intended outcome of Berber elites loyal to the colonial regime. And in the wake of nationalist movements, they demonstrated their allegiance first and foremost as to the nationalist cause as loyal Tunisians, Algerians, and Moroccans. Their ethnicity as Chleuhs, Kabylians or Rifians in no way impeded their desire for a national identity in one of prospective Maghrebi nations. French efforts to create a loyal counter-insurgency in Berber areas, such as the village of Iflissen, turned into a military disaster. In this operation, called “Oiseau Bleu,” the French secret services recruited and armed Kabylians as counter-insurgents. They turned out to be members of the National Liberation Front (FLN). But the rise of Berberism and ethnic identity politics, according to historian William Quandt, is hardly unexpected in response to official government policies. In Algeria, in particular, leaders have aimed to ram through an Arabization policy in education, in preferential hiring practice, in cultural production, and in rituals and practice. The official strategy has galvanized a defensive alliance among Maghrebi Berbers who have come to view themselves as targets of economic, political, and cultural discrimination.30

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


7. Where Does The Maghreb Go From Here? For a while after the independence, the Maghreb seemed to be immune from ethnic conflicts. Even the short-lived insurrection instigated by Hocine Ait Ahmed in Algeria (1963-1964) was not associated with a specifically Berber discourse. Rather, it translated an internal struggle within the power elite. Further, despite President Bella’s provocative statements that echoed the panArab discourse, most Berbers, including Kabylians, continued to work within the official political spectrum. As French continued to be widely used in the administration and academia, they remained the first beneficiaries thanks to their command of the French language inherited from the colonial school system. On the one hand, in Morocco, the monarchy's policy extended the French policy. It favored a scheme of co-opting the influential Berber leaders. This guaranteed traditional forms of social control. State investments in the infrastructures and industry of Berber regions, coupled with a moderate panArab discourse, have insured the loyalty of the population to the monarchy and preserved social stability. The Berber-led military coups, notably the one of 1971, opposed the discriminatory military recruitment and promotion policy. The Berber officers did not have as their agenda the defense of ethnic pluralism. On the other hand, the Arabization of the educational system barely affected Algerian Berbers. They benefited from the large use of French after independence. The emergent Arabic-educated populations marginalized the Berbers in the Arab-dominated educational and bureaucratic institutions. For Michael Brett and Elizabeth Fentress: In Kabylia, however, the generation born just after the war, whose parents had gradually risen to reasonable prosperity and whose education was still largely francophone found themselves in a dangerous position: possibly better-educated than their Arab-speaking cotemporaries, they were unable to compete with them. Nor was it politically possible to lead a popular battle for French: Arabic is the language of Islam, and French remains that of the colonizer.31

As the authors admit, we should not reduce Berberism to a conflict between French and Arabic or privilege and marginality. There is no doubt that what triggered ethnic politics and Berber cultural resistance was basically the symbolically provocative policy of the government: Algerian ban on Berber names, the reduction of Berber radio programs, repression of Berber ethnic festivals and musical groups, etc. As expected, this policy was counterproductive. The party in power in Algeria, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), did not only alienate the Berbers who ultimately resorted to ethnic politics, but they did not succeed in seducing the Arab-speaking masses


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where fundamental Islam has made some strides. In the 1980s, the government’s plan to ban French from schools and universities and impose Arabic and reinforce religious teachings triggered events known as the Berber Spring. Popular protests led to political turmoil and unrest that swept over the Kabylian regions. Severe riots followed the ban on a lecture on Berber poetry to be delivered by the highly respected Kabylian intellectual Mouloud Mammeri at the University of Algiers on March 10, 1980. The regime, in complete denial, accused the rioters of colonialist plot and initiated an even more repressive policy. The spring riots reflected the large scope of Berber grievances. The crackdown on the Berber Spring that resulted in a death toll of between 30 and 50 people radicalized the Berbers, mainly those of Kabylia. Indeed, in 1988, in face of a general unrest, the government had to legalize the banned Berber party of Hocine Ait Ahmed, the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS). Following the same current, the Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD) was created in 1989. These two parties, with an exclusive Berber base, fell short of developing a purely nationalist discourse. Their leaders have shied away from any divisive ideology by trying to deemphasize ethnicity as part of their broader concerns. Hocine Ait Ahmed, in his attempt to distance himself from ethnic politics, wrote that his party based its political choices on the premise that “Berber exists, and is entitled to participate fully in the life of the nation.”32 In other words, Berberism was to be integrated into a broader national movement that called for more democracy and more respect for cultural and linguistic minorities. Indeed, the history of the Algerian liberation movement, in which the Berbers had more than their demographic share,33 the absence of a cultural and political unity between the Maghrebi Berber groups in addition to a broad consensus about the religious identity of the Berbers have restricted Berber demands to defending cultural specificities within an awaited democratic state. According to the Parisian-based Professor of Kabylian descent Salem Chaker: “For a whole set of socio-cultural reasons, it seems clear that no national proposal for democracy in Algeria can seriously be contemplated without significant support from the Kabylians.”34 In the last few years, the Berber movement in Algeria has hardened, following a similar trend by the country with the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Indeed, though constituting a national movement with a broad base, the Islamist movement, Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), has been marginal among Kabylian Berbers who see in this movement a potential danger for the survival of their cultural identity. Algerian society has been highly polarized since the ruling party refused to permit the FIS to take power following the June 1990 election. In this context, the Berbers seem to be caught between a ruling party that has demonstrated its refusal of cultural and political diversity and an

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Islamist party that champions linguistic and cultural uniformity under the banner of Islam and Arabic. Kabylia has emerged in the last few years as a stronghold of resistance to Islamic fundamentalism and to the ruling party. The outburst of violence in this area, such as the riots that followed the death of the Kabylian militant singer Lounes Matoub in 1998 and the violent clashes with the security forces that had been sparked by the death of a Kabylian teenager Massinissa Guermah in police custody,35 translate the radicalization of Berber youths and to a certain extent the disaffection vis-à-vis traditional and official Berber-dominated parties the FFS and the RCD. In their quest to appease the Islamists, the governments, either in Algeria or in Morocco, have tried to reinforce their pan-Arab and pan-Islamic policies most often at the expense of Berbers. Both governments have denied official recognition of Berber culture and identity. However, though less numerous than their Moroccan counterparts, the Algerian Berbers, mainly the Kabylians, have spearheaded the resistance movement to forceful Arabization and political hegemony. So far, there has been no unified Berber movement that would transcend the borders of the three nation-states. For this movement to take place, certain conditions should be met: A well-organized intellectual and urban elite, linguistic unity and a written language. In this regard, Maghrebi Berbers offer an interesting three-dimensional picture. First, some of the Berbers have been co-opted by the regimes and have found interest in joining the power elite. Another part has been marginalized, silenced or left the Maghreb, notably for France. Second, part of the Berbers, who remain basically rural, have moved to urban centers where Arabic is predominant, therefore losing their linguistic environment. Third, Berbers are divided into different subgroups some of whom are already in a process of Arabization (Chaouia, Mzab). As for the question of written language, only recently have Berber languages been transformed from strictly spoken to written form. “Even the attempt to introduce the Tuareg Tifinagh alphabet as a universal Berber means of expression”36 has had limited success. These aspects of the Berber situation constitute a very serious sociological and political impediment to the emergence of a pan-Berber movement that might broker a co-existence between two separate identities, one Berber, the other Arab. However, in the last few years, we have witnessed the emergence of a pan-Berber movement (World Amazigh Congress) at the instigation of the European and American Berber Diaspora.


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8. Conclusion Though the three Maghrebi states share a common ethnic and political history, the post-colonial era shows signs of significant governmental differences. In the 1950s and 60s, the ethnic mosaic altered considerably with the mass emigration of Jewish and Christian populations. Morocco and Tunisia have implemented measures to protect those Jews and Christians who remained. External forces such as pan-Arab and pan-Islamic influences have deepened the rift between Arabs and Berbers in Algeria and, to a lesser degree, in Morocco. In Tunisia, authoritarian measures and ethnic homogeneity have spared that society of political unrest. The ethnic question has been most predominant in Algeria. Official attempts to suppress Berber demands for recognition of their ethnic legitimacy and right to use Imazighen have failed to silence the Kabylians. Rather government policies have fuelled Berber hatred of the Arab authoritarian institutions. At a time of rising ethnic consciousness and separatism around the world, radicalized Berbers have called for a more egalitarian and respectful society in Algeria. However, the recent government decision to tackle linguistic deviance by shutting private schools with predominantly French curricula37 is a sign that the ruling elite is not ready to revise the cultural and educational policy. The likelihood is that this policy will exacerbate ethnic tensions and increase Berber frustration and resentment. The rise of an anti-Arab discourse among the Berbers, their use of French or typically Berber names, the rising number of conversions to Christianity among them,38 the proliferation of anti-Arab websites and blogs, are but signs that the peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Berbers in Algeria is over and that the future will be marked out by more ethnic tensions and uprisings that might jeopardize the unity of the Algerian nation-state. Morocco, though counting an important Berber population, has so far been spared the radicalization of its Berber community. The king’s policy and role, as the “Commander of the believers,” reinforces his stature as the guarantor of popular cohesion and social stability. King Mohamed VI has moved recently toward a less confrontational policy, admitting the necessity for Morocco to preserve Berber culture. Paradoxically, Moroccan aggression against Berber militants, restriction on registering Berber names, lack of support for Tamazight schools, and economic and cultural marginality of Berbers constitute grounds for future unrest and dissension in Moroccan society. As in Algeria, the expansion of Arabization is likely to galvanize ethnic solidarity and radicalization among Moroccan Berbers as well. It is evident that the Berbers have launched their resurgence in the Maghreb and in their emigré communities, deployed their culture as a political

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


instrument. Just when Arab elites in the Maghreb were preparing to relegate Berberism to the dustbin, the Berbers have once again transformed and adapted their expression into highly communicable forms that are disseminating Berberism on a global scale. At risk is the Berber heritage whose language and traditions have provided the foundations of the North African mosaic. But in the renaissance of their music and literature, the Berbers have been producing an impressive force to repudiate the denial of their reality. These expressions of a robust Berber identity through cultural forms are no less political acts than those deployed by the black power or feminist power movements. They demand our recognition of a vibrant living Berberism.

Part II: The Berbers and Transnationalism


September 17, 1993. I grab my camcorder and set off with two young, male college students, who have arranged for me to video the performance of a children’s chorus called Tilelli, a neologism meaning “Freedom.” The chorus was the creation of a newly formed Amazigh cultural association, one of over 1,000 that had sprung up in Algeria’s Kabyle Berber region since 1989, when sweeping changes in the nation’s constitution opened the way for the formation of civic organizations without government authorization. After an hour’s drive over winding mountain roads, we reach the small village of 1600 and are greeted by the chorus director and his cohort of young male cultural militants. I am taken first to the seat of the Association—a room in the village’s former mosque—where I am encouraged to begin filming. I train my camcorder on the walls of the room, pausing first at a large banner with the phrase “Oh our sons, Algeria is our land” (ay arrac-nneȖ, Lzzayer tamurt-nneȖ) hand-lettered in blue in the Tamazight language. I then lower the lens to the floor, where I find an orderly display of cultural objects, each indexed by number: an assortment of clay jugs, several woven baskets, a goatskin bag, iron tools, a leather saddle. Affixed to some of the objects are small white cards bearing their Berber names. As I finish my exploration of this small exhibit, I turn towards the group of men and am startled to find myself part of the picture. Their camcorder has me fixed in its frame. The young men are also filming the event: An American woman has come to view their culture. We are all part of the day’s documentation. All of us are on stage. As they continue to film me, I focus again on the wall, where I find another banner: “He who wants Tamazight must learn to write it” (W’ ibȖan tamaziȖt ad yissin tira-s). I recognize the words, slightly modified, to one of the songs of Idir, a popular singer and founder of the politicized Berber world music genre known as new Kabyle song. Idir was drawing on a slogan previously made popular by Mouloud Mammeri, leading Kabyle scholar and cultural activist.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Later on, the Tilelli chorus would perform a rendition of Idir’s song, which is inspired by a local women’s wedding tune. Moving across white walls outlined in tile, my camera next pauses at a large sheet of paper taped to the wall. It bears a passage, handwritten in French, titled “Of the talents of the Berber race and its noble qualities.” Advancing slowly through the passage, I locate its author at the end: Ibn Khaldun, a fourteenth-century chronicler of North African societies who produced the first known written account of Berber groups (Khaldun 1925). Doubtless unknown to the copyist, who had drawn the quote from a 1972 book titled Algeria in Antiquity, the passage in question had been translated into French in the 1840s under the orders of the French Minister of War, becoming one of the first of thousands of colonial documents on North Africa’s Berber populations. Moving on, I find, through my camcorder’s lens, several newspaper articles affixed to the wall, all written in French: “Jordan and the Bulls Are Favored;” “Magic Johnson—the Reasons I Retired;” “Elsa—plus pastel que destroy.” Grouped with this amalgam of world youth culture is a fourth article titled “Matoub Lounes: I Am Here for the Berber Spring”—a reference to April 1980 demonstrations in which thousands of Kabyles, galvanized by government cancellation of a talk on traditional Berber poetry, turned out en masse in the first significant public outcry against state repression of Berber language and culture in independent Algeria. This cultural association, I later learn, had been formed in April 1989, their anniversary designed to coincide with the Berber Spring, which they and hundreds of other Berber associations throughout North Africa and the diaspora commemorate each year. I see, through my camera’s lens, pictures of these and other commemorative events carefully laid out and labeled in a large photo album: a four-year record of cultural exhibits, villagewide soccer and volleyball tournaments, chorus performances. I am told that the Association lends both its small exhibit and its chorus—pending, for the girls, notarized paternal permission—to regional and national Amazigh cultural festivals. As the time for the scheduled concert approaches, we move outside and walk down to the school where the event is to be held, filming as we go: figs drying in the warm fall sun, new houses under construction, soaring mountain peaks, parked cars. Once again I find myself inscribed into the event, coming face to face with a sign taped up along our path: NOTICE: The Freedom Chorus of the Association will present its repertoire in the school cafeteria on Friday September 17 at 10:30, in honor of the presence of an American woman doing research on new Kabyle song. Come one and all.

As we set up in the cafeteria, the Freedom Chorus of 12 young girls (ages 11-12) and 7 older boys (ages 16-17) take their places on a stage made from


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several long tables pushed together. Accompanied by guitar, frame drum (bendir), and flute players, they begin to sing their own arrangements of the politicized repertoire of popular new Kabyle singers, many of whose songs are sourced in familiar village repertoires. While my camcorder is trained primarily on the chorus—capturing their innovative, if slightly off-key, harmonies of these familiar songs as well as their original Kabyle rendition of Beethoven’s “Jesu, Joy of Men’s Desiring”—it also takes in the audience. Young boys and men make up about four-fifths of the crowd, with young girls and a few older women seated together in the front. An association member continues to video the events. Occasionally, the eyes of our two camcorders cross, each revealing itself through the other’s lens. What stands out about this event is its readiness for travel. The show was set to go, the script in place, from the visit to the cultural exhibit to the concert to a follow-up interview with the chorus director. It all seemed to unfold effortlessly, as if this kind of scenario had been enacted countless times. The events were camera-ready: The textualized, museum-like nature of the exhibit itself as well as the organization and staging of the concert had been prepackaged as if to be captured on film. That the event was conceived for distant audiences was apparent even in its advertising: The show billed itself in terms of its American guest. By 1993, Kabyles knew precisely what it took to achieve visibility on a world stage. If they had carved out a spot on a burgeoning global map of vernacular identities, it was because it had become second-nature for Berbers to represent themselves in terms that would be instantly recognizable beyond Algerian borders. “Culture” was the currency through which such recognition could be attained. The two videotapes being made of this performance reveal more than just a record of the culture on display that September day. Each also contains both a sidelong glance at the other and a trace of itself refracted through the other’s lens. Who was watching whom? What were we each looking at? And why were we each so intent on capturing the other in the process of recording? Was it the show itself that most interested us, or the fact that the show was seen by the other as an event worthy of being documented on film? This scenario opens up the kinds of questions I hope to address in this article. Berber cultural identity has developed through a long history of precise linkages and connections to other peoples, products, and places. Yet as cultural identity is singled out by Berbers as a way to achieve recognition in a global arena, these interconnections tend to be erased from view. Working against this erasure, I foreground the processes, products, and performances that have enabled Berber culture to become globally recognizable. To do so, I work with a theory of branchement proposed by French anthropologist Jean-Loup Amselle (Amselle 2001). Amselle maintains that a sense of unique cultural identity can

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


develop only in conditions of cultural plurality. Branchement, which I translate as “branching interconnections,” is what makes it possible for a group to imagine itself in cultural terms. The term derives its most basic sense from the way electrical current is transmitted. Similar to the branching of lines that occurs along a power grid, branchement describes not a unidirectional flow but a network of exchange. Some lines are regularly traveled, while others may be used intermittently. Some remain permanently connected, while others may cross without meeting. Current may reverse direction, temporarily switch over to other lines, or be disconnected altogether. More recently, the term’s reach has extended to digital media, evoking the decentered, threadlike branching through which the world wide web is organized. From a perspective of branchement, it is the very process of setting themselves in relation to an Other that enables social groups to define themselves in terms of a unique cultural identity. At the same time, seeing themselves in relation to others produces not a mirror image but a refractory effect that also generates a sense of their own cultural difference (cf. Bhabha 1994). My focus will be on how Berber cultural identity became simultaneously visible on a world stage and to Berbers themselves through this refractory process of branchement. I begin from New Kabyle Song (la nouvelle chanson kabyle)–the music the Tilelli chorus performed for me. The importance of new song to Berber identity is hardly news–reporters, academics, cultural activists, and ordinary listeners alike have long noted that the emergence of la nouvelle chanson in the early 1970s constituted a turning point in the development of a new Berber consciousness. Why, then, might it be useful to revisit new song more than 30 years after it was created? I suggest that New Song set in motion an entirely new way of configuring lines of interconnection that has not yet been fully understood. Most accounts tend to foreground a channel of connection that runs between new song and the nation state. That is, new song is typically characterized as a counter-discourse that arose in opposition to Algeria’s AraboIslamic ideology. While new song certainly constitutes an important response to Algerian cultural politics, framing it solely as counter-discourse obscures other lines of connection that would enable us to understand the development of Berber identity in more globalizing terms. By situating new song at the nexus of a wider set of branching interconnections, I seek to move beyond an approach to North African history that narrates the relationship between Arabs and Berbers solely in terms of a dichotomy that has been widening since precolonial times. Instead, I argue that Berber or Amazigh cultural identity has formed at the intersection of a range of ideas and ideologies, circuits and technologies, products and practices whose scope far exceeds the nation-state. Among the interconnections that I explore are ethnographic projects, Pan African rediscoveries of tradition, postcolonial theory, national festivals, and an


Chapter Three

emerging world market for the musics of other places, including the recording technologies that made that market possible. I propose that as new song brought Berber culture to a world stage, it simultaneously helped to generate a globalizing sense of identity among Berbers themselves that produced renewed attention to their own local traditions. Locality and globality, then, are not separate or polarized fields but are constituted together, each refracting into the other. One caveat: In saying that Berber identity formed through branching interconnections with other peoples, products, and places, my argument is entirely distinct from the position of the Algerian or Moroccan states, which long viewed the Berber identity project as a neocolonialist plot motivated exclusively from without (in particular, from France). The state’s position is rooted in an untenable Jacobin belief that nations come pre-packaged with a single language, religion, and culture that formed in isolation from the rest of the world. Arabo-Islamic identity could be similarly understood as emerging through branching encounters with extralocal forces, although the particulars would of course differ.

1. A vava inouva I begin with what is widely understood as the first New Song–Idir’s A vava inouva. While this was not the first Berber song set to acoustic guitars and occidental harmonies, it is the song that is most frequently evoked as an important turning point in the revalorization of Berber cultural heritage. It provided what Greg Urban (2001) has called “accelerative force:” that is, it configured a new set of branching interconnections in a way that would prove explosive. A vava inouva was composed by a young, unknown musician who called himself Idir (“to live”) from a text penned by poet Ben Mohamed. The song is built around the sung refrain of a story told by old women throughout Algeria’s Kabyle Berber region. Idir’s song depicts a grandmother seated at the hearth, spinning tales far into the night as the snow falls outside. Idir harmonized the story’s familiar refrain on an acoustic guitar, using a chord style associated with popular western folk stars such as Joan Baez or Bob Dylan. When it was released in 1973, the song literally stopped Algerians in their tracks. A friend from the capital city of Algiers reported seeing people walk backwards down a department store escalator to hear it playing over the ground-floor speakers. A vava inouva was the first Algerian song to be played on French national radio, and it made the news in such prestigious publications as Le Monde. The song reached me in the United States in the early 1980s–well before I imagined that I would one day visit the village where the song was born–when an Argentine

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


friend living in Paris sent me a cassette of some of the most popular tunes on the Parisian airwaves. More than twenty years after its release, the opening notes could still produce a roar. When I heard Idir play at the Zénith Hall in Paris in November 1996, he turned this song over to the immigrant crowd, strumming his trademark accompaniment as 7,500 spectators sang the refrain by heart. As I sat talking with the songwriter Ben Mohamed in his living room in Paris in 1992, I asked him how he had the idea to use a village women’s story as the basis for a new kind of song. In response, he pulled out a tape that a friend had recorded for him over two decades earlier. On the tape was the soft voice of the grandmother of one of his friends. She was singing a variety of wedding songs, adekker or religious chants, and lullabies. She had recorded the tape specially for Ben, who was well-known throughout Kabylia at that time as a popular radio host on the Kabyle radio station (Chaîne II). Without this tape, many of Idir’s most popular songs may never have been composed. Ben’s tape raised several questions for me. I was interested in how Ben had transformed the women’s songs to enable them to reach a world stage: what had he kept, what had he changed, and why? But a more basic question kept nagging at me: Why would it have occurred to Ben to tape-record an old woman singing and then use her songs to inspire his own? This was not exactly standard practice in the late 1960s. Where could such an idea have come from? While the question seems straightforward, Ben’s response pointed to a line of connection I would never have considered: ethnographic film.

2. Ethnographic Film Somewhere around 1970, the French ethnographer Jean Duvignaud gave a talk at the French Cultural Center in Algiers about a film that he had just made in Tunisia. Ben Mohamed happened to be in attendance, and was transfixed by what he heard. Duvignaud described the six-year research project he undertook in the Tunisian oasis village of Shebika. This village had seemingly been bypassed by modernity: the roofs of houses were collapsing, even the gravestones in the cemetery were crumbling. Most Shebikans had but one desire: to leave the village. But as the filmmakers arrived with their sophisticated equipment and began to ask Shebikans about their traditions, something shifted. Through the lens of the ethnographer, Shebikans started to see value in their traditional artifacts and practices. As Duvignaud put it: “Hitherto disdained objects, devalued acts and half-forgotten beliefs regained a sort of vitality from the very fact that a researcher recorded them in his notebook... Through the repeated scrutiny to which we [the ethnographers] subjected him, the man of Shebika developed a new perspective of himself.” (1970[1968]: 296-298). Seeing their culture through film had political impact


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for the Shebikans: as they came to identify and valorize their traditions, they became increasingly dissatisfied with the state’s neglect of their village. When the Tunisian government announced plans to build an administrative center in the region, the villagers staged a quarry strike, refusing to mine until the government also agreed to repair their homes.1 Duvignaud attributed this collective action to the new consciousness villagers developed by participating in the research project. As he put it, “the attitudes aroused by repeated questioning [by the ethnographers] led the village to the extreme political limit of self-affirmation” (1970:297-8). As Ben listened to this talk, he was transfixed: How could he write a song that would work for Berbers the way Duvignaud’s film did for Shebikans? Could a song provide a basis for cultural and political mobilization?

3. The Pan African Festival and Postcolonial Identities Ben Mohamed was not alone in the effort to develop a cultural way of seeing that could simultaneously provide a basis for political mobilization. A second site of interconnection that Ben’s remarks pointed me to was postcolonial cultural festivals. A year before Duvignaud’s talk, both Ben and Idir had attended the First Pan African Cultural Festival (Premier Festival Culturel PanAfricain), held in Algiers in 1969. The Pan African Festival was a continentwide effort to develop new modes of self-representation that would be free of the lingering traces of the colonial gaze. In Festival organizers’ words: “Culture, [once] an arm of domination, is now a weapon of liberation” (SNED 1969:99; RDA 1970: 41). The Festival would profoundly mark Ben Mohamed. “It was there,” he told me during a 1996 interview, “that I began to grasp what it meant to belong to a culture.” Immersed in African cinema and theater, Ben did not have time to attend the dozens of talks on postcolonial theory and cultural identity that were simultaneously taking place. But these texts were subsequently published (SNED 1969), and Ben devoured them, connecting his own experience to writings by Joseph Ki-Zerbo (1969), Albert Memmi (1969), Amilcar Alencastre (1969) and René Depestre (1969). Ben found Nigerian writer Ki-Zerbo’s remarks especially provocative: Ki-Zerbo was interested in not simply celebrating the past but reconstituting local traditions through forms of mass communication, so as to “return to the African people a reinvigorated and dynamic image of their own culture” (Ki-Zerbo 1969:344). What might it mean, Ben asked himself, to create a relationship to “traditional culture” that saw it not as an objectified or static entity but as a source from which to create (as Ben put it) “cultural responses adequate to [the people’s] constantly changing situation” (N.A. 1976:38).2

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


While Ben was engaging with theorists of postcoloniality, Hamid Cheriet–a young Kabyle geology student who would soon become better known by the stage name Idir–was crisscrossing the Algerian hinterlands in search of not stones, but songs. Idir, too, was powerfully moved by the Pan African Festival. When I spoke with him in 1996, he told me: “I saw other human dimensions. I saw sweaty, satiny, black skin, tremendous expressive power in the music. … I asked myself, what is this great power that has swept down on us, this great nation that has arrived with such unbelievably rich folklore?”3 Idir was most struck by the “verticality” (as he put it) of the harmonies and rhythms, which contrasted with the more linear or horizontal melodic style of most Algerian music he knew: “I said to myself, but we too, we must have this dimension somewhere, hidden, we just need to draw it out.” So it was that school vacations found Idir immersed in traditional music and poetry, learning new instruments and percussion styles, discovering the rhythms of his own nation: “the spaces, the sounds … that make us vibrate, through which we can forge a personality.” At the same time, Idir was listening to the music of the Beatles, Cat Stevens, and Simon and Garfunkel, and he got a French teaching assistant at the university to show him how to play chords on his guitar. Soon after, he began harmonizing Kabyle melodies that he had heard since childhood. Although the Pan African Festival helped Ben and Idir to develop a newly reflexive vantage point on Kabyle cultural practices, it also accentuated their sense of marginality within the Algerian nation. Both of them experienced a contradiction between the revolutionary spirit that was sweeping Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the Third World and Algeria’s cultural politics. As Idir put it: “I felt I was living a paradox. Excited to be part of a revolutionary generation, we felt a kinship with Che Guevara and embraced slogans about the people’s legitimate rights to take their destiny into their own hands and freely express themselves. We lived in this Algeria that had succeeded in its revolution and was said to be the beacon of the Third World. But at the same time I felt a contradiction: How could a system that advocated freedom repress my maternal language, my Berber identity, lumping us all together into a single AraboIslamic mold?” (Ouazani and Hamdi 1992:31-2).

4. Algeria’s Cultural Politics The third site of interconnection I consider is Algeria’s cultural and linguistic politics. The Berber language was marginalized and suppressed by the Algerian government, beginning with the Constitution, which is inspired by the famous slogan introduced in the 1930s by Sheikh Ben Badis: “Islam in my religion, Arabic is my language, Algeria is my fatherland.” Arabic was seen as the sole language that could serve the state’s twin goals of developing a culture


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that was both modern and authentic. Berber was wrongly viewed as a backward mountain “dialect” that was incapable of serving the needs of a modernizing nation. The government did allow one small window through which Berber culture would be tolerated: as folklore. Like many newly independent states, Algeria pointed to its rich folk heritage as evidence that colonialism had not destroyed the nation’s soul. Folk traditions were not simply to be preserved in static form, however. Instead, they were to be modernized so that they could constitute the basis of a revolutionary national culture. This was made explicit at the state’s first national colloquium on Algerian music, sponsored by the FLN in 1964. This colloquium featured four Algerian musical traditions: Bedouin, Andalusian, Shaabi, and Kabyle (as well as Modern music). The goal was to consider how to “reappropriate the national [musical] heritage, prune the dead branches, extract the waste, purify it, and, finally, imprint it with dynamic movement” (FLN 1964:19). In the discussion of Kabyle music, colloquium participants even went so far as to call for teams of researchers to go “into the households, since music, the tunes, the words, are held by Kabyle women” (FLN 1964:68)–it was women who had “carried the flame of the music and … perpetuate[d] its existence” (FLN 1964:65). Now, this seems to articulate closely with what Ben and Idir hoped to accomplish: Didn’t Ben and Idir go into the households to find traditional songs? Didn’t they draw on Kabyle village music to develop a modernizing vision? Didn’t Avava inouva take a folktale, surround it with new verses and harmonies, and disseminate it via the mass media? Ben and Idir clearly shared elements of the state’s rhetoric of blending authenticity and modernity. Why, then, was their project so different? Consider first the state’s cultural politics. The call to develop a national Algerian music that would be both authentic and modern resulted in a panoply of state-run cultural festivals. These festivals became important sites in which links between authenticity and modernity were ideologically forged. Authenticity and modernity (or related terms) were frequent festival themes around the time of A vava inouva’s release. But Berber culture was ambivalently positioned with regards to the festival politics of authenticity and modernity. On the one hand, Kabylia was known for its rich folklore. Algeria’s most celebrated national folklore festival was hosted annually by the Kabyle city Tizi-Ouzou. Berber traditions that were understood to be “passed down through the ages” were unproblematic. Yet if authenticity could come from the Kabyles, modernity was bestowed only by the state. In an especially crass illustration of this polarization, at the 1978 Folklore Festival in Tizi-Ouzou, a Kabyle group staged a typical olive-picking ritual while a group from Mostaganem sang and danced about the agricultural revolution (Blidi 1978). The message is clear: Kabyles may have had colorful agricultural traditions, but they could not be

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


modern without the state’s intervention. Moreover, the state’s rhetoric notwithstanding, in practice, festivals often did more to fix culture into an ossified and immutable form than they did to open it out into modernity. For instance, a cartoon by the satirist Slim in the weekly Algérie Actualité depicts what looks like a hapless state employee reading this proclamation (Slim 1981): Notice: The inhabitants of Oued-Hallouf are notified that throughout the town, between March 9 and March 13, there will be culture. After this date, any individual found possessing culture will be required to return it to the proper authorities.

When Idir and Ben Mohamed were coming of age in Algiers, authenticity and modernity were in the air even as Berber practices were increasingly being turned into folkloric relics of a precolonial past. Idir and Ben selectively engaged the state’s own discourse, but they turned it to different ends. They sought to appropriate folk traditions to develop a forward-looking, contemporary vision of Berber identity. Between 1970 and 1972, Idir embarked on his own journey into the Algerian hinterlands. Traveling from his village in Kabylia to the Aures mountains, from Constantine to Oran, he collected songs and learned local rhythms, instruments, and musical styles. After one of these journeys, he composed the melody of A vava inouva, building it around the sung refrain of the story told by old women throughout Kabylia. He asked Ben Mohamed to write new verses.

5. The Story, Made New With these interconnections in mind–ethnographic film, Pan African discourses, postcolonial theory, and Algeria’s cultural politics–I return to A vava inouva. How did the song refract a women’s story through a new lens that would allow Berbers to experience their culture as simultaneously authentic and modern? I suggest that by inserting a fragment of a women’s story into a contemporary song about the story-telling process, Ben and Idir created a kind of bifocal vision: the distance achieved by the new artistic medium paradoxically brought Berber culture closer. Consider first the refrain. The texts of the story-refrain and Idir’s refrain are nearly identical. The music is similar: Idir’s refrain loosely follows the melodic and rhythmic contours of the older story-refrain. The refrain uses grammatical forms (direct address, first person, and imperative) that would ordinarily draw a listener’s attention to the predicament of the speakers–the father and his daughter Ghriba. In the context of the story, they are trying to fool a monster through their secret code of jingling bracelets. Yet in the context of the surrounding verses, the father and daughter are made inert. The refrain becomes what Benjamin Lee calls a


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“narrated event” that is drawn into a second “event of narration” (Lee 1997, cf. Silverstein 1993). It is the second event that governs the way the refrain is interpreted. The verses make it clear that story-telling is being evoked as cultural memory. The situationally specific meaning or moral typically associated with the particular story of the monster is erased. This is accomplished through a distinct way of linking time and space that the literary scholar Bakhtin calls an idyllic chronotope. In an idyllic chronotope, time and space are understood as cyclical, as endlessly repeating. Human life is mapped onto the life of nature; labor is unmechanized, and life activities are intertwined with agricultural cycles. The unity of place–the family hearth–also blurs temporal and generational boundaries. (Bakhtin 1981:224ff). The verses of A vava inouva develop around such an idyllic chronotope. They describe not unique historical individuals but a set of complementary gender and generational roles that succeed each other through the ages. In verse 1, the old-style Kabyle Berber house–evoked by the word tasga [the interior wall, where the loom would be mounted]–provides a unity of place within which the generations come together, cut off by the snow from the surrounding world. In verse 2, metaphorical evocations of the seasons further reinforce the sense of cyclicality: a screen for drying figs in the fall (idenyen, plural of adni) is replaced by a log of holly oak (aqejmur n tesaft), used to build hot fires in the winter. The habitual present tense, which characterizes the verses, fixes the actors in place: they endlessly repeat the gendered and generational roles to which they are assigned. The refrain resonates into these idyllic images. It loses its performative meaning within the particular story of the monster as it comes to stand for the cultural process of story-telling. Avava inouva also refracts an image of traditional Berber culture through the two subject positions around which the song is organized: a self-conscious consumer of cultural heritage who describes or narrates the scene from the outside surrounds an embedded consciousness, that of the old woman storyteller, who is possessed by culture, endlessly repeating traditional lore. Although her words are brought forward, she is not. In A vava inouva, a new kind of cultural actor looks at Berber society from a novel vantage point: that of simultaneously standing within and outside, looking in and looking back–much like the way we might see the woman fixed in place on this postcard, whose image is now available for consumption as cultural heritage. This vantage point is constructed in relation to an external market. For the new song draws its performative power not from the embedded genre of women’s tales but from the new performance and dissemination context (Briggs and Bauman 1992:159). In other words, when listeners hear the song, they are not suspended in the story, raptly attentive to the grandmother’s words. Rather, they are simultaneously looking back at the process of story telling and across at the other listeners, who

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


are not the family members sitting around the grandmother but all of Kabylia, Algeria and the international community–especially France, the former colonial power.

6. Circulation So far, I have considered branching interconnections primarily in relation to the text of A vava inouva. But the sense of newness that the song conveyed came not only from the song text but also from the medium in which the song was produced, the pathways across which it traveled, and the technologies that made such travel possible (cf. Feld 1996). Perhaps more than anything else, the new song’s music generated a space in which traditional cultural practices such as storytelling could be seen from a novel perspective. By setting a Berber melody to acoustic guitars and folk-rock harmonies, the song opened a wide interpretive space within which the traditional story could be reinterpreted as a representation of Berber culture. The music itself and the circuits through which the song moved helped to produce Berber traditions as a new object of desire. A vava inouva was initially recorded as a 45 with the local firm Oasis.4 The song reached the French producer Chappell, which negotiated with Idir to produce an album and with Pathé-Marconi, a subsidiary of the multinational recording industry giant EMI, to distribute it. When the album A vava inouva reached the European market in 1976, it joined a stream of similar musical products that were beginning to appear in the early to mid-1970s. Hundreds of local bands from Chile to Sweden, from Wales to Tanzania, were beginning to articulate concerns with identity and authenticity, singing in their own languages and blending indigenous melodies and instruments with western-inspired harmonies and acoustic guitars (Wallis and Malm 1984). Western artists, too, were beginning to incorporate the musics of “elsewhere.” Simon and Garfunkel, for instance, had recorded the Andean-inspired El Condor Pasa in 1970 (Wallis and Malm 1984:40). The emerging market for what would come to be called world music no doubt provided a niche for A vava inouva once it reached the French airwaves. A vava inouva’s success in France richocheted back to Algeria. As the first Algerian song to resonate in Europe outside the North African diaspora community, A vava inouva produced a sense of pride among Algerians, and particularly among the Kabyle population. As the reporter Abdelkrim Djaad noted, writing in 1979 for Algérie Actualité: “For the first time in its history, Algerian song had earned a place in the so-called advanced countries, where third-world cultures had been viewed as sub-cultures” (Djaad 1979:22-23). A vava inouva’s international acclaim helped to counter the Algerian state’s rhetoric about Berber culture as being backward or outside modernity. One


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Kabyle friend of mine, a high school student in Algiers in the late 1970s, told me about the local impact of Idir’s first appearance on Algerian national television, which occurred only after he had released two hit albums in France. “You should see the Kabyle singers they usually showed,” she said. “They were all old men singing some awful religious thing, their false teeth rising and falling every time they opened their mouths.” The next day in school, her Arabophone classmates would tease her: “Is that the best you Berbers can do?” But when Idir appeared, it was a different story. She knew the event would be momentous when, for the first time ever, her father called the whole family together around the television. If A vava inouva initially sought to represent Berber cultural traditions, the song itself soon became an emblem of Berber identity, a sign of the rich heritage, legitimacy, and modernity of Berber culture.

7. Conclusion A vava inouva brought into a new alignment ethnographic, national, and postcolonial discourses of authenticity and modernity. It tapped into emerging markets for what is now called “world music.” It was both imagined through and enabled by new mediated technologies, from ethnographic film to cassettes. By bringing together these various ideologies, discourses, and technologies, the song produced an entirely new configuration of branching interconnections in a way that would prove explosive. And, of course, each one of these connections is not static but is similarly linked to a number of other sites. The song carved out a new location from which Berbers could develop a self-reflexive vantage point on their culture by seeing it refracted through other lenses—much like the videographer who recorded me filming a concert of new Kabyle song. Interconnection itself has helped to generate a sense of unique Berber identity. Globality, in other words, is what generates a sense of locality. While I have focused on A vava inouva, one could look at many other products and events through a model of branching interconnections. Seen through this kind of lens, the cultural exhibit and concert with which I began link up to museum display practices, school choruses, sporting events, and even scrap-booking; they draw together documents from colonial writings to clippings about Matoub, Magic Johnson and Elsa. From this angle, Berber identity is clearly a global product constituted through interconnections that extend far beyond North Africa. But how does this model allow for a rethinking of the position of minority identities in North Africa? Does it risk dissolving any notion of identity into a kind of pastiche? I offer two responses. First, branching interconnections are not all equal. Some lines are regularly traveled, over and over, giving them a greater historical

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


weight and thus greater political force. Lines between Algerian cultural politics and new song are much thicker and run far deeper than those going out to, say, Cat Stevens. A model of branching interconnections lets us pay attention to the specific processes, practices and products through which particular lines come to stand out. To have any hope of political survival, Berbers have had no choice but to situate themselves along these lines–that is, to situate themselves through the nationalist identity requirements already laid down by the state. Another way to challenge nationalist discourse, however, is to completely upset its terms. Ultimately, a model of cultural identity as understood through branching interconnections can pose substantial challenges to the nationalist narrative that seeks to impose a single origin, language, and culture on a heterogenous and polyglot population. It enables us to take account of both the historical connections and the disjunctions between different groups. It frees us from the polarizing dichotomies that confer legitimacy on one at the expense of another. By approaching North African culture through a globalizing model of branching interconnections, Berbers and other minority populations can set the terms for a new dialogue.


In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the ensuing global “war on terror,” a rhetoric of a “clash of civilizations” has achieved a taken-for-granted analytical salience. While the most evident aspect of the war on terror has involved U.S. and allied military attacks on Middle Eastern states portrayed as “fundamentalist” or “terrorist” regimes, a less visible but more pervasive element has concerned the policing of political Islam in both majority Christian and Muslim countries. In France and its former colonies in North Africa, such policing has taken the form of discursive and legal struggles over the contours of laïcité, over the legitimacy of the public expression of Muslim belief and belonging. French fears that its “republic of citizens” is threatened by headscarved Muslim girls in public schools find themselves echoed in clashes of words and bodies involving Islamist and secularist movements in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, with the future of the post-colonial states at stake. Perhaps the most outspoken group of Muslims in France and North Africa who have adopted a strongly pro-laïcité discourse have been Berber (or “Amazigh”) activists, who have transnationally advocated the cultural and linguistic expression of Tamazight in the face of what they decry as “AraboMuslim imperialism.” While often practicing Muslims themselves, these activists have rejected Islam as their primary mode of identification; have defended Muslim heteropraxy; have made concerted efforts to recover their ante-Islamic, Judeo-Christian heritage; and have even espoused reconciliation, if not symbolic identification, with Israel. Since the 1980s they have publicly advocated for government support of Berber culture in North Africa and the “diaspora,” arguing that Amazighité can serve as a bulwark against the perceived rise of Islamic fundamentalism across the western Mediterranean (cf. Maddy-Weitzman 2001; Silverstein 2003). In recent years, these states have increasingly incorporated the mainstream Amazigh Movement into its battle

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


against the Islamist opposition and its larger attempts to ensure the unity and reproduction of their national citizenry. In the wake of Amazigh support for the 2003 ban on signs that “ostensibly manifest” students' religious belonging, France gave unprecedented support for Berber cultural associations, adding Berber language (Tamazight) as a second language option to the national baccalauréat examination. The Moroccan state went even further, establishing a Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) to introduce Tamazight into the national media and education system (Silverstein and Crawford 2004). This paper traces the genealogy of Amazigh discourse on Islam to a set of colonial myths that posited an inverse relationship between the Islamic piety of different indigenous populations of North Africa and their potential for cultural assimilation. It further explores the ways such mythic representations have endured in the statements and practices of Amazigh militants in post-colonial France and North Africa, and the way such discourse has taken increasingly radical forms in light of the current civil war in Algeria and the ongoing marginalization of Berberophone populations throughout North Africa. In emphasizing the role played by Amazigh militants in the current struggle over laïcité, the paper argues that contemporary debates concerning Islamic modernity need to be approached in their larger transnational context through which Europe and North Africa have been and continue to be reciprocally tied across the Mediterranean.

1. Colonial Myths As has been variously studied, the colonization of North Africa and beyond was justified by a self-aggrandizing myth–the mission civilisatrice–through which French officials narrated their violent conquest and settlement of overseas territories as part of a larger moral duty to elevate indigenous populations encountered to the status of civility.1 On the one hand, this narrative underwrote the progressive incorporation of the colonies and their inhabitants into the administrative and legal standards of the metropole. On the other hand, it spurred the production of vast ethnographic knowledge about such native peoples whose eventual assimilation was already foreseen. Following the conquest of Algiers in 1830, French military ethnologists and linguists published hundreds of ethnological and linguistic studies that effectively outlined an ethno-racial boundary between Arabophone and Berberophone populations in North Africa, groups whose cultural assimilability was deemed to differ according to their respective practice of Islam.


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Arabo-Islamic Despotism In general, military scholars–following the lead of earlier arguments proposed by such luminaries as Alexis de Tocqueville–repeatedly reified Arab society as principally and primarily Islamic, and perceived an incompatibility of Islamic civilization with French (Christian-secular) modernity. Such a concern belied fears of Islam as a unifying political force during nineteenth-century anticolonial revolts, a fear that was re-energized during the twentieth century by Arab nationalist movements in Tunisia and Egypt that would eventually give birth to the fight for Algerian independence (Lucas and Vatin 1975: 34). In colonial discourse, Islam served as the prime trope for explaining two opposed characteristics of the observed Arab personality: on the one hand, its bellicose, hostile nature, attributable to religious fanaticism; and, on the other hand, its inveterate laziness, resulting from reverent fatalism. In the first place, French observers argued that the Arab’s absolutism placed him in a “permanent state of war with the infidel, a duty of eternal war which cannot be suspended” (Servier 1923: 345-346). “Holy war is the aim of all the wishes, all the efforts of the Arab” (Anon. 1873: 49). Islam served as the main explanatory factor for the horrors of war (beheadings, tortures, mutilations) witnessed by the French expeditionary forces during their conquest of Algeria, horrors attributable to the “vindictive and cruel character” of Arabs “who know no other law than that of the strongest” (Hamelin 1833: 7). Studies conducted by military ethnographers paid particular attention to those Algerian religious organizations, like the marabouts and Sufi brotherhoods (khouan), which wielded mystical authority and were capable of organizing believers into potential violence (cf. De Neveu 1846; Rinn 1884). In the second place, scholars focused on a contradictory aspect of Islam — fatalism, the absolute reliance on Allah to determine one's future. They viewed it as the root cause of a long series of vices: “...laziness, dissimulation, dishonesty, suspicion, unpredictability, love of voluptuousness, luxury and feasting...” (Van Vollenhoven 1903: 169), decrying the Muslim Arab as a professional “sun-drinker” (buveur de soleil) (Docteur X: 1891: 55). This reverent laziness was understood to reciprocally weaken the Muslim's intellect, impeding all social progress towards modernity. Intellectually, the Muslim is... a paralytic. His brain, subjugated for centuries to the stark discipline of Islam, is closed to everything not predicted, pronounced, specified by religious law. He is therefore systematically hostile to any novelty, to any modification, to any innovation... Such a conception [of fatalism] prohibits all progress, and, in fact, immobility is the essential character of any Muslim society.” (Servier 1923: 346-347).

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Moreover, French administrators perceived this essential religiosity of Arabs, their “unique creation” (Bertrand 1923: x), as an inherent stumbling block to their administrative or legal assimilation into the French nation. “In the Mahometian civilization, religion and law are too intimately confused for the juridical condition of Muslims to be identical to that of Frenchmen or Europeans” (Larcher 1903: 16). Such an assumption led to the effective suspension of laïcité in Algeria, in spite of the fact that the colony was officially a département d'outre-mer, and hence should normally have been subject to the same legal and constitutional regime as the metropole. The Imperial Act of July 14, 1865, and later the 1870 Crémieux Decree, denied Muslim Algerians (and not Jewish Algerians) French citizenship unless they renounced their religious “personal status.” When in 1891 the Third Republic considered eliminating this last impediment and naturalizing all Algerians, a violent debate broke out within the Parliament. One Senator, M. Sabatier, addressing the Senate on June 27, 1891, opposed the reform on the grounds that it would implicitly condone “Coranic” civil and familial practices, from feudal land tenure to polygamy, which “escape French laws, not to mention French morality” (cited in Borgé and Viasnoff 1995: 18). The consideration of religion in the granting of citizenship was only eliminated after World War II, on the eve of Algerian independence. What was at issue was not the individual's right of accession to French citizenship, but rather the feared legitimation of a religious body that through its supposed fanaticism and fatalism would respectively undermine French state security and Christian morality. Beyond a “constant system of surveillance,” the best way to reduce the authority of religious leaders who “exploit the ignorance of the people” was through the instruction of Muslim children in French language and ideas. “Instruction destroys prejudices, prevents the unreflected adoption of others' ideas... it will eliminate the multitude of absurd beliefs which the Arab people accept because they do not have the means to dispute them” (De Neveu 1846: 13). Educators were effectively considered the foot-soldiers of the colonial mission civilisatrice. Given this history of representations, it is little wonder that the school remains the primary site in post-colonial France where struggles over laïcité–the mission intégratrice–are being fought.

The Kabyle Exception While Muslim Berberophone populations in colonial North Africa–and in particular Algerian Kabyles–were subjected to the same juridical canon that maintained their second-class status, they nonetheless were considered by French colonial officials to be more potentially assimilable into French modernity. Less fanatically attached to Islam, Kabyles were argued to “have accepted the Koran but they have not embraced it” (Daumas and Fabar 1847 (I):


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77). From their worship of saints and reliance on marabouts, to their inconsistencies in observing daily prayers, Ramadan fasts, and prohibitions on alcohol and pork, “the Kabyle people are far from the religious ideas of the Arab people” (Daumas and Fabar 1847 (II): 55). Moreover, their lack of religiosity was symbolized by the treatment of women. “Their religious notions are rather obtuse. Their women do not veil themselves at all” (Hamelin 1833: 15). According to what was later denoted as the “Kabyle Myth,” scholars argued the Kabyles held their women in high respect; Kabyle women were masters of the household and “have a greater liberty than Arab women; they count more in society” (Daumas and Fabar 1847 (I): 40); that Berber society was at its base matriarchal. The divorced or repudiated woman, instead of being made a slave in her father's house, enjoys all of her liberties (Daumas and Fabar 1847 (I): 34; Pomel 1871: 56-57). Moreover, the Kabyles, colonial scholars emphasized, did not practice the polygamy that their religion allowed them, “contenting themselves generally to a single wife” (Garrot 1910: 1047). In the end, then, the Kabyles seemed to approach French Christian morals in their practices, proving that their “Islamization” had always been superstructural. Beneath the Muslim peel, one finds a Christian seed. We recognize now that the Kabyle people, partly autochthonous, partly German in origin, previously entirely Christian, did not completely transform itself with its new religion.... [The Kabyle] re-dressed himself in a burnous, but he kept underneath his anterior social form, and it is not only with his facial tattoos that he displays before us, unbeknownst to him, the symbol of the Cross (Daumas and Fabar 1847: 77).

As with their incipient laïcité, the Kabyle's political structure, not determined by Islamic absolutism, belied a proximity to French qualities of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Colonial scholars characterized the Berbers as honorable warriors, fiercely defending their mountain refuges against all invaders (Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, French). Whereas the Arab accepted the tutelage of Islamic caliphs, the “fiercely independent” Berber, according to the reports, abhorred the very idea of central authority and was prepared to defend his absolute liberty to the death (Guernier 1950: 171-172). Their natural “anarchy” was seen to represent an underlying democracy, symbolized by the village council (or Tajma’t) and its elected officials. “In this republic, the dominating spirit is that of republican equality” (Guernier 1950: 172; cf. Masqueray 1886; Rambaud 1895). Rather than assimilating the shari'a into civil life, the assembly rendered judgment on the basis of customary law (qanun) (cf. Hannoteau and Letourneux 1871; Pomel 1871). These laws not only regulated individual contracts and feuds, but also determined the bases for social

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


solidarity, defining the individual's duties to the community in terms of collective labor (tiwizi) and taxes. As such, according to Auguste Pomel, [The Kabyle's] political and social constitution is equally well different from that of the Arab people, and it must have been vigorously anchored in the mores and needs of the race for it to resist against the dissolving action of Islamism whose political regime presents an absolute contrast. In effect, instead of a despotic patriarchy which annihilates individual liberty, we find a democratic organization which is its antipode (1871: 56).

In the end, Kabylia represented for these scholars a “savage Switzerland” composed of federations of independent tribes/cantons (Daumas and Fabar 1847 (I): 419). As such, the Kabyles were constituted as the natural ally of the French colonizers, and were hence singled out as the privileged targets of the mission civilisatrice. “If the utopia of assimilation is realizable between the European and the native... it is therefore the Kabyle race which will be solely capable of it” (Pomel 1871: 60). With Islam constituting for the Kabyles but a “superficial varnish, a simple stamp… a feeble imprint” (Anon. 1924: 216), their transformation into colonial subjects would be comparatively unencumbered.

2. Anti-Islamism Berberophone populations obviously never became the colonial toadies that French military scholars imagined and later Arab nationalists accused them of being. Berber speakers were at the forefront of anti-colonial resistance both in mid-nineteenth century Kabylia and in southeastern Morocco during the socalled “wars of pacification” of the 1920s and 1930s. Kabylia was likewise the center of the nationalist movement and was the hardest hit by the French war effort, famously suffering from the latter's “scorched earth policy.” In general, Kabyle revolutionary leaders advocated for an Algérie algérienne, a multiethnic and secular nation-state; however, they were subsequently marginalized (if not exiled or assassinated) from a nationalist movement that came to be monopolized by the National Liberation Front (FLN) party with an ideology of Arab nationalism and Islamic unity. The Algiers Charter, adopted after independence as Algeria's de facto constitution, declared Algeria to be an “Arabo-Muslim country” and decried regionalist identities as “feudal survivals” and “obstacles to national integration.” In response, the Kabyle war hero Hocine Aït Ahmed founded the first rival political party, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), in September 1963 and subsequently led a ten-month guerrilla insurrection throughout Kabylia against the Algerian national army and what he decried as the “ethnic fascism” of president Ahmed Ben Bella (Chaker 1990).


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French Amazighité With the growing hegemony of the FLN in Algeria, the locus of Kabyle struggle shifted to France. In Algeria, Ben Bella and later President Houari Boumédienne suppressed Berber cultural expression and pursued a project of Arabization of the Algerian media and education system, specifically locating a disproportionate number of Islamic institutes in Berberophone areas. In France, to the contrary, a number of Kabyle immigrants and exiles actively voiced their support for Berber language and culture.2 Calling themselves Imazighen (literally “free men”), they founded cultural associations in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Roubaix to promote Berber culture to generations born in France. In particular, they sought to standardize and disseminate Tamazight as a language to be written either in Latin characters or in a revitalized ancient Libyan alphabet (Tifinagh), though explicitly not in the sacred Arabic script of the Qu'ran. These efforts at cultural promotion dovetailed with the larger Beur Movement of the early-1980s. In a set of experiments in multiculturalism, second-generation French-Maghrebis (les Beurs) sought to define their hybrid cultural belonging outside of both the assimilation proffered by the French state and the Arabo-Islamic identity promulgated by Algerian overseas agencies. Many Beur theater troupes, musical groups, radio stations, and novelists devoted themselves to popularizing artistic genres deemed native to Berber societies and drew political inspiration from the annals of Kabyle resistance leaders. Indeed, the very appellation, “Beur,” while generally considered today to be a syllabic reversal of “Arab,” was averred contemporaneously to signify “Berbers of Europe” (cf. Aïchoune 1985). In spite of the demise of the Beur Movement by the late-1980s, Amazigh militancy has continued apace in France and North Africa to the present. The civil war in Algeria that has raged since 1992 has particularly increased public awareness and support for Berber language and culture, as Kabylia finds itself simultaneously threatened by an Arabizing military government and an Islamist armed opposition that has often targeted Berberophone intellectuals. People originating from Kabylia can, of course, be found in every camp of war, occupying high state positions and even numbering among the leaders of the jihadi militias. However, the economic marginalization and periodic violence by government and Islamist forces that has struck Kabylia has largely swelled the ranks of the transnational Amazigh Movement and has radicalized its politics (Silverstein 2003). In addition to renewed claims for regional autonomy, Amazigh militants in both France and North Africa have increasingly adopted a virulent pro-secular, anti-Islamist discourse that at times can approach virtual Islamophobia.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Amazigh Laïcité In the first place, Kabyle political parties like Said Sadi's Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), along with their immigration wings based in France, have taken strong “eradicator” positions, refusing any dialogue whatsoever with Islamist forces. The platforms they present in their political campaigns consistently avoid references to Islam, preferring categories of “democracy,” “republicanism,” “citizenship,” “social justice,” “human rights,” and “secularism” drawn directly from French universalist discourse. Borrowing imagery from the colonial Kabyle Myth, the RCD, for one, has consistently opposed any “Middle Eastern or Afghan identity” for Algeria supposedly proffered by the “peons of the Islamist International,” and instead has called upon Kabyles to rise up in “resistance” following the “spirit of independence” of the “eternal Jugurtha.”3 Such an anti-Islamist position has dovetailed perfectly with French conceptions of laïcité and has been thus deployed by the Amazigh Movement in France to argue for state support of Berber culture. In an open letter to the candidates for the 1995 French presidential elections, and in the wake of a series of “headscarf affairs” that after 1989 had made the public expression of Islam the subject of national debate (Silverstein 2000, 2004b), the RCD wing of the MCB described the Republican school system as the “principal instrument of integration and social promotion” and claimed that it needed to be protected against Islamist “manipulation.” Appealing to mythic representations of Berber culture as inherently democratic, the letter urged the institutional encouragement of berbérité as the true cultural “soul” of North African immigrants as the key to their future “integration” in France. In the 2003 debates over laïcité that resulted in the ban on conspicuous religious signs in French public schools, Amazigh associations in France and North Africa made pro-secular claims on behalf of Berber culture even more broadly. On the one hand, Berber associations have acted out of largely parochial interests. A communiqué dated 13 December 2003 released by the Paris-based Amazigh association Tamazgha encouraged the application of the reforms proposed in the Stasi Commission report on laïcité. In particular, the communiqué underlined the proposal for the teaching of “non-state” languages (notably Berber and Kurdish) as part of the larger “fight against discrimination.” On the other hand, Amazigh support for the proposed reforms has derived from a more general sense of occupying an embattled position vis-à-vis an expanding political Islam. In a letter published by the Amazigh press across the globe, the president of the Federation of Associations of Berber Culture in France, Arezki Sadi congratulated Jacques Chirac on behalf of all “the Berbers of France” for his decision to press for a legal ban on the “veil” in public schools. Claiming that religion is an “affair of individual conscience and


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spirituality,” Sadi championed the proposed law as protecting young women against the “pressure of politico-religious groups,” and schools against the “rampant plague (fléau) of Islamic fundamentalism (intégrisme).” Sadi specifically underlined the distinction between his position and the intégrisme of the most outspoken opponent of the proposed law, Tariq Ramadan–whose fundamentalism was further emphasized in an op-ed article in Libération sponsored by the Paris-based Association de Culture Berbère (ACB) (Mekboul and Metref 2004). Rather, Sadi claimed that the identity of Berbers in France could not be reduced to a “simple religious subjectification (asujettissement),” and ended his letter with an evocation of the spiritual assimilation of French Imazighen: “Because France is our country, her interests are ours and our interests are hers.” Women Amazigh militants have been likewise publicly outspoken in their denunciations of the “veil” and the Islamist interests supposedly behind its multiplication across France and North Africa. In my discussions with Kabyle activists in Paris, many young women harshly criticized their peers for adopting the headscarf as a sign of protest. For these women, the girls were operating under a false consciousness through their tacit support of an Islamist political position, and thus merited their expulsion from school. Sonya, a Franco-Kabyle schoolteacher outside of Paris who herself abstains from alcohol and pork and fasts during Ramadan, told me that she could not understand her hijab-wearing students, seeing in it a conscious rejection of integration. “If you don't want to live here, go home. If I felt so out of place in France, I wouldn't stay” (Silverstein 2004b). In a similar vein, Khalida Messaoudi, a Kabyle feminist who has received death threats from Islamist militias, decried the “veil” as a “uniform marking the segregation of women and their lifelong status as minors.” Famously comparing headscarves to Jewish yellow stars, she warned that if France accepted the hijab, it would debark on the same slippery slope to Islamic totalitarianism that had occurred in Algeria (Le Figaro 29-30 October 1994: 27; cf. Messaoudi 1995). Other French Amazigh women, including singer Djura Abouda and association president Fadela Amara, have likewise joined French feminists in denouncing the hijab as the preeminent means and symbol of Muslim patriarchy.

3. Islamic Heteropraxy Given their pitched battles against Arab nationalism in North Africa, it is not particularly surprising that Amazigh activists would take strong public antiIslamist positions, or that they would explicitly encourage the French state's imposition of radical secularism and a larger post-September 11th “war on terror.” They tend to see Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as part of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


same scourge of “Arabo-Muslim imperialism” that threatens their cultural particularity, not to mention the world at large. Certain members of the Amazigh Movement in Morocco are proud to have been among the first to offer their public condolences to the American ambassador in the days immediately after September 11th. While opposing violence in general, they later came out strongly in favor of the American invasion of Iraq–thus running firmly against the grain of Moroccan oppositional politics–and were beside themselves with joy over news of the capture of Saddam. In southeast Morocco where I work, some residents even joked that Bush must be himself an Aït Mughrad (the local Berber tribe), going as far as creating a fictive genealogy to incorporate him as their symbolic brother. Indeed, the only reproach I heard from Amazigh activists concerned why he had not already taken the battle to Saddam's “AraboBa'athist” neighbors in Syria (Silverstein and Crawford 2004). Such Americanophilia represents but an instance of a larger contrarian attitude taken by many Amazigh militants in France and North Africa. To a great extent, such an attitude derives from a general rejection of orthodox Islamic social norms which Amazigh activists argue are the imposition of an Arab culture prone to extremism. In point of fact, Amazigh activists incorporate a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices into their everyday lives, with some militants engaging in regular prayer and following Islamic dietary restrictions, while others going as far as excising all references to Allah from their spoken language and harboring scarcely hidden contempt for the believers amongst their ranks. However, even the most extreme atheists outwardly defend “traditional” forms of Berber Islamic practice that they claim to be flexible in application and perfectly integrated into larger cultural forms. Such claims to Berber cultural-religious distinctiveness generally ignore movements of religious reformism and purification in which Berber groups themselves historically engaged, most particularly during the Almohad and Almovarid Berber empires of Andalusia. Moreover, they tend to draw on the same stereotyped representations present in the colonial “Kabyle Myth.” In the first place, Amazigh activists defend Muslim heteropraxy and anteIslamic survivals among Berberophone populations in North Africa. They highlight the continued prevalence of marabouts (known as igurramn in Berber Morocco) and support their claims to religious legitimacy against attacks from shurafa (mostly Arabophone lineages claiming descent from the Prophet) and state-appointed imams trained in a reformist (salafiyya) mode. They uphold the pilgrimage to the tombs of ancestors and saints, as well as to other natural sites endowed with sacrality, as efficacious in the healing of physical ailments and infertility. Moreover, they defend the republican and secular nature of Berber political institutions, averring that the role of the local imam in the tribal


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assembly (Tajma't) is purely consultative and removed from political decisionmaking. Secondly, like colonial ethnologists, Amazigh activists insist on the matriarchal base of Berber societies, claiming that contemporary patriarchy and institutionalized misogyny are but recent Arabo-Islamic impositions. They indicate the centrality of women in the domestic life of Berber villages, highlighting their role as the preservers of the mother language and culture (Tamazight). They likewise cite women's song and dance as being at the focal point of public ritual life, underlining the place of women in the mixed-gender dancing (aherdus) occurring during marriage festivities. More generally, they underline the relative freedom of women in Berber society, claiming that social codes of female modesty have never led to the cloistering of women or the imposition of the “veil.” Rather, they stress the relaxed forms of interaction that exist between men and women in Berber villages, paying particular attention to a form of playful flirting between unmarried adolescents known as taqrefeyt in southeast Morocco. Although Berber families actually tend to be quite diverse in the relative freedom accorded to wives and daughters, Amazigh activists generally insist that cases of social conservativism are primarily the result of a protracted history of imposed “Arabization.”

“Beerberism” The Amazigh discourse on Islam, while underlining the local flexibility of Berber religious practice, occasionally results in the espousal of extremist secular positions that blame Islam in toto for the current marginalization of Berbers, and of North Africa in general. In the talk and writing of certain militants, such a position leads to symbolically-charged claims of religious ignorance, of never having prayed or read the Qu'ran. One of the foremost symbols of contemporary Amazigh resistance, the assassinated Kabyle singeractivist Lounès Matoub, is a poignant figure in this rhetoric. Considered by activists across North Africa and the Berber diaspora as a martyr to the Amazigh cause, Matoub was famous for being a self-described “rebel,” for never submitting to social or political authority. His 1995 autobiography explicitly juxtaposes his commitment to the Amazigh cause to his lack of religiosity. In addition to somewhat incredulous claims concerning his lack of understanding of Arabic, the book emphasizes his refusal to lead a pious life, even when threatened at gunpoint by his Islamist kidnappers in 1994. As if to emphasize this point, the autobiography is peppered with scenes indicating Matoub's drinking prowess, if not debauchery (see Matoub 1995). Drinking alcohol is a potent symbolic act for Amazigh (male) activists. Events sponsored by Amazigh associations often include alcoholic beverages, in

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


spite of the militants' knowledge that many of the laity in attendance will not drink. More centrally, many Amazigh militants tend to convene their meetings in bars, reveling in the fact that such spaces are the object of Islamist ire. During the 1990s, members of the ACB, the largest and most important Berber association in France, referred to the bar across the street from the association locale as their “headquarters” (quartier général), and on any given evening one could find it filled with local activists and artists, as well as visiting militants from Kabylia. In Rabat, a number of activists in the Amazigh Movement reunite nightly at the Capri, a central bar run by a Berber family that militants claim has been the informal meeting space for three generations of activists. When I commented to one of the militants that I found it symbolically appropriate that they meet in a bar, he replied, “Yes, Paul, we are no longer ‘Berberists,’ we are ‘Beerberists’ (bièrebéristes).” That such spaces–and hence the meetings–tend to be almost exclusively masculine belies ongoing issues of gender segregation within the movement, the fact that women are important symbols of, but rarely active participants in, Amazigh resistance (see Goodman 1996; Silverstein 2004c).

Philo-Semitism In a similar contrarian vein, transnational Amazigh activists have rejected the generalized anti-Zionist (and occasional anti-Semitic) politics of the Islamic world, adopting instead an avowedly philo-Semitic (if not pro-Zionist) discourse. In general, Jews are “good to think” for Amazigh activists, as they appear to represent a people similarly marginalized under the historic mantle of Arabo-Islamic hegemony in the Middle East and North Africa.4 They see in the Zionist movement a model for the Amazigh struggle: the successful codification and preservation of a threatened language, the obtaining of political and territorial autonomy with the establishment of the State of Israel. While by no means the agents of the Israeli state that Islamists occasionally accuse them of being, Amazigh militants have actively sought to reconcile Jewish and Berber populations, and have publicly advocated a normalization of relations with Israel. Beginning in the early-1990s, delegations of Kabyle artists and intellectuals visited Israel and published reports of their voyages in Amazigh newsletters in France. Given these sympathies, a number of Amazigh militants have increasingly refused to voice their active support for the Palestinian struggle, viewing the hegemonic pro-Palestinian politics of North Africa as a poignant example of imposed Arab nationalism. In Morocco, such reticence has brought them into direct conflict with the very leftist groups in which the majority of current Amazigh activists cut their political teeth during the 1970s and 1980s. This


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disagreement over the Palestinian question has even occasionally broken out to violent confrontations between the two movements, such as recently occurred in the University of Errachadia in November 2003 where a handful of Amazigh militants were brutally attacked by members of the Marxist Basiste movement for refusing to participate in an exam boycott on behalf of the al-Aqsa intifada. Outside of such explicit political struggles, Amazigh militants and sympathizers have likewise sought to reconstruct the close relations that previously existed between Berber and Jewish populations in North Africa. They are fond of pointing out the ante-Islamic, Jewish origins of various Berber cultural practices and historical figures, including most notably Princess Kahina who led her eastern North African tribe to battle against Islamic armies of invasion during the seventh century. They wonder why the vast majority of Moroccan Jews who left for Israel in 1967, blame the Moroccan state of actively encouraging their departure, and hope that they will once again return to give an economic boost to the peripheral Berber regions. In the meantime, they recount stories of their parents' close relations with Jewish neighbors, of the sharing of meals and mutual aid, and welcome the occasional “homecomings” of Israeli émigrés. They are likewise particularly open to Jewish researchers, particularly those exploring Judaic cultural traces in North Africa. Indeed, when I finally admitted to one of my close Kabyle militant friends in Paris that I was Jewish, he exclaimed jubilantly, “I knew it all along! There was always something in common between us. You see, we're cousins.” Perhaps the most poignant example of the Amazigh philo-Semitism occurs in southeast Morocco, around a masquerade festival known locally as Udayen Achour (Jewish 'ashura).5 The festival occurs one month after ‘id al-adha and ritually closes the end of the year holiday, with the last, dried morsels of the slaughtered ram eaten in a communal couscous. After the meal, residents of the town of Goulmima gather outside the Igoulmimine ighrem (Ar. ksar, walled, multi-family residence), where young men perform a ritual of inversion. Referring to themselves as udayen (“Jews”), the performers sport grotesque masks and outfits designed to hide their identities, with certain performers even cross-dressing to portray female udayen. They engage in hyper-sexualized taqrefeyt with each other, as well as with the young women spectating on the periphery of the carnival. More generally they act and talk outrageously in a manner that satirizes both local religious and government authority figures, as well as more marginal characters of town life (e.g. beggars, prostitutes, drug users)–behavior and speech acts that would be practically impossible under everyday social norms. On the face of it, the masquerade replicates those inversion dramas found throughout Berber North Africa which were historically performed between the 'id and 'ashura. Colonial observers, in their search for a primordial “Berber

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


religion,” typically linked these performances, in Frazerian fashion, to pagan rituals of social renewal, in which the fertility of the soil was regenerated through the symbolic death and rebirth of the agricultural God, through the expulsion of evil via scapegoats (Hammoudi 1993: 15-32; cf. Laoust 1921: 254). Personified Jews, as well as blacks (ismakhen, “slaves”), are generally interpreted as functioning as such scapegoats, and are uniformly portrayed by Berber Muslims in the same grotesque, sexualized fashion displayed in the Goulmima festival.6 Given this imagery, Berber masquerades have since Moroccan independence provoked the ire of Islamic reformers who decry the events as “vestiges of paganism (jahiliyya)” that threaten to infect everyday social comportment and destroy Muslim virtues (Hammoudi 1993: 89, 167). Udayen Achour represents a pared down version of this ritual, represented as and transformed by Amazigh activists into a celebration–rather than a mockery or symbolic expulsion–of Judeo-Berber culture. Like the colonial ethnologists and Islamic reformists, local Amazigh militants emphasize the masquerade's ante-Islamic (if not anti-Islamic) genealogy and even attribute its origin to a Jewish ritual revived by activists in recent memory. Although they recognize its timing on the Islamic lunar calendar, they disassociate it from the 'id sacrifice or the larger celebrations of 'ashura as the Feast of the Muslim New Year.7 Underlining the Jewish nature of the event, they greet each other with the supposedly Hebrew “Tchafou,” sing songs featuring Jewish characters invoked to replenish the local river's water supply, make pilgrimages to the old Jewish quarter (mellah), and work Hebrew writing and six-pointed stars into their costumes.8 They proudly relate how in 2000 masked youth even provoked a fatwa from the local imam by carrying signs written in both Hebrew and Arabic that argued for a rapprochement with Israel. Beyond a space for the fetishization of a lost Jewish heritage, Udayen Achour functions for Goulmima Amazigh activists as an annual occasion for the celebration of Berber culture more generally. The active promotion of the festival as a Jewish-Amazigh event has made it famous throughout the Berber world, and has transformed the event into a de facto annual pilgrimage (moussem) not only for (Muslim and Jewish) Goulmima residents abroad, but also for Amazigh militants across France and North Africa.9 Local militants utilize the event to promote local and national political causes, attracting police surveillance and a repeated threat of state intervention. Costumed activists regularly brandish Amazigh flags and banners that advocate the recognition of Tamazight as an official language of North Africa. In February 2004, the event served as a space to protest the provincial government's sale of a section of local tribal land to a private investor. Masked protestors carried banners calling on the pasha to “Stop the cession of the land of widows and orphans!” and solemnly marched with a cardboard coffin inscribed with the names of the tribal fractions


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(ighsen) whose territory–and hence, for the protestors, whose very existence– was threatened by the sale.

4. Conclusion Udayen Achour is clearly an extreme example, but nevertheless felicitously symbolizes the more general Amazigh Movement's rejection of Islamist discourse in favor of a secular, multi-confessional identity politics. That such politics dovetail nearly perfectly with current republican ideologies of laïcité advocated by self-proclaimed “modernists” in post-colonial France and North Africa results as much from the particular historical conjuncture of consonant French and Amazigh anti-Islamisms, as it does from any supposed crossMediterranean cultural unity as postulated by colonial ethnologists. Nevertheless, the growing prevalence of the Amazigh Movement, particularly among young Franco-Maghrebis in “diaspora” France, indicates that debates over the place of Islam in the context of globalization cannot be reduced to a rhetoric of a “clash of civilizations,” of a presumed confrontation between secularizing nation-states and a radicalizing Islam. The Amazigh discourse on Islam points to important divisions within the Muslim 'umma that transcend the borders of Europe, as well as those of individual North African nation-states. Indeed, any analysis of global Islam today requires a rejection of reified formulations and an embrace of the historical and transnational contexts that multiply and divide Muslim polities.


1. Introduction The central focus of this chapter is the work of the late Kabyle sociologist, Abdelmalek Sayad. His analysis of the emigration-immigration paradigm in France gains a new importance following the November 2005 violence in France’s urban suburbs where young people, usually described as “young people whose origins are the consequences of colonization” (“les jeunes issus de la colonisation”) were the central players. Given that Sayad emphasised the dual nature of how emigration-immigration is experienced, his approach is one way to view the events of November 2005. However, Sayad’s exploration of the emigration-immigration paradox as a defining theme of post-World War II France resulted from a fusion of his own personal life experience, his analytical training as a sociologist and his collaboration with the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. The following discussion aims to pull together these different dimensions of Sayad’s life and work as a means towards an appreciation of the contribution that his work makes to understanding contemporary questions of emigration-immigration in France. After all, the violence of the banlieue in Autumn 2005 took place against the backdrop of Article 4 of a law (23 February 2005) that required school programs ‘to recognise the positive role of France’s overseas’ presence, especially in North Africa.’ Sayad was born in 1933 in Little Kabylia in the mountain village of Aghbala. This situated him spatially within a social world that was on the one hand, Kabyle but on the other, French as we are just three years after the centenary celebrations in 1930 of one hundred years of French colonization. This dual fact and its embodied tensions will come to influence Sayad’s life and work in numerous ways and an early illustration of this social fact is his educational history. Whilst it was possible for him to experience his early years’


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education in his local environment and his secondary education in the nearby coastal port of Bougie (Béjaia), to obtain his primary school teacher training, he had to attend the Teachers’ College at Bouzaréah, on the western periphery of Algiers. This journey would represent not only the first of Sayad’s several subsequent personal migrations but also his participation in and experience of, the multiple journeys that were the collective experience of other young Algerians who sought to further their education within the colonial education system. However, the exigencies of the operation of that system meant that on qualification it was not a return to Kabylia but rather a posting to a school in the Casbah of Algiers. This was, however, an Algiers on the eve of the outbreak of conflict. At the same time as Sayad was about to begin his teaching career, another young man, Pierre Bourdieu, having completed his undergraduate studies at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris came to Algeria in 1955 to fulfil his military service obligations. Bourdieu was, however, beginning to build a reputation as a sociologist, publishing the Sociologie de l’Algérie in the “Que sais-je?” series in 1958. A strike by Muslim students had meant that Sayad had accepted but was unable to take up his teaching post in the Casbah. The University of Algiers was, however, excluded from the strike thus offered Sayad the opportunity to pursue his studies further, including the chance to become a student in Bourdieu’s classes. Consequently, when Bourdieu was commissioned by ARDES2 to carry out a study of the consequences of the French military’s policy of regrouping the rural population in armed camps, Sayad was asked to join the project. The result was Le Déracinement. La crise de l’agriculture traditionnelle en Algérie (1964). In 1961, just before the final cease fire that ended the war; Bourdieu left Algiers and Sayad would leave in 1963–in the first year after independence thus enabling the relationship that they had formed in Algeria to continue in France as well as lead to further collaborations such as the journal, Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales3. In considering Sayad’s work on migration, it is necessary to take account not only of the fact that he was a migrant, but also how he experienced the dislocation and brutalities of the Algerian war and the subsequent failed hopes of independence. In his extensive writings on migration, Sayad focuses not only on the idea that migration has always to be viewed in terms of the double dimension of emigration-immigration, but that it is also something that has to be read simultaneously in terms of the social, political, economic and cultural conditions in the emigration country and the immigration country. It means understanding the impact of Algeria’s colonial history on the situation and experience of the Algerian emigrant-immigrant in France. It also requires that each emigrant-immigrant both individually and collectively, has to be read in terms of the specificities of their “field” of migration including the individual

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and the collective “imaginary world/s” (l’imaginaire) of the emigrantimmigrant, the idea that the emigrant-immigrant bears a physical scar or stigmata that marks them permanently out as migrants, and the question of how to consider the existence of a singular Mediterranean space. Sayad’s work provides a way of understanding the nature of the migration processes that have occurred in Algeria since the nineteenth-century colonization by France and more generally how this contributes towards an understanding of the phenomenon of migration. This chapter draws heavily on a long interview between Sayad and Hassan Arfaoui published in 1996 in Monde arabe et recherche scientifique (MARS) as this gives insights into Sayad’s life, the way in which he came to write about the subject of emigration-immigration and how closely the academic touched on the personal.

2. The Algerian War and Abdelmalek Sayad Arfaoui’s interview with Sayad devotes over half of it to different questions about the impact of the Algerian War on Sayad’s life, and Sayad’s reflections on a variety of aspects of the war suggest that its influence forms a crucial part of understanding the person that he was and consequently, the approach that he would take to his work. Arfaoui’s first question is about the ways in which Sayad’s education and early research were affected by an environment of colonial violence. Sayad’s response is, as it will be in a number of subsequent responses, equivocal. He argues that it is necessary to consider the whole context of school education in colonial Algeria which means looking at it within the social and political context of the period. This can be done either in terms of what one’s view of it was at the time or in terms of how one sees it now. In other words memories have also to be viewed using a double vision. Having said that, his first reflections concern the absence of any real power to choose one’s educational route, all educational steps were a matter of chance dictated by what was available, the actions of others in your journey within and the wider world around. For example, even though Bougie was not in real terms that far–forty kilometres, Sayad’s only means of getting there to take the exam for entry into the lycée was to hitchhike, and having arrived, with nowhere to stay, it meant spending the night in a Moorish bath house (Arfaoui, 1996: 10). It illustrates how difficult it was to obtain a basic education in colonial Algeria but once acquired, how it opened the way to new opportunities. This time, at the Ecole Normale d’Instituteurs at Algiers, a unique colonial enterprise that provided primary teacher training for Algerians4. On arrival at the Ecole Normale, Sayad chose the philosophy study route and once again found that chance intervened. This was because that year, the Ecole Normale had no philosophy teachers of its own and so had to bring in teachers


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from the prestigious Lycée Bugeaud5. These would normally have taught students preparing for entry to the French Grandes Ecoles. The result was that Sayad had access to a quality of teaching that he would not normally have had. Following three years of study and one year of professional teacher training, Sayad received his nomination as a teacher (instituteur) to a school in the Casbah except that it was just at the moment that the Muslim students’ union launched a strike in support of the liberation struggle. With neither a real choice nor the desire to do otherwise, he was on strike and for the next four years, he ‘hung around’ with nothing in particular to do until a small opening in the strike allowed him and a few others like him to enroll at the University of Algiers in 19586 where he did a licence in psychology. Unlike the Ecole Normale which was exclusively for native Algerians, the University mainly served the European population. Consequently, as the struggle for independence became more bitter it reproduced the tensions of the exterior on the interior world of the university campus. A prime example was the Association Générale des Etudiants d’Algérie, a “quasi-fascist” student organization originally headed by Pierre Lagaillarde, a lawyer who was elected in 1958 as one of the Algiers’ deputies but as leader of the Young Patriots was instrumental in putting up barricades in favour of a French Algeria (Slama, 1996). Their control was broken initially by Jewish students, an act that forced other students like Sayad to provide support. This covert interference in student affairs by external political actors led to intense debates amongst the students themselves over the moral probity of certain actions taken by combatant parties. Sayad, reflecting perhaps on the question he posed at the beginning that how you consider the effect of the Algerian War depends upon whether one looks at it with the eye of the time or an eye of the present, considers the different ways in which the external struggle and the demands for unity in the name of hourriya (freedom) forced acceptance of all acts of violence in public even if in private there was less certainty about the legitimacy of such acts. For him, by sanctioning violence/terrorism in the liberation struggle, the ground was prepared for the terrorist acts of the 1990s7. Sayad actually draws a direct parallel between the Milk Bar attack, made heroic in Gillo Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers8 and an attack, during Algeria’s own ‘dirty war’ in January 1995 that took place in front of the Algiers commissariat that resulted in 42 deaths and 300 wounded. Sayad asks the question, whether if one takes colonialism as a system, to what extent is each individual responsible for being what they are: a young European woman or an Algerian Kabyle like himself? Despite his doubts, he does take part in an “event,” being rescued from the consequences of his participation by his vehicle breaking down, but nevertheless still acquiring the sobriquet of ‘rebel’ (Arfaoui, 1996: 16). This made his overall position in the University difficult but his friendship with Bourdieu and some

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


unexpected support from the Fédération de France enabled him to continue. The support from the latter organization surprised Sayad because not only was it generally hostile to students but it also gave primacy to class and class struggle rather than nationalism and the nationalist struggle9. The presence of the federation, Sayad comments, showed that there were divisions and that these divisions were further made visible by the assassinations that occurred both during the independence war and after independence. Sayad’s ambivalent view of the Algerian war partly reflects his ambivalence about the origins of Algerian nationalism. In his view it was formed within a specifically French context and as a result inappropriately translated French ideas of nation into the Algerian context. The most damaging of these translated concepts being the idea that an Algerian “nation” was in existence in 1830. Sayad views this particular vision of the nation as one of the “dogmatic singular” which coupled together with an imagined Arab-Muslim totality mutilated an Algerian history in which conquest took place over a long period of time thus creating the conditions for different histories. This is perhaps the strongest statement, if somewhat subliminally given, of Sayad’s sense of being Kabyle and therefore being apart from the urban myths of wartime struggle that are so graphically depicted in the Pontecorvo film. For Sayad, whilst such foundational myths may be necessary politically, they are not scientific. Moreover, their consequence in terms of post-independence governance was its incompetence. It is perhaps not surprising, given the doubts that Sayad had felt about the moral ethic of struggle, his rejection of nationalist absolutism and his condemnation of the return to Islam as eschatology, that he became seriously depressed after the end of the war and the beginnings of independence. His state of mind was not helped by the death and possible suicide of his father in February 196310. It was at this point that he was asked by Bourdieu to join him in Paris and so that he got there another friend bought him the necessary ticket. Even so, Sayad records that his sense of being during the first eight years in France, was of someone who was there in a temporary state of being even if he also felt totally integrated into the actual world in which he was living11. Furthermore, he continued to suffer health problems, having several stays in hospital.

3. Emigration-Immigration: the central theme in the work of Abdelmalek Sayad Central to Sayad’s work on migration is his insistence that it has always to be viewed through the dual prism of emigration and immigration and in an article, originally published in 1981 but reprinted in The Suffering of the Immigrant, he also argues that to achieve a proper understanding of what


Chapter Five

migration means, it would be necessary to have a separate science of emigration (Sayad, 2004)12. This is because, despite the existence of plenty of literature written on immigration in the countries of immigration, this literature is produced for the society of the country of immigration either to justify why immigration is necessary or to prove the contrary. At the same time, in the countries of emigration, there is very little written about emigration itself and what is written is influenced by and subordinated to the already existing literature on immigration that results from the imbalance of power between the two parties. This means that much of the empirical work that explores the economic case for migration calculates the costs and benefits primarily within parameters that have already been established by the immigration country (Sayad, 2004: 123-5). The problem for Sayad, is that an economic calculation of costs and benefits does not take into account the reality of “a symmetry between the presence realized in a particular modality, by the immigrant in his land of immigration, and the absence realized again in a particular modality, by the emigrant in his land of emigration” (Sayad, 2004: 124). Consequently, emigration is a question of absence whereas immigration is about presence13. Both of course become increasingly more complex as time passes, for example presence poses the dilemma of the extent to which you belong where you now are, are you really “temporary” (or provisoire) as both the emigrant and state discourse frequently assert, should you take up the offer of naturalization, are reinsertion schemes practicable? The tension between absence and the view of presence as temporary are explored by Sayad in an article titled ‘The Wrongs of the Absentee’ (Sayad, 2004: 137-161). This tension, he argues, often gives rise to mental health problems as it is difficult for the emigrant-immigrant to make sense to himself of the life that he has had. However, in a long sub-section titled ‘the interview as analysis and self-analysis,’ Sayad argues for the therapeutic value of the interview as the means for achieving some measure of self-understanding. Perhaps, therefore, Sayad’s interview with Arfaoui serves much the same purpose for Sayad himself! Given that, with the principal exception of Le Déracinement, Sayad’s principal focus after he came to France was the study of emigration-immigration, it does not seem unreasonable to ask how it was that he came to make its study his principal life work? Question 10 of Arfaoui’s interview asks precisely this question (Arfaoui, 1996: 40). In his response, Sayad locates the decision within the trajectory of what he has already said about his wider life course. This makes it both a decision and yet not a decision, something that came about as a result of the conjunctural meeting of a number of separate events going on in his life. The catalyst was, however, the need to present a project proposal to France’s national academic research body (CNRS) in 1977 as a means towards obtaining his official accreditation as a member of

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


the French research community14. His choice of subject for his presentation was a project that sought to examine the phenomenon of Algerian immigration to France. He had already begun to turn his attention towards the subject of migration having carried out a piece of commissioned research on the rural exodus in Senegal, and he had also written a couple of pieces that focused on North African immigration and what he termed the “three ages of Algerian emigration” for OECD’s Options méditerranéenes, a version of which was published in Actes de la recherche des sciences sociales15. Although the CNRS concours was the genesis of his scientific interest in migration, there was running parallel to the academic requirements, the reality that immigration had already become a social issue in late 1970s France. Furthermore, even though it was becoming a key social and political issue, in his view, it had not yet gained the same significance amongst social scientists. His focus of interest, at this time were the first exiles (or émigré) of 1909 and 1911. Sayad felt that by gaining an understanding of their predicament and how their experiences had generated the “invented France” that then became the model for the “invented Algeria” of the Algerian nationalist movement would help to understand the ways in which the whole idea of an independent Algeria became so distorted. At the same time, it seemed to Sayad that the presence and the reasons why these first exiles had come to France were also crucial to an understanding of the later history of Algerian emigration-immigration. More particularly, the fact that they represented the first systematic use of colonial migrant labour as waged industrial and service workers in Europe gave them a generalized importance in understanding European attitudes to emigrationimmigration. Sayad argues that the availability of this Algerian labour resulted from the uprooting of the peasants from the land but in a situation that had not been accompanied by job creating industrial development. Sayad, who had pursued studies in linguistics, uses the language of medicine to describe the nature of the processes that in his view had taken place, that is, a “surgical operation to cut the umbilical cord” that tied this population to its locality or peasant community (Arfaoui, 1996: 41) but it should perhaps also be read as metaphor of subsequent rootlessness. Secondly, the subject offered him an opportunity to reconnect with the peasants and peasant communities he had encountered during his early work in rural sociology (Le Déracinement), and perhaps also with his own rural Kabyle background. Finally, Sayad had chosen to study migration because he considered that even where a social object such as an immigrant was positioned at the bottom of the social hierarchy, it was nevertheless as worthy of study as anything more highly placed. In Sayad’s view, it was the impossibility of being able to study emigration without taking account of the emigrant’s origins, in all its multiple senses (Sayad, 1977, 2004) that had been the reason for his advocacy of the use of the


Chapter Five

pairs: emigration-immigration and emigrant-immigrant. It was only by studying these combinations that a better understanding of the articulations that occur between where the emigrant comes from and where they are immigrants to, can be obtained. The significance of thinking about migration in this way is that it avoids the uni-focus on the emigrant’s adaptation to the immigrant host country. Such a focus has two consequences: the first of which is that the emigrant is measured against the norms of the ‘host’ country, where they are always perceived to be lacking in something; and secondly, the emigrant’s background is viewed in terms of a simple cultural heritage that impedes their adaptation to their new social environment. However, what are Sayad’s three “ages”? For Sayad, they concern the different time periods of Algerian emigration to France. In his periodization, the first ‘age’ was about silence, an act that took place without any fuss, almost as if it was an everyday ordinary matter of going to market. The intention was always to return, and the emigrant became more peasant than ever. Later, Sayad would explore this notion of return in more detail through means of the idea of temporary (provisoire) (Sayad, 1980) as well as arguing that even in this first “age,” there was no simple break with an agrarian past (Sayad, 1994) because to become an emigrant within a colonial society also constituted a political act (Sayad, 1993, 2004: 89). In the case of these early migrants, this was because they chose the unknown of industrial work in mainland France to the known quantity of agricultural laboring on a colon estate (Sayad, 1993, 2004: 89). An unintended consequence of this essentially political act to emigrate to France was that Algerians also discovered a greater freedom to create political associations in France than was available to them in colonial Algeria. However, their discovery of, and space for, political and industrial militancy also led to them being perceived as jayin/imjahen or “lost” and consequently also “deviant/marginal/individualist” (Sayad, 1993, 2004: 103). This is the habitus within which Messali Hadj’s Etoile Nord-Africaine emerges and which creates the foundations for support of ,initially, the French Communist Party and then the Algerian Communist Party. However, it also laid the foundations for deeprooted ideological differences between the exterior and the interior that will be worked out in the conflicts between parties during the independence struggle and subsequently16. If the first “age,” Algerian emigration-immigration was one of individuals. Sayad’s second “age” is characterized by a loss of control in the sense that the emigrants felt that they were no longer in charge of their own migration, largely because they could not always calculate the consequences that arose from their act of migration. During this second “age” there was also a trend towards a younger emigration and rather than being an individual act, it was generalized to involve the majority of men. This group of men remained away for longer and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


stayed with the same enterprise for a longer period and as a result acquired familiarity with all aspects of industrial working life. However, whilst this stage involved a changing relationship with French society, it also changed family relationships at home because this time, it was the young men who were the emigrants, and therefore it made the father the suppliant to his sons17. Finally, the third “age” arrived with the creation of an Algerian “colony” in France, the result of the generalization of emigration to all classes, regions and ages. It is at this stage that one sees the growth of measures of regulation by the “host” state as it seeks to respond to a situation in which emigration has become a profession, marriages have taken place and children have been born and brought up in France. Even though emigration-immigration may pass through these three “ages,” nevertheless the everyday realities of being an emigrant-immigrant in French society do not, in many ways, change. This is because the emigrant-immigrant is both physically as well as metaphorically scarred by his condition. Sayad employs Goffman’s discussion of the sociological role of stigma as a mechanism to explore the different ways in which the emigrant-immigrant is marked out by state ideology as someone who is considered to be ‘deviant’ (Sayad, 1999, 1996; Goffman, 1990)18. In his discussion about the emigrantimmigrant’s struggle for social identity, Sayad uses Goffman argument of the role of stigma to explore how the issue of signs/symbols becomes an increasingly important marker, the lower is considered to be the emigrantimmigrant’s social status. In this social positioning, a determining role is played by the relationship between the “political” (politique) and “manners” (politesse) as each of these assumes its respective role in, on the one hand, social struggles, and on the other hand struggles about identity. Sayad attributes this marking out of the emigrant-immigrant to the denial by the national state of the universal nature of migration. By denying migration as a universal phenomenon, the national state can treat migration as a local level issue that is manageable within the boundaries of that state-nation. In this context, immigration disrupts the boundaries between what is national and what is not and in so doing threatens the power of the state to control what takes place within its own borders. It also poses serious difficulties for the emigrant-immigrant who must decide whether to remain as one of the dominated and therefore continue to live out day-to-day life amongst other immigrants at the same time maintaining a certain degree of discretion; or decide to take on the state which means that they challenge the whole manner of the way in which the state has positioned them. In “Immigration and ‘State Thought,’” as the previous paragraph indicates, Sayad takes a very pessimistic view of the options that are available to the emigrant-immigrant. He suggests that there comes a point when there remains only two possibilities open to the dominated within the “symbolic force field” if


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they are at best to achieve some degree of recognition of their being and at worst simply continue to exist (Sayad, 1999: 11). Furthermore, neither of these possibilities are what one would wish to have to choose between. The first of these non-choices is in fact to continue to accept the state’s denial of their existence and continue to pretend that they are the constructed emigrantimmigrant of the state ideological apparatus. In a sense, it also means accepting the parameters of the game that the state allows them to perform within, which includes accepting to play the role of victim. It means playing according to the rules and in a manner predetermined by the state. The second of these nonchoices means accepting all the risks that are involved in any project of assimilation and in particular the risks that are involved with managing any change of identity. Such risks are even more pronounced when what is at stake is the passage from dominated identity to dominant identity. This is because this passage involves not just the self but all one’s relations with others. It means that not only will it be necessary to leave behind your own but you have no guarantee that those that you wish to join will actually be prepared to accept you and even if they seem to do so, you will always remain slightly suspect and therefore still dangerous19. The final notion that I wish to deal with in this section is the idea of the “imaginary.” This is explored in Sayad’s joint article of 1985, written in conjunction with Michel Oriol and Paul Vieille and revolves around the idea called by Oriol “the crossroads of the imaginaries.” They argue that the emigrant-immigrant inhabits two distinct “imaginary worlds.” One of these, they identify as “the imaginary of the Maghreb” is also “partly invested in France” whilst the other: “the imaginary of Maghrebin emigration-immigration turns its face towards the Maghreb” (Sayad, Oriol, Vieille 1985: 16). This notion of two imaginary worlds is made up of both a “double attraction” and a “double refusal” which has the potentiality for innovation in the sense that it offers the possibility for “the recomposition of a universe that for migrants has been torn” (Sayad, Oriol, Vieille 1985: 16). Sayad, Oriol, Vieille (1985: 17) also argue that these imaginary worlds sit simultaneously in the past and in the present which is why they are multi-dimensional and why understanding the significance of this sitting between two worlds is so important if one is to understand the ways in which diverse cultural influences impact on the emigrant-immigrant. It is also the way to appreciate how it is that the emigrantimmigrant can both belong and at the same time be different.

4. Situating Sayad The preceding two sections have looked at the influence of Sayad’s personal life history on his work and the emergence from this of his focus on emigration-

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


immigration. This section explores the intellectual framework of his ideas. Unlike Anglo-Saxon sociology where references to other authors are central to the presentation of one’s own argument, in Sayad’s work it seems more an act of detection. Furthermore, it is from his later rather than his early work that clues are found to the influences on his work and the directions it took. However, it is important to recognise the extent to which Bourdieu was a seminal and lasting influence from the moment that they first met at the University of Algiers in 1958. Sayad’s work makes constant and explicit references throughout to Bourdieu whilst his conceptual framework continuously employs the Bourdieu terminology of habitus, capital and field. If Bourdieu is the constant throughout Sayad’s work, it is nevertheless also necessary to recognise that Sayad’s sociology, like much of French sociology, is underpinned with Durkheimian references such as the concepts of “social fact” and anomie. However, Sayad also employs in its philosophical meaning, the Durkheimian notion of fonction20. While Bourdieu and Durkheim form the skeleton of Sayad’s sociology, there are other references to be found in his work. Arfaoui’s interview has several questions that touch on this particular issue whilst second useful indicator source is the article “Immigration and ‘State Thought’” (1999). Arfaoui’s first such question asks Sayad to comment on sociology’s tendency to attribute intellectual significance to a social object according either to or alternatively determined by the social position held by that same social object. Consequently, what are the possibilities for there to be a sociology of the dominated without such a sociology being made to seem trivial (Arfaoui, 1996: 43)? Sayad responds with a reference to Bourdieu who taught him two things. The first of which was the importance of sociologists knowing why they are doing their particular sociology; and the second was to be aware of what it is about what they are doing that makes it sociology. In his own sociology, Sayad says that what he needed to understand was how it came about that an “emigrant” was manufactured in a colonized society. However, it was also important that such an understanding was achieved using a method that took into account the question that Arfaoui had posed, that is, how to understand the predicament of the emigrant without adopting a method that reflected one’s own view of as well as the reality of, the social positioning of the emigrant as a social object within the social hierarchy. Sayad argues that many sociologists avoid doing this despite the fact that it was highlighted as an issue of importance in the Greek philosophical tradition of Socrates. It is in the Parmenides where amongst other things, Socrates speaks to Zeno about the nature of friendliness as ‘personified in the Desire to keep life and theory together, whereas enmity is reflected in their segregation’ (Blum, 1978: 8). For Sayad, given that the Greek philosophical tradition did not avoid this particular question, it was all the more


Chapter Five

surprising that many contemporary sociologists had avoided the issue of social positioning of the social object altogether particularly when twentieth-century writers in other fields had not. Sayad cites the work of the playwright Berthold Brecht in which the spotlight was directed onto the excluded; as well as the philosophical work of Gaston Bachelard21. Sayad’s second reason for drawing attention to the question of how the “emigrant” was manufactured within a colonized society, was because he wished to argue that when the social object is viewed as being at the bottom of the social hierarchy, this has a direct effect on the methods that the researcher chooses to use. In particular, the researcher will lean towards the choice of empirical methods. This occurs, Sayad argues, because it is in fact a moral view, which means that if you do not consider a subject to be possessed of worth, that is “worthy,” then you will seek to further dehumanise them by using empirical methods22. In other words, empirical methods are preoccupied with numbers, that is, how many migrants are there, rather than interested in who the emigrantimmigrant is as a human or social being. Another aspect of this same phenomenon can be observed in the choice of issues to be studied. Sayad’s argument, is that it is not necessarily the objective importance of an issue that determines whether or not it is researched but rather its perceived position within the overall social hierarchy. This means that an essentially anodyne issue can become as much a focus of research as a subject of real significance. Clearly, deciding what constitutes a subject of real significance, is not, despite Sayad’s implied judgement that emigration-immigration is such a subject, without its own problems. This idea of what should be studied and in what way takes a different aspect in Sayad’s concerns about which academic disciplines studied immigration and what types of approach they took. In particular, he worried about the way in which immigration was studied by political scientists. He considered that political scientists were primarily interested in the nature and character of the relationship that exists in some form or other between the immigrant and the Nation-state. Consequently, what was important to them were questions relating to the laws that affect civil status. This meant that their interest in the question of immigration was intrinsically bound up with entirely different questions about the power of the state and therefore the right of the state to fix or determine its boundaries. These boundaries or frontiers are however, not just physical but also ideological. This means that what may seem to be legal issues are in effect not pure questions of law but also importantly political issues as well. Their political nature can be clearly seen expressed in the rules that are set up and then applied to the process of access to “naturalization.” To illustrate his argument, Sayad references his thinking to ideas used by the Aleppo born but Paris-based linguist, Emile Benveniste23. What this suggests is that when the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


state defines its territory, it is not just fixing the frontiers, it is making distinctions between the inside and the outside, the national and the nonnational, the sacred and the profane. Furthermore, it is also engaged in the exercise of an act of authority that simultaneously authorises and is authorised to insert discontinuity into continuity which means that it is also making and unmaking groups and in consequence, imposing its vision of the world on all. It is this other role of political science that makes Sayad uncomfortable with, and to some extent fearful of, the role of political science and political scientists in the study of migration (Arfaoui, 1996: 46). In response to another question, Sayad argues that it is possible to constitute the immigrant in a “noble” way as the example of the United States illustrates. He suggests that unlike Europe, the United States is a country that has been defined by immigration, consequently by focusing attention on its experiences, a wider degree of prestige can be given to immigration itself. Sayad uses the word faciès here to describe another way in which something can be seen. Another reason he gives, for using the United States as a point of reference, stems from its tradition of urban sociology, represented in particular by early twentiethcentury sociology at the University of Chicago. Sayad argues to pay attention to the urban is significant because it recognises the fact that immigration is “essential” to the creation of the modern and not something that can be viewed as an accessory to it. In other words, it has helped to constitute the modern. In Sayad’s view, Chicago sociology recognised this reality in a way that it had not been and is still not recognised in France, largely because understanding the growth of towns has not been central to French sociology. For Sayad, it is this aspect of the work of the Chicago school that is important rather than its work on multiculturalism, cultural pluralism, ethnicity and ethnicism (Arfaoui, 1996: 51)24. Apart from the U.S. contribution to urban sociology and the way its sociology accords dignity and a certain pride of place to the immigrant, Sayad found useful material in the work of Erving Goffman. In this article, Sayad is referring to Goffman’s discussion of “signs,” but given that in the conclusion to Stigma, Goffman called for the development of “coherent analytic perspectives” to explore the multiplicity of ways in which those who for whatever reason are not considered to be “normals” function and experience themselves as “stigmatized individuals” (Goffman, 1990: 173-4; Sayad, 1999: 10), Sayad has a broader reason for doing so. After all his social category of the emigrantimmigrant is both a stigmatized individual and a stigmatized group. Sayad’s reflections on method are also concerned with what knowledge is available and how that knowledge has become available (epistemological issues) as well as the ways in which different knowledge frameworks are used depending on the social standing of those investigated (ontological questions) especially the different employment of sociology versus ethnology. In terms of


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the first, he is looking at two different periods in knowledge generation in Algeria, the first of which covers the period from 1860 (when Napoleon III twice visited Algeria) to the International Colonial Exhibition of 1930 during which all manner of people carried out observations of and wrote descriptions of the “manners, customs, rituals,” etc. of the Algerians; and the second, a brief period after the Constantine Plan when de Gaulle threw France’s best and brightest into Algeria in an attempt to take command of the intellectual space. The question of ethnology/anthropology or sociology arises because of the tendency to use the former when writing about the “other” and the latter when one is writing about European society. Another issue arising from the context of the 1950s was that the two dominant modes of analytical discourse were Structuralism and Marxism, consequently how Algerian society was understood was structured within one or other of these frameworks. This produced certain problems particularly where Marxism was concerned, in the sense that it eschewed discussion of questions of culture. However, such considerations were minor compared to the need to reframe three key questions. The first was violence, the second was how to understand the notion of work when most Algerians discovered it at second-hand through the medium of unemployment, and the third concerned the meaning of “housing” when Algerians experienced housing through shantytowns (bidonvilles) or through forcible regrouping into military controlled encampments (one of the central issues that he and Bourdieu had investigated in Le Déracinement). Although in much of Sayad’s writing about emigration-immigration there is a focus on the theoretical and the metaphysical, he still cannot avoid altogether the more ordinary discussion of the manner of the build-up of a North African migrant community in France. This is particularly evident in the collaborative text that he co-wrote with Jean-Jacques Jordi and Emile Temime on post-war migration into the city of Marseille that forms the fourth volume of studies exploring the part played in the history of the city by migration beginning in the late fifteenth century when Marseille was first incorporated into the French state (Jordi, Sayad, Temime, 1991). In their volume, which carries the title “the shock of decolonisation (1945-1990),” the three authors explore the dramatic changes in the global composition of migrants in the city beginning with the repatriation of members of the Armenian community to the Soviet Union and the departure of Jews to Palestine, only for the latter group to be replaced by new Jewish migrants from North Africa. They also chart the reorientation of Marseille from a focus towards the south and North Africa to one, mediated by membership of the EEC/EU, towards Northern Europe. Importantly, they illustrate just how diverse has been the social and ethnic composition of migrants from North Africa. For example, the mass exodus of Europeans from Algeria in 1961-62, the majority of whom passed through and were temporarily lodged in Marseille,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


were not primarily native French returning home, but naturalized Spanish and Italian settlers; and new communities of Jews came to Marseille first from Algeria and then after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War from Morocco. At the same time, there was also a dramatic increase in the numbers of Muslim Algerians known as “repatriates of North African origin” (Jordi, Sayad, Temime, 1991: 106). These were perhaps the primary victims of the war as they had served in the French army, the police and other security services but had also just been employees of the civilian local government service. The precariousness of their position in France is highlighted by the fact that they were still perceived to be a separate group, fifteen years after having been ‘repatriated’ (Jordi, Sayad, Temime, 1991: 106)25. On the whole, this study is about recording the demographic changes in Marseille’s immigrant communities and in terms of the responses made to these changes by urban planners, older communities and the new immigrants themselves. It is not about exploring those more existential questions that Sayad explores elsewhere, even though there are interesting insights into internal tensions within the Algerian community prior to the rise to hegemony of the FLN after 1954, how the post-1962 growth in immigrants coincided with the brutalist trend in urban architecture as older parts of the city were razed and new HLM constructed, all at a time when the economy and employment were fragile. Before leaving this section, I want just briefly to refer to three other authors that Sayad makes explicit reference. They are, Hans Kelsen, John Gilissen and Gershom Scholem. Kelsen was a jurist born in Prague in 1881 who settled in the United States, and amongst his concerns was the question “what is justice?”26. Central to Kelsen’s view of justice was its relationship with other disciplines including philosophy and science, and for Sayad what Kelsen did was “to free himself from state thought” and not only contest but also demonstrate the “arbitrary (or conventional) character” of the distinction between “national” and “non-national” (Sayad, 2004: 281; 1999). Furthermore, Kelsen also rejected the idea that the state should, by default, be seen as the “juridical expression of a community” (Sayad, 2004: 282; 1999). Gilissen was another jurist whose work focused on the historical origins of legal systems and how they impact on people’s lives27. Scholem was born in 1897 in Berlin and was a close friend of Walter Benjamin, and while Benjamin explored the hidden byways of the Paris arcades as a means to explain modernity, Scholem sought to explore the hidden byways of the Jewish soul28. What all these authors share, is a certain elliptical way of looking at the world as a way of finding answers to the questions the societies in which they lived posed. Much as Sayad himself sought to do through his emigration-immigration paradigm. It is moreover interesting that in general these references are to be found in his later writings of the 1990s, as if


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he was beginning to look elsewhere for ways to understand differently, the world in which emigration-immigration was such a constant part.

5. Conclusion The relevance of Sayad’s work on migration and its use of the dualities of emigrant-immigrant and emigration-immigration and the dilemma that these dualities pose for all parties is one way to think about a post 9/11 world in which states have been re-thinking their relationships to the phenomenon of emigration-immigration and therefore the presence of emigrants-immigrants. However, in many ways, how they have done this follows the route that Sayad outlined in “Immigration and ‘state thought.’” This is what makes Sayad’s work relevant to the twenty-first century and why exploring different aspects of how Sayad constructed a sociology of migration is pertinent. Moreover, in an article published in 1989, Sayad himself laid out the parameters for a sociology of immigration that acknowledges why you have at the core of every nation a foreign presence that is there to work and who in law is also subordinated to work. For there to be a sociology of immigration that is able to explain the consequences of this social fact, it has to begin with the double dimension of emigration-immigration. It then has to take account of emigration-immigration as a universal condition of human existence but one that is founded on an idea of the temporary that is permanent. Consequently, immigration constitutes the new social reality, but because the emigrant-immigrant’s status is tied to their category as workers, whenever there is an employment crisis not only is the legitimacy of their presence challenged by others but the emigrant-immigrants themselves also feel uneasy as well as de-legitimised. It is this that enables racism to find a place within a segregated social order. Sayad’s work is rich and complex, reflecting his own experiences of the time in which he lived and the different environments that he experienced. Nevertheless, he also poses a fundamental question about human experience, namely the place of emigration-immigration within it. This is a profound question because it is less this metaphysical or existential question that we “normals” think about, but rather questions about what kinds of number of immigrants can our society tolerate.


1. Introduction The European televisions have transmitted the images of hundreds of thousands of Berbers in the streets of Algiers, confronting the Algerian regime in 2001. During the traditional march of the First of May in Rabat, the Berber demonstrators declare “Non à l’arabité du Maroc.” In Paris, thousands of second generation Berbers, of French nationality, show their solidarity with the fight of the “Kabylian brothers” in Algeria, and carry the pictures of the Berber “martyr,” the singer Matoub Lounès, who was assassinated in 1998. The international media have recently “discovered” this apparently surprising insurrection of the “Berber people,” internationally famous for folkloric presentations, tourist brochures, handicraft and jewelry as well as for mythical images of the “Blue men” of the Sahara desert. The questions rise: Who are these Berbers? What do they want? and according to Gabriel Camps1: The Berbers, do they still exist? The ambiguity of the Berber image in the international media, which reports about the hundreds of young people demonstrating their anger in the streets of Algiers, Rabat or Paris, or engaging in an armed struggle in Niger and Mali, reflects the historical paradox of simultaneous centrality and marginalisation of the Berber question in the nation-building within North African states. As a reaction to their marginal position in the national movements, since the 1960s the Berber intellectuals have formed the Amazigh Cultural Movement2. The Movement has created alternative spaces of identity construction at the margin of North African nation-states, especially by referring to the transnational space,


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called Tamazgha, whose common historical identity transgresses the borders of post-colonial North African states. The Amazigh Cultural Movement aims to promote the Berbers’ status in North Africa by creating a new ideological construction that challenges the dominant vision of national ideology. The movement aims to the official recognition of the Amazigh question, i.e. the idea of cultural and political presence of Berbers as such in the whole North African region. The main issues concern the official recognition of the Tamazight language in the Constitution and its introduction to schools and administration, i.e. to official state structures. The Amazigh Cultural Movement articulates cultural and political demands, and raises profound questions about the historical identity of North Africa. This minority identity construction has provoked violent reactions from the majority Arabic-speaking population. In Algeria and Morocco, the Berber question has always been at the heart of the national struggle against the foreign rule, facing the ethnic “divide and rule”policy of France. The ideological opposition to the movement has created a process of semantic struggle for the definition of the North African national identities. Furthermore, the Amazigh identity construction goes beyond the national space. The structuring of the transnational public space for the expression of the Amazigh identity, by creating the Amazigh World Congress and using modern technology (i.e. movies, videotapes, music, and internet), challenges the idea of the homogenous nation-state and opens new alternative spaces for cultural and political networking. The movement stresses North Africa’s position in the crossroads between the Mediterranean and African cultural spheres, and considers Arabic and Islamic cultures, which constitute the pillars of the region’s state ideologies, as being “imported” to North Africa. Also, the movement aims to legitimize its cultural and political demands at global level by presenting the Berbers as an “indigenous population” of North Africa within the United Nations Forum for Indigenous Peoples. In this chapter, I propose to analyse the transnational process of nationbuilding of the Amazigh Cultural Movement. The article focuses both on the content (“Amazigh Nation”) and the methods and strategies (i.e. internet, media, international networks) of the minority identity construction. It also analyses the use of new technologies as a means to create new forms of cultural and political expression, which articulate questions of generation, class, gender and marginalisation in a virtual perspective. In the first part, I will explore the notion of transnational public space and reflect on the presence/absence of traditional class and gender divisions, and marginalisation in internet. In the second part, I will present the main features of the Amazigh ideology, which uses the reference to the “nation” as a means of political legitimation. In the third part, I will analyse the link between the virtual Amazigh community and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


prevailing social relations class, gender and marginalisation in a transnational perspective, by focusing on three specific cases: the Berber cinematographic production, the Amazigh Cultural Movement on internet and finally, the emergence of global networks of Berber populations in the context of the Amazigh World Congress and the United Nations Forum for Indigenous Peoples. Finally, I will reflect on the impact of the new technology and the emergence of transnational public space for minority identity construction on the reality of North African and European nation-states.

2. Emerging Forms of Cultural and Political Expressions of Local Identities in the Transnational Public Space The identity construction has an important symbolic dimension, which is communicated through discourse, images and symbols. Every group tries to legitimize its own position in social and symbolic hierarchy by creating its own (ideological) vision of social reality (Bourdieu 1982). Sometimes, this creation attempts to challenge the external definition of group’s identity and leads to the emergence of an active counter-ideological identity movement. Alain Touraine has characterised the process of identity construction by distinguishing two phases: first, the “defensive” identity construction articulating cultural aspects of identity, and second, “offensive” identity construction, leading to politicized demands of identity rights expressed in terms of power relationship. Appeal for identity rises from the refusal to accept social roles assigned to the minority group by the dominant society (Touraine 1974: 179-209). In the case of minority movements, these mechanisms of identity construction go beyond national borders, thus creating alternative spaces of political and cultural expressions in transnational space. New global phenomena include cultural dimensions that force us to reflect on political aspects of cultural issues (Dalby 1996: 35). Horsman and Marshall (1994) describe the articulation of globalism, regionalism and tribalism as a part of a new world order that puts the traditional nation-state under threat. Ethnic conflicts (Brown, ed., 1996; Brown et al. 1997), indigenous peoples` rights (Crawford 1988) and religious fundamentalism have entered into political agendas at both national and international levels. The traditional state-centric world was based on the idea of territorial sovereignty (Rosenau 1990; Williams 1996: 109-20) whereas transnational networks of communications and migrations (Fuchs & Koch 1996: 163-73; Icduygu 1996: 150-59) that transgress state borders characterise today’s world. David Held (Eley & Suny 1996: 405416) has described different “disjunctions” between the formal authority of the state and the interconnected world economy, supranational power structures,


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international binding regimes and international law and argues that the current international system limits the autonomy of state actors. Bertrand Badie (1995:80) has declared the “end of territorial politics” by describing the existence of new “alternative spaces” (i.e. migrations, informal economy, terrorism) that slip away from state control and the rules of international law. These alternative spaces undermine state sovereignty (See also Williams 1996: 109-20) and the decisions of international organizations. Cultural and political identities have become increasingly deterritorialised and nation-state is no longer an exclusive object of loyalties and identifications (Badie 1992, 1995; Buell 1994). Horsman and Marshall (1994: 179) have argued that “the erosion of the nation-state has meant that there are several new claims on the allegiance of citizens when it comes to deciding how those commonalties are expressed.” Christine Hine (2000) notes that the internet has become an “intellectual territory” where the borders between real and virtual identities are transformed in the course of virtual interactions. She argues that the internet restructures social relations in time and space and creates “virtual communities,” whose identity is more based on shared social practices than on geographic locations. Piet Bakker (2001) explores the new forms of virtual nationalism and “internet crusades” of various minority groups and their diaspora in the cyberspace. He describes the internet as a battleground of competing ideologies and as a virtual site of “imagined communities” (Anderson 1983). He also reminds about the “digital divide,” which reflects the unequal participation in the virtual community. This is reflected by the fact that the Berber diaspora plays the key role in creating web-sites, news groups and discussion forums on the Amazigh question, although the access to internet connections in North Africa is expanding tremendously. He proposes to explore the new forms of nationalism in the internet through the analysis of users, functions, contents, interactivity and effects of the internet use on social relations. Gupta and Ferguson (1997: 25, 37) explore the linkages among culture, power and space in the transnational processes. They argue that the representation of social space contains disjunctions and moving boundaries, which challenge the idea of strictly localised cultures within the given territories, and invites to “re-conceptualise” the identity dynamics within the transnational networks. They also note the emergence of a “transnational public space,” which articulates networks of virtual identities and cultures transgressing the traditional state borders. The notion of space is currently used in a modern social theory. Especially in postmodern writings the spatial dimension of social phenomena is emphasised. Neil Smith (1992:64) argues that today “the production of space is increasingly the means by which social difference is constructed and reconstructed.” Boundaries of different social

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


spaces are overlapping and constitute a part of social relations. He argues that the national space may become a scene for multiple conflicting ideologies that articulate also beyond state boundaries. Similarly, transnational public space may reproduce asymmetries of power of the national space (such as power relation between Arabs and Berbers, class and gender) and reveal the connection between social experience and place in the social structure (Smith 1992:98). This article proposes to explore the linkages between “virtualisation” of the Amazigh identity through transnational networks and modern technology and the resistance of existing social boundaries (i.e. class, gender, marginalisation) in a virtual perspective.

3. “The Nation at the Margin”-The National Discourse of the Amazigh Cultural Movement Narratives (Nash 1990) can be considered as a means of creating a national reality. Homi Bhabha (1990:3-4) describes the “Janus-faced ambivalence of language of itself in the construction of the Janus-faced discourse of the nation.” He sees the nation as an important structure of ideological ambivalence within the cultural representation of modernity. He also argues that the ambivalent, antagonistic perspective of nation will establish the cultural boundaries of the nation so that they may be acknowledged as ‘containing’ thresholds of meaning that must be crossed, erased, and translated in the process of cultural production. (Bhabha 1990:4)

He turns attention to the “margins” of the nation and the cultural boundaries in it. He also claims that Ambivalent nation-space becomes the crossroads to a new transnational culture. The other is never outside or beyond us; it emerges forcefully, within cultural discourse, when we think we speak most intimately ‘between ourselves.’(Bhabha 1990:4)

In the case of the Amazigh Cultural Movement, this articulation of local and global, and both real and virtual identities are present. The Amazigh case illustrates the complexity of minority nation-building in today’s transnational world. The vision of the “Amazigh Nation” superposes the idea of language, people, territory and history as key elements of the political legitimacy, inherited from the traditional state-centric world. The strong ideology serves as a mobilizing force, and provides a symbolic reference to the Amazigh Cultural Movement.


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The idea of North Africa as the original territory of “Imazighen” (Berbers) constitutes the basis for the Amazigh ideology. The discourse claims that there is a mythical link between the Amazigh people and the North African landscape. The movement reminds of the Berber presence in the region for thousands of years. North Africa has been ideologically identified as belonging to the Arabicspeaking Middle East without clear connections to the African or Mediterranean cultural spheres. The competing ideology of the Amazigh Cultural Movement, on the contrary, stresses the position of North Africa at the crossroads between western Mediterranean cultural sphere and old Saharan influences (KhaïrEddine 1996: 13). This fundamental change in cultural and political paradigm of North Africa suggests new ideological vision for the region’s future. The Amazigh ideology stresses the long history of sacrifices, marginalisation and sufferings of the Amazigh people, whose territory has been constantly invaded. References to lost kingdoms and to the once so blooming Mediterranean civilisation strengthen the feeling of belongingness to the Amazigh people. Although the Berber populations are fragmented within different national territories, the idea of historical unity is strong beyond state borders. Mohammed Boudhan (1995: 51-53) argues that North Africa has experienced, in a few thousands of years, successive invasions, that have led to the suffering of the Amazigh culture. When we make an assessment of what remains from the Northern African Amazigh culture after all the ethnocides against it, we cannot find much: only the ruins remain from the once so great civilization.

Tamazight is the core of the Amazigh identity. The debate on language and its “standardization” is lively. The opponents to the Amazigh Movement talk about “dialects,” while many specialists in linguistics confirm the existence of the united Amazigh language. In the absence of the Berber’s political unity, the language has become the sign of a “spiritual” and cultural unity of different groups, all in minority positions in their respective countries. The Amazigh Cultural Movement raises multiple questions: it proposes a new reading of Northern African history, culture and identity. The movement denounces political manipulation of religion (Mokhlis 1995: 1-2) and stresses the Berber attachment to universalistic and tolerant Islam. The foundation of identity is the Amazigh language, which incarnates the Amazigh culture for thousands of years. The Amazigh ideology offers a new vision of the Northern African reality. It challenges the dominant arabo-islamic ideology in a forceful manner: it offers a new reading of the historical sources of North African imaginary, where “berberity” has profound historical roots under the ideological surface.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


4. The Amazigh Community in the Transnational Public Space: Three Dimensions of the Virtual Nation-Building The transnationalisation of the Berber community is not a new phenomenon. The historical networks in the Mediterranean and the Sahara, and the migrations since the colonial times reflect the extra-ordinary mobility of the Berbers, whose life is structured by constant “va-et-vient” between Paris, Algiers and home village in Kabylia or Casablanca and home village in the Souss or the Rif regions. The economic networks and participation in the military force have allowed a constant flow of goods, people, money and symbols within the “Maghreb-Europe space” (Gallissot 1986, 1992). In particular, there is no possible understanding of the North African political and ideological reality without taking into consideration its fateful connection to France. Colonial heritage and the structuring of migratory networks have linked the two continents tightly together by creating a transnational space between Europe and North Africa (Gallissot 1992:139-146). Despite the limitation of legal migrations as a result of the European restrictive immigration policies, Europe remains the “Significant Other” to young Amazigh activists, who dream about continuing their studies in France while following the footsteps of many of their family members in Europe. Transnational survival strategies consist also of arranged marriages to obtain the “carte de séjour” or legal immigration. The return of migrants in summer seasons allows an exchange of experiences, which are intensified by new virtual forms of shared cultural references. Similarly, the Berber migrants in France follow the news of the home country through satellite antennas, which have mushroomed in each “cité HLM” of the Parisian suburbs. Paris is a major “Berber city” together with Algiers and Casablanca, and therefore, its role as a crossroads for the Amazigh identity construction is crucial. Berber intellectuals have been, since the beginning of the twentieth century, “exiled” to France, the land of freedom, enlightenment (le “pays des Lumières”) and the universal civilization, from their marginal positions in North Africa. The modern technology has allowed to bridge the gap between the exile in France and the “bled.” Images, symbols and testimonies of the political and cultural events, the marginalisation of the Berber populations, in Algeria, Morocco or in the Sahel are immediately posted on the web, and the events trigger heated debates within the virtual Amazigh community which shares the common discussion group, such as the “Amazigh-net.” Furthermore, the transnational contacts with other “indigenous people” or regional groups such as Britons or Occitans in France have enhanced the understanding of identity issues and provided new models and strategies of action. These external contacts are crucial for the development of modern Amazigh ideology. In Europe, the Amazigh Cultural Movement has been


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actively promoting the Amazigh language as one of the European minority languages, leading to the creation of the Amazigh television channel in France and to the introduction of the Berber language in the French high school final examinations (baccalauréat). This global dimension of Berber identity is completely “deterritorialised” and constituted by flows of people, information and symbols that affect social practices in the North African states. Migratory practices and new transnational identities involving superficial, fluctuant loyalties are a constitutive part of the postmodern world. The internationalization of the Amazigh problem has contributed to setting up networks between Northern African Berbers and Tuaregs that have been traditionally isolated from each other. Also, elaboration of a globalised Amazigh identity synthesizes the elements from different local cultures. For example, the symbolic Tifinagh characters, used for writing Tamazight mainly in Tuareg regions, are nowadays constantly used by the Amazigh activists all over the world. Improved access to internet has opened new perspectives for the participation in the virtual Amazigh community, as local Amazigh Cultural Associations combine their cultural activities in the “quartier” with their own web-sites, thus explicitly linking local strategies to global connections. The transnationalism of the Amazigh nation-building is mediated through the modern technology. The human rights movements in the 1980s used fax and telephone, as well as written publications to convey their messages despite limited freedom of expression in the North African states. In the 1990s, the Berber families have overcome the absence of the Amazigh language in the official media by circulating Berber films on videotapes and by listening to the music of famous Berber singers from Kabylia or from the Moroccan Berber regions. The use of modern technologies provides the material “support” to emerging minority identities. However, the globalization and universalisation of cultures (Robertson 1992) through modern communications also creates new tribalism, regionalism and it also strengthens particular identities. Different ethnic groups use the media to communicate among themselves, and to convey strong messages to the outside world through web-sites and other forms of written, musical or cinematographic production. The internet allows reaching out for universal culture and provides a media for “neo-tribal” communications. Despite the virtual “liberation” from the state borders in the cyberspace, the modern technology is also often used to convey the message about the marginalisation and the repressive reality in the North African states. The members of Berber diaspora in the United States, Canada or France may follow almost “live” the Amazigh demonstrations in the streets of Algiers and see the photos of Amazigh martyrs on the web. Direct information about the marginalisation brings the North African reality closer to the daily life of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


diaspora and the second generation Berbers in Europe. Also, the virtual Amazigh identity, mediated by the modern technology, maintains social identifications based on gender and class. The Berber movies and websites portray women, mainly shown in traditional costumes and jewelry, as guardians of the Amazigh culture. Similarly, the second generation Berber women have re-discovered the Amazigh folklore to strengthen their identity message. The class divisions within the virtual community are based on professional disciplines among intellectuals, as linguists, historians, writers or musicians tend to discuss various aspects of the Amazigh culture. Also, in France, there is an association of Berber lawyers, which links ethnic and professional affiliations, while the aim of the association is to educate young second generation Berbers about the modern citizenship and the universal rights. These articulations of class, gender and marginalisation show the complexity of transnational identities.

The Emerging Amazigh Cinema: Nostalgia for Cultural Heritage and Romantic Landscapes In the 1990s, the production of videotapes in Tamazight language about the Berber life and the emergence of the first Tamazight-speaking movies3 have profoundly transformed the cultural identity of the Tamazight-speaking people. The images of mountainous landscapes, traditional houses, costumes and jewelry all convey a strong message of the ancient culture and return to the sources of rural life. The first movie La Colline oubliée portrays the heroine women Djamila Amzar and Samira Abtout and breath-taking landscapes of the Kabylia in the 1940s. These powerful images strengthen the national pride of the Berber populations and show that Tamazight may convey strong messages about historical events and the social order. The movie reflects the patriarchal world order, where the heroine women submit themselves and resist the taboos imposed by the tradition. Their traditional costumes and beautiful landscapes bring the audience close to the rural world of Kabylia. This cultural journey becomes an emotional experience for the urban second generation Berbers, whose daily reality in the suburbs of Algiers or Paris is far from the peaceful world order in the rural villages. In Morocco, the movies made on videotapes portrait the life of Berber families in rural areas or Berber music and dance ahouach during the traditional feasts, where women wear traditional costumes and jewelry and the male/female relations are strictly codified. These videos may also tell the story of famous persons’ lives, like the film Tihya gives an imaginary account of the difficult life of the famous Amazigh singer Fatima Tabaâmrante. She has to struggle for her


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conviction and finally to leave the traditional patriarchal rural society in order to become the raissa (singer), which is an unsuitable profession for a respectable woman. This heroic story portraits a strong woman, who fights for her right to become what she chooses to be despite the constraints of the traditional society.

Amazigh in the Internet: Expressions of Community Affiliations and Universal Values Local Amazigh groups use modern media such as internet4 (Fuchs G. & Koch M. 1996: 163-73) to communicate at a global level, where the emerging virtual Amazigh community transforms the local kinship-based networks. Internet-supported discussion groups establish a global communication network of various Berber speaking actors located around the world: it creates a new virtual Amazigh identity, which partly undermines the traditional tribal basis for social interactions within the Berber society. At first sight, it appears that discussions about Amazigh linguistics, culture and politics involve only anonymous actors whose only common feature is the “belongingness to the deterritorialised Amazigh community,” virtually liberated from the state borders and their minority position in the North African countries. However, on second analysis, the categories suggested by Bakker (2001) (i.e. the analysis of users (“digital divide”), functions, contents, interactivity and effects of the internet use on social relations) show that the internet is not a neutral space, where social and political divisions would have disappeared. On the contrary, the internet articulates various enjeux, which are linked to the social, political and economic reality in North Africa and Europe as the following four examples of Amazigh internet fora show. The French and Tamazight-speaking website “” declares on the front page “Kabylie pour toujours!” and does not hide its internal community-based political messages, situated in the Algerian context. The site proposes articles about the struggle for the autonomy of Kabylia and proposes interactive opinion polls. The website makes the link between the social reality of Kabylian population in Algeria and in the diaspora by informing about the Amazigh cultural events in various countries. The publicity banners and proposed commercial services, such as book sales, reflect the commercialisation of the community business. Beyond practical information and news, the site offers some cultural references to the history, civilisation, folklore and language of Kabylia, as well as political messages in relation to the situation in Algeria. Women are represented in the folklore section in their traditional costumes and jewelry. In the website, the word “Amazigh” is used almost interchangeably with “Kabyle.” It reflects the perceived leading position of the Kabyles, compared to the other North African Berber communities, in the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


dramatic struggle and popular mobilisation for the Amazigh cultural, linguistic and political rights especially since “The Berber Spring” of 1980. Another website, “,” presented in French, Tamazight and English, aims at a universal reach to the Berber world, composed of local groups such as Rifians, Soussi, Kabyles, Tuaregs, whose cultural diversity contributes to the universal Amazigh identity. The website is maintained by a group of Moroccan Amazigh activists, which probably explains the cultural focus of the site. The symbol of the site is the fibule, a traditional women jewelry, which symbolises the renaissance of the Amazigh culture. The cultural and universal dimensions are prevailing features of the website. The transnational character of the Amazigh community is illustrated by the news articles about the Amazigh culture and politics from all over the world, in French, English, Spanish, Arabic and in Tamazight. The main function of the website is to inform about the history, culture, music, literature, poetry, linguistics and of course about the recent dramatic events of the Amazigh transnational community. The photos from the Algerian massacres or the Tuareg suffering convey the message of marginalisation and suffering the Amazigh people in their native countries. The website contains an interactive chat and discussion forum. Women are once again represented mainly in the context of traditional civilization, costumes, jewelry and handicraft. The notable exception is the proud references to Berber queen Dihya (“Kahina,” the witch”) who had resisted foreign invasions in North Africa in the antiquity. The website combines general information with intellectual references to the most recent Amazigh literature, poetry and music, which is of interest for the Amazigh intelligentsia in North Africa and in diaspora. Third website “” focuses on the “survival” of the Tuareg population in Niger and Mali. The site contains important database of key documents of the Tuareg armed struggle in the 1990s and historical references to the Tuareg culture, and to the exceptional role of free Tuareg women in the matriarchal nomadic society. The site offers links and references to the transnational Amazigh community, although the Tuaregs, who do not share the migratory tradition of their North African Berber brothers, often feel the specificity of their nomadic lifestyle, and their destiny as marginal and repressed “white” minorities in the “black” Sahel states. Their struggle is more about the physical survival than about the intellectual and cultural domination, although cultural identity is the key motivation of the Tuareg struggle. The institutional discussion forum Amazigh-net for the activists of the Amazigh Cultural Movement has provided a platform for heated political, cultural and ideological debates since 1994. Participants have created an “intimate” virtual community-atmosphere, where even personal insults and nasty rumors “among the brothers-in-arms” are not unusual. The forum has in


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particular become a means to express opinions, communications and personal ambitions, as well as ideological and political disagreements in reference to the Amazigh World Congress, created in 1995. Some activist Amazigh women participate in the discussions, although their presence is less marked than that of men. The messages mainly focus on the fundamental division between “Us and Them,” namely on the ideological “war” between the Arabs and the Berbers, more than on internal male/female relations within the Berber society. The use of e-mail also allows the distribution of symbols and pictures, such as the symbolic picture of the thousands of Amazigh women, the guardians of the Amazigh culture, marching in the streets of Algiers, protesting against the death of first young Berber martyrs, their sons, in April 2001.

Internationalisation of the Amazigh Question: Worldwide Ambitions and Participation in the Global Movement for Indigenous Peoples The Amazigh identity construction goes beyond North Africa in its reference to the universal human rights and the rights of indigenous people in the United Nation’s framework. The “Berber question” emerged at a global level when few Moroccan lawyers, active members of the Amazigh Cultural Movement, participated in the International Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. The activists had been active in the Moroccan human rights movement and had experienced the political repression against the left-wing opposition in the 1970s and 1980s. However, from their experience, they perceived a contradiction between the promotion of universal human rights involving an abstract individual and the refusal of collective rights to the Amazigh “people” within the Moroccan human rights associations. In the context of the United Nations, some Amazigh militants were enthusiastic about the decade of indigenous people in 1994, involving annual Working Groups on indigenous peoples in Geneva. In Geneva, especially the Tuareg population’s suffering in Niger and Mali has mobilized the international opinion in favor of the indigenous people’s rights in North Africa. However, there is a controversy on the “originality” of the Berbers in North Africa, as most African regimes declare that all African ethnic groups are originated from Africa, thus attempting to discredit the indigenous movement in Africa. The Amazigh women activists have participated in the movement of indigenous women in Africa, and the conference on indigenous women’s rights was organised in Agadir, Morocco in 1997. However, limited financial resources and limited moral support in the North African societies to the women activists make the international participation in global fora difficult, and most women leave the active role in the Amazigh Cultural Movement after getting married or for professional reasons.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


At a transnational level, the meetings of the Amazigh World Congress (CMA) have materialized the first attempts to create a unified organisation for the defense of the Amazigh populations from all the countries of Tamazgha. The Congress is composed of Amazigh militants from Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Niger, the Canary Islands, Libya and from the diaspora communities. The Congress has provided an opportunity for different Amazigh groups to discuss common problems at a transnational level. The Congress also introduced the concept of the “Amazigh Nation” to the ideological debate. Despite the projection of amazighity in the universal culture and global world, the CMA suffers from the national controversies, and personal rivalries, which are brought to the world scene. The Congress has some female participants, but it is not easy for women activists to access to leadership positions, as a reflection of women’s position in North Africa.

5. Concluding Remarks: Linking Amazigh Transnational Nation-Building in the Social Reality in North Africa Even in the context of the globalization of identities and the crossing of state borders, the minority movements continue to refer to the model of a “nation.” Hence, the idea of the nation seems to remain the final stage of collective identity construction and political legitimization. In a historical perspective, the majority of nationalist movements have attempted to create not only a nation, but also a state. Until recently, the process of nation building has been associated with the state formation. Bloom (1990: 61) argues that “nationbuilding requires that the mass of individuals make identification with the nation-state.” The model of a “state” has been the major reference of political identification. However, recent transnational movements have challenged the world of nation-states in the new post-modern world system. Despite the challenge to the nation-state, the idea of nation still remains a powerful means of political legitimization. Horsman and Marshall (1994: 77) argue that the ‘nation’ is certainly on the way towards being extracted from the nation-state, in any objective measure: the pact between citizen and state is undergoing a fundamental transformation, and governments can no longer fulfill their share of the bargain.

These remarks on the “extraction” of the nation from the state context raise several questions: Could the idea of a nation be separated from the state institution? Are we living a period of “imaginary nations” without any material realization as a state? The Amazigh Cultural Movement has created a new


Chapter Six

discursive space that challenges the existing national ideologies. The establishment of transnational networks of local identities constitutes a powerful instrument for the struggle against existing state structures. Therefore, it appears to be one of the major strategies of minority movements, whose resources are limited in the traditional state-controlled national space. The process of competing nation-building can be considered as being the main strategy of political legitimization: the right to peoples’ self-determination forms the basis for political legitimacy in the state-centered world. The problem of existing nation-states is therefore real: how to conceive an ambivalent relation between the transnational space of Tamazgha and the exclusive national loyalties? The transnational public space is characterised by networks of local identities, which form a unique virtual community, organised for the defense of the “Amazigh Nation.” However, the modern technology as a virtual means to create the Amazigh Nation, despite its idealistic vision of language, people, land and history of the Amazigh people, seems to reproduce social representations on gender and class relations, which reflect the social reality and marginalisation in the reality of North African states. The modern technology may have virtually created a freedom of expression for the Amazigh people, but this transnational space is not neutral, as it still reflects prevailing conceptions about women as guardians and defenders of the tradition and as mothers of their sons. The historical figure of Queen Dihya offers an exceptional political role model for courageous women, and tells a story about the women’s resistance in the difficult conditions of North Africa facing foreign occupations and “deculturation.” It seems that in the peripheral societies, like in North Africa, the systems of nation-state and territorial integrity have never been fully achieved. Traditional migratory networks and transnational ideas, like that of the pan-Arabic nationalism, could contribute to their transition into the postmodern era, whereas many stable centralist nation-states, such as France, have had difficulties facing the idea of cultural pluralism and transnational flows of ideas and people. The emergence of new phenomena, such as the Amazigh Cultural Movement, forces us to rethink certain concepts, such as the nation-state, politics and identity in the Middle East and North Africa. The analysis of state structures in the transnational world requires a profound calling into question of certain “sacred” concepts of statehood, such as territorial integrity, sovereignty, and western modernity. Instead, many new concepts, such as pluralism, cultural revival, transnationalism are needed to investigate these new multidimensional phenomena. The struggle for minority rights by the Amazigh Cultural Movement needs also to be situated in the general context of the transnational and diaspora nations, such as the Kurds or Palestinians, which constitute a challenge for the traditional state structures. Nevertheless, it appears that the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Amazigh Cultural Movement is not a traditional “separatist” movement asking for any territorial arrangement, but its discourse is an important sign of a global quest for meaningful national, regional and transnational identities and democracy in contemporary North Africa.


1. An Adequate Geographical Environment Since prehistoric times, the Straits of Gibraltar have witnessed a continuous exchange of populations between their two coastlines. Africa and Europe are so near at this point that it has been only natural for people to cross from one continent to the other, although these movements attained their highest level in several historical periods. One of these periods occurred during the Middle Ages, when Islamic expansion touched upon the Iberian Peninsula, which was incorporated into the Dâr al-Islâm2. As is well-known, this territory under Islamic rule from 711 to 1492 was called “al-Andalus” in Arab sources. Berbers crossing from North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula were documented even in ancient times. Classical Latin sources mention the presence of mauri on the northern shore of the Straits.3 On the other hand, the Vandals who arrived in North Africa in the 5th century C.E. after making their way through the Peninsula provide further evidence of how easy it was for populations to transfer across the Straits, northwards or southwards.4 With the Islamic expansion towards North Africa, large numbers of Arabs moved from the eastern areas of the Empire to the Maghreb. The newcomers came into direct contact with the indigenous population, the barbar,5 about whom they had, until this time, but vague and imprecise information. In their march towards the west, the Islamic armies, which included Berbers as well as Arabs, found their way interrupted by the Straits of Gibraltar, but, undeterred by this obstacle, crossed the sea and invaded the Iberian Peninsula. What we know about these events, as they are recorded by classical Arab sources, is so completely intertwined with legends and providential narratives that it is very difficult to reconstruct them. Nevertheless, contemporary research agrees that the invasion can be dated in 711, and that its main hero–or one of its

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


main heroes–was Târiq b. Ziyâd, a Berber whose name has remained linked with Iberian toponymy: the name of Gibraltar has its origins in the Arabic name for it, Jabal Târiq, “the mountain of Târiq.” The incorporation of al-Andalus into the Dâr al-Islâm produced a new society that gradually developed new religious and political rules, as well as new demographic structures, shaping a sense of community based on geographical proximity and common cultural values. However, this interaction was not a smooth, linear process across the centuries. The population shifts as people moved onto the Peninsula during the eighth and nineth centuries were very different from subsequent processes under Almoravid and Almohad rules. Clearly, internal political affairs in al-Andalus and its relations with the rest of the Islamic world were determinants in the changing character of Berber migration to the Peninsula. The Berber presence in al-Andalus was conditioned by heterogeneous dynamics, which themselves depended upon a variety of social, political, geographical and other factors.6 The following sections present historical analyses of the Berber population movements from the Maghreb to al-Andalus in a chronological sequence, identifying significant landmarks. The circumstances surrounding the transfers of population will be also taken into account in order to analyze their various dynamics. Finally, special attention will be paid to the reactions to these movements among the local population, as we have information that leads us to believe that, at certain times, “anti-Berber” feeling was widespread, at least among Andalusi elites. What we know about all these problems is based upon information from Arab sources written during the Andalusi period: historical chronicles, geographical treatises, biographical dictionaries and genealogical accounts. Obviously, the historiographical materials found in these sources are limited in quality as well as in quantity, and in many cases are of little help to the historian. The authors of these sources had very concrete interests; significant parts of the Andalusi population remained outside the scope of these interests and the sources are silent about them. Notwithstanding the drawbacks of these sources, an overview of the Berber population in al-Andalus can be produced on the basis of the careful use and comparison of the extant sources in ways that do justice to their historical context. In fact, Arab sources yield more information than one might at first suppose. Berbers who participated in revolts or internal fighting are identified by chronicles that would otherwise have ignored their existence. Far removed from the world depicted by the chronicles, which privilege conflict and contest as their objects of interest, the authors of biographical dictionaries focused on collecting data about Andalusi scholars. In sources of this kind, we possess great amounts of information about individual members of the intellectual urban elites, to which Berbers could and did belong,


Chapter Seven

and in many cases, this information opens new perspectives on every-day life in Andalusi cities. For their part, geographical treatises contain a great richness of data on the different kinds of population that lived in settlements, towns and cities. A combination of these data with name-places of Berber origin allows us to draw a rather precise map of the spatial distribution of Berber groups in alAndalus. Finally, we are fortunate in having one absolutely exceptional source, the Jamharat Ansâb al-`Arab written by Ibn Hazm (eleventh century).7 This precious source is an indispensable tool for our purposes here, as it offers an enormously rich range of information on Andalusi genealogies, Arab as well as Berber. The Jamhara presents the Berbers in their proper context together with other ethnic groups and as part of the puzzle of Andalusi society. From a chronological point of view, several periods were marked by a greater flow of Berber population groups towards al-Andalus. The first of these periods extends from the early days of the Islamic invasion to the arrival of the Umayyad prince `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya in 756.8 Târiq b. Ziyâd is the embodiment of this first wave of Berbers to arrive in al-Andalus, for which we unfortunately have no figures. But this lack of numerical information has not prevented historians, contemporary and modern, from realizing that Târiq’s expedition was the inaugural moment in Andalusi history. Târiq and his men themselves were products of the recent conquest of North Africa by an Islamic army. In all probability, they were hardly Islamized and, of course, they spoke Berber. Given the circumstances of this first expedition, it can be assumed that the men were not accompanied by their families, although these may have moved to al-Andalus later on. As an example, we know that a nephew of Târiq, the son of one of his sisters, was established in the southern Andalusi region of Osuna, and that his name was Abû `Amr Maymûn b. Abî Jamîl al-Sanhâji. Abû `Amr’s descendants were renowned as jurists, administrative officials and army commanders.9 A careful combing of Arab sources throws up other cases of Berber families established in al-Andalus in this first period. In some cases, these families occupied important social positions under Umayyad rule, and it is of course thanks to this prominent situation that information about them has been preserved. A case in point is that of the Banu Ilyâs, of the Maghîla tribe.10 Their ancestor, Ilyâs al-Maghîlî, arrived in al-Andalus with Târiq. He and his family settled in the region of Sidonia, near the Straits of Gibraltar, where they become local potentates. Descendants of al-Maghîlî appear occasionally in Arab sources as supporters of Umayyad rule, although they sometimes fought against it, as happened during the rule of Emir `Abd Allâh (r. 888-912). In the later period of the Umayyad Caliphate, several members of the Banû Ilyâs distinguished themselves in the service of the Caliph, occupying administrative posts (as provincial governors, military commanders and even ministers). Links with their

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


original hometown were preserved in the local toponymy of Sidonia, where a district (iqlîm) named “Maghîla” is documented by several sources.11 The Banû Abî `Îsâ were another family whose ancestor arrived with Târiq, and in this case we know rather more about their origins: they were related to the Masmûda from Tangiers and had converted to Islam before crossing to alAndalus.12 The Banû Abî `Îsâ were one of the most prominent family groups of their age and can be documented from the conquest of al-Andalus to the end of the Umayyad Caliphate (eleventh century). Several members of this family were renowned scholars and jurists, but perhaps the most singular individual among them was Yahyâ b. Yahyâ, who played a crucial role in the development and spread of the Mâlikî school of law in al-Andalus.13 After a first period of residence in the region of Algeciras, near the Straits of Gibraltar, the family established their permanent domicile in Cordoba. When the Umayyad pretender `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya arrived in alAndalus, the Banû l-Khalî´ of the Nafza tribe, were already established in the land. Their place of residence was Tâkurunnâ, nowadays Ronda, near Malaga. The Banû l-Khalî´ contributed 400 horsemen to the pretender’s army, and members of the family were still living in this south-eastern region until the middle of the tenth century.14 It is not explicitly stated by the sources whether other families, like the Banû Darrâj, arrived in the first period now under examination, although this seems to have been the case. The Banû Darrâj belonged to the Sanhâja tribe, and the most famous representative of this family was the poet Ibn Darrâj al-Qastallî (eleventh century). Similarly, other families of Berber origins may have arrived during the first years of Andalusi history: the Banû l-`Awfî, a notable family of judges and jurists living in the region of Saragossa and documented until the beginning of the twelfth century, and the lineage (Âl) of `Âmir b. Wahb, whose tribal adscription is not clear (it is said that he belonged to the Hanzûta, the Malzûza or the Hawwâra), although Ibn Khaldûn asserts that this kinship group arrived in al-Andalus with Târiq b. Ziyâd.15 This discussion of Berber family groups in the first period suggests two main characteristics: firstly, a preference for settlements in the southern regions of alAndalus and, secondly, a great variety of tribal adscriptions.

2. Berber Lineages and Families During the Umayyad Emirate The arrival of `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya in al-Andalus had a direct effect on the flow of Berbers into the Peninsular lands. For a better understanding of this fact, one has to remember, firstly, that the Umayyad sovereigns had established client ties with a variety of Berber lineages and tribes during the conquest of the Maghreb and, secondly, that `Abd al-Rahmân himself


Chapter Seven

was the son of a Berber woman, Râh, from the Nafza tribe.16 Moreover, the Banû Wânsûs, a family from the Maghîla tribe who had client ties with the Umayyads, was instrumental in helping `Abd al-Rahmân during his wanderings in North Africa after his escape from Damascus. The Maghîla were living in the area of the Shalif River, in what is now northern Algeria. Tkfât al-barbariyya, wife to Abû Qurra Wânsûs b. Yarbû´, protected the Umayyad prince from his enemies, hiding him under her ample skirts. This particular episode created a strong link of gratitude and debt between `Abd al-Rahmân and the Banû Wânsûs.17 Members of this family were amongst the partisans of `Abd al-Rahmân, who crossed with him to the Iberian Peninsula, and they fought with him against the then governor of al-Andalus, Yûsuf al-Fihrî. It is highly possible that only men of the Banû Wânsûs were recruited into the Umayyad prince’s army, and that they were followed, later on, by the rest of their families. Their presence in alAndalus is documented until the tenth century. Members of the Banû Wânsûs were established in the region of Mérida, alternately supporting Emir al-Hakam or revolting against him. Years later, Sulaymân b. Muhammad, from the Banû Wânsûs, was a minister (wazîr) for the Umayyad emir, `Abd Allâh. It is noteworthy that information about women from this family was preserved by the sources. We have already mentioned Tkfât al-barbariyya, who helped `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya and subsequently went to live in al-Andalus. Other women in this family were renowned for their learning and religious virtues. According to Ibn al-Abbâr, some of them were true ascetics and accomplished the pilgrimage to Mecca: these women were called Umm al-Hasan, Kalbiyya, Amat al-Rahmân, Amat al-Rahîm and Ruqayya. Other Berber lineages were also related to the first Umayyad ruler or fought with him against Yûsuf el Fihrî. Mention may be made, in this respect, of the Banû Maymûn, Banû Sâbiq al-Radîf, Banû Zarwâl and the Banû Milhân. As happened in the case of the Berbers arriving with Târiq b. Ziyâd, we again find a great variety of tribal origins among these groups. The Banû Maymûn were Masmûda, the Banû Zarwâl were related to the Maghîla, and lastly, the Banû Sâbiq al-Radîf are described as belonging to the great tribal branch of the Barânis, without further details being specified. On the other hand, the Banû Milhân and the Banû Maymûn were clients (mawâlî) of the Umayyads. Several Berber groups mentioned by Arab sources in the context of the arrival of `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya disappear afterwards from these same sources, and nothing more is said about them. More is known about Berber lineages like the Banû Zarwâl, who were established in the frontier region and documented until the reign of al-Hakam al-Mustansir bi-llâh (r. 961-976), or the Banû Milhân, who were active until the end of the Umayyad Caliphate.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


One of the characteristics of this sample of Berber lineages documented in al-Andalus during the Umayyad period is that they were Islamized shortly before their arrival on the Iberian Peninsula. Their degree of Arabization was probably weaker, as is shown by a well-known episode in the history of the armed encounters between `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya and Yûsuf al-Fihrî: the Umayyad prince asked some of the Berbers on his side to negotiate with the Berbers fighting with al-Fihrî in their common language and try to persuade them to change their allegiance.18 This incident shows that, at this time, language was still an element of differentiation between Arabs and Berbers. With the passing of time, however, the Berbers settled in al-Andalus increasingly adopted Arabic as their own language, and Berber gradually disappeared as a means of communication among them. There is no information about the use of Berber in Arabic sources, which were naturally not interested in this language. As a consequence, we have to resort to other sources of information in order to gain a more nuanced view of the double process of Arabization and Islamization as it affected the Berber population. Needless to say, Arabization was favored by a variety of factors, prominent among them the social prestige of Arabic as a language that also enjoyed a crucial religious role and the fact that Berber was not, at this time, a written language. Paradoxically, with the passing of time, Berbers themselves became one of the factors in Arabization. According to recent research on the linguistic situation in al-Andalus, the Arabic used by Berbers was influenced by their mother-tongue–at least as far as the use of nouns was concerned –, and it was this “Berberized” Arabic that was transmitted to the indigenous population of alAndalus.19 Personal names, which are key indicators of the language used by any human group, are one of the alternative sources referred to above. Consequently, the use of Berber personal names in a genealogical chart or the gradual Arabization of these family trees help us to establish that Berber populations settled in the frontier regions kept their Berber identity for a long time, continuing to use Berber names, while families established in an urban context were more likely to adopt Arab names. Families of Berber origin belonging to the social groups of administrative officials or scholars were naturally more exposed to the process of Arabization. And it is, precisely, thanks to this Arabization of Berber families living in cities that we have information about them. Having left behind them the anonymous ethnic mass that spoke–but did not write–the Berber language, they became an essential part of the Arab-Islamic social and cultural system. Our knowledge of Berbers living on the frontier is hardly comparable with the richness of information we have about Andalusi cities, but the mere existence of these groups and their low level


Chapter Seven

of Arabization is extremely relevant for the global panorama of Berbers in alAndalus. The urban setting–the Islamic city–had a powerful influence, encouraging cultural homogeneity, as it was the natural place for officials and scholars to live and work in their capacity as public representatives of power and knowledge. Berbers in these areas were highly Arabized, both culturally and linguistically. However, from indications in the sources, we know that there were also Berbers living in the countryside (bâdiya), about whom data is very scarce in the Arabic sources. It seems, therefore, that these anonymous groups will have to be studied through the examination of their material traces using the techniques of archeology.20 The Arab sources are, by contrast, very informative about Andalusi toponymy. An analysis of this rich material allows us to appreciate how Berber settlements were distributed across the country and the differences between them. In some cases, place names are strongly indicative of the presence of Berbers at a general level, as when they include the word barbar (e.g., Hisn albarbar, “the fortress of Berbers” or balad al barbar, “the place of Berbers”). Tribal groups are referred to in other cases: Mistâsa, Sadfûra, iqlîm (district) Zanâta, juz´ Masmûda, Jabal al-Barânis, etc).21 Place names of this type are obviously not conclusive proof of the continuous presence of a Berber population, but they do prove that Berbers were involved in the establishment of these places. In the case of the frontier settlements, it may be observed that Berber lineages gave their names to the places where they were permanently established, as in the case of Qasr Madâ (Castle of Madâ, named after the Banû Madâ, of Masmûda origin), or Qasr Abî Dânis (Castle of the Banû Adânis b. `Awsaja, also of Masmûda origin). As should be evident, toponymy reveals differences in the character of settlements, which were also affected by the varying geographical, social and political factors explored below. At the beginning of the Umayyad Caliphate, Berbers established in alAndalus from the earliest period are well documented both among the frontier population and as representatives of the intellectual and political local elites.

3. “Old” and “New” Berbers in al-Andalus Later on, during the reign of `Abd al-Rahmân al-Nâsir (929-961), new waves of Berbers continued to come to al-Andalus. These new groups were destined, however, “for the lowest military employments, with lesser rates of pay, and obliged to do with the most difficult jobs.”22 They appear in the sources under the name of tanjiyyûn, which means “people from Tangiers” and the southern shore of the Straits of Gibraltar. According to Ibn Hayyân, the author

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


quoted above, the Caliph was anything but appreciative of these “new” Berbers. Clearly, the Caliph did not see any relationship between the tanjiyyûn and a high-placed member of his court like the judge Mundhir b. Sa´îd, himself of Berber origin.23 With the arrival of the “new” Berbers, the integration of the groups of the same ethnic origin who had arrived earlier became more obvious. From this point on, “old” Berbers came to regard themselves as “Andalusis” in contrast to the new North African arrivals, despite their shared Berber origins. Berbers from North Africa kept arriving in al-Andalus during the reigns of the Umayyad Caliphs after `Abd al-Rahmân al-Nâsir, who maintained an active policy of intervention in Maghribian affairs. After the disdainful appraisal of North Africans shown, as we have seen, in al-Nâsir’s times and during the first years of the reign of al-Hakam al-Mustansir bi-llâh, his son and successor, a noticeable change in attitudes is easily detected in the sources because Andalusi rulers were more and more dependent on the quality and quantity of their Berber troops. Caliph al-Hakam kept increasing the number of North African soldiers and warriors in his army, but at the same time he insisted on clearly differentiating them from other military contingents. For instance, the Caliph “strictly forbade his pages, mercenaries, and regular soldiers to imitate Berbers, to resemble them, to wear any garment similar to those used by Berbers or to employ any of their mounts.”24 But it was al-Mansûr Ibn Abî `Âmir who reformed the army with Berber help. This reform was intended to enable him to use the military for his own purposes in his struggle to seize political power in al-Andalus. Al-Mansûr favored the recruitment of large numbers of Berber warriors from the other side of the Straits. His intention was to create an organized armed force loyal to himself and not to the Umayyad dynasty. In his memoirs, `Abd Allâh b. Buluggîn b. Zîrî, the last of the party kings of Granada and himself a descendant of one of the Berber groups who arrived in al-Andalus a century before, makes some significant comments on al-Mansûr’s military strategies: Since his troops were of one race, al-Mansûr anticipated that they might engage in conspiracies calculated to undermine his power and join forces in revolt against his authority irrespective of whether his commands were to their liking or not. He therefore paid close attention to the problem and allowed himself to be guided by the view that his troops should be drawn from various tribes and diverse elements so that should any one group think of defecting he might subdue it with the help of the other detachments. Moreover, al-Mansûr needed to strengthen his army and increase the number of his troops […] He therefore imported such Berber chieftains, champions, and redoubtable warriors as were known to him for their horsemanship and skill in the arts of war. […] Ibn Abî `Âmir organized the army, asserted the prestige of the Caliphate, subdued the Christians [literally, “uprooted polytheism”], and exhorted all Muslims to launch expeditionary incursions against the enemy.25


Chapter Seven

Thanks to al-Mansûr’s policies, several contingents of Berber tribes, like the Masmûda, the Zanâta and the Sanhâja, were attracted to al-Andalus during this period. According to some Arab sources, this increased Berber presence was one of the origins of the conflicts that were eventually to cause the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in Cordoba. In these sources, the revolts marking the end of the Caliphate are called al-fitna al-barbariyya (“the Berber insurrection”), an expression used to attribute the responsibility for the Caliphate’s destruction to Berbers. As a former commander of the Umayyad army in North Africa, al-Mansûr was very familiar with the region and its social patterns. He therefore found it quite easy to organize his new army of Berbers as a foreign body loyal only to him within the Andalusi military structures. This represented a major change in the organization of the army, and some Andalusi authors even charged alMansûr’s reforms with causing the dissolution of the old tribal Arab structures (qabâ´il, `amâ´ir butûn, and afkhâdh) and the loss of tribal solidarity (`asabiyya).26 The final period of the Umayyad Caliphate witnessed not only armed fighting between factions representing opposite political interests but also, and perhaps more importantly, the clash between two different social structures: Andalusi society, which was relatively homogeneous and predominantly urban, and the Berber contingents recently arrived from the Maghreb, who were more rural than urban and linked by strong genealogical ties (clans and tribes). The community we have called “Andalusi society” included, of course, Berber elements, such as those who were established in al-Andalus from the earliest days of its history. These acculturated, Arabicized Berbers perceived the “new” Berbers as other Andalusis did: as a foreign element that threatened their homogeneity. Anti-Berber sentiment was growing stronger in this context, and was to reach its peak a century later, when the Almoravids seized power in alAndalus. The son of al-Mansûr, `Abd al-Rahmân Sanchuelo, did much to exacerbate these feelings by granting Berbers advantages over Andalusis. Of particular symbolic value was Sanchuelo’s command to Andalusi notables to abandon their usual head-dress (qalânis) and adopt those worn by Berbers under the threat of penalties for those who failed to comply.27 Several Berber families who had arrived in the last period of the Umayyad Caliphate later took power in party kingdoms (eleventh century) once the Caliphate had collapsed: the Zirids in Granada, the Hammudids in Malaga and Algeciras, the Banû Yfran in Ronda, the Banû Khizrûn in Arcos, the Banû Dammâr in Morón, and the Banû Birzâl in Carmona. It is worth recalling that other party kings, such as the Banû Razîn in Albarracín and the Banû Dhî l-Nûn in Toledo, were also of Berber origin, but they belonged to the older groups of Berbers established earlier in al-Andalus. For this reason, they did not feel

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


related to the “new” Berbers and did not develop any common policy with them. In fact, Arab sources classify kingdoms like those of Albarracín and Toledo in the category of “Andalusi party kingdoms”.28 The eleventh century in al-Andalus was characterized by splendid cultural achievements and extreme political weakness. Christian kingdoms in the North of the Peninsula posed a constant threat to these small, fragmented political entities, which frequently fought one against the other. In 1085, when the situation was becoming untenable, Toledo was conquered by a Christian army, a dramatic event that reverberated throughout al-Andalus, spreading waves of shock and fear among the population. The party kings, faced with the impossible task of maintaining strong armies to oppose the Christians, decided to ask for help from the Almoravids, an emerging political power and religious movement in North Africa who had originated in the South of Morocco.29

4. Political Changes in the Maghreb and Their Consequences in al-Andalus The Almoravids were, in fact, a confederation of Sanhâja tribes. United by the religious teaching of `Abd Allâh b. Yâsin, they expanded militarily towards the north of Morocco. Other tribal elements present in this confederation included groups from the Lamtûnah, Judala, Banû Wârith and Massûfa. From 1086, when the first Almoravid prince, Yûsuf b. Tâshufîn, disembarked in alAndalus, a new wave of Berbers made its appearance in the Iberian Peninsula, this time called in by the Andalusis to save them from the Christian advances. As is well-known, the Almoravids took this opportunity to expel the party kings and seize power in the whole of al-Andalus, establishing themselves as a new element in the population. In these circumstances, Andalusis were obliged to count on the Almoravids for their defense, as they were so clearly more powerful in military terms. But the Andalusis considered themselves to be culturally superior to the Almoravids, who could not speak proper Arabic, if Arab sources are to be believed. AlShaqundî, a man of letters of this period, made sarcastic comments on this point and criticized Yûsuf b. Tâshufîn for not understanding the artistry of the poems recited in front of him by Andalusi poets. The Berber prince, says al-Shaqundî, thought the poets were asking for bread and did not realize they were reciting works of art composed in his praise!30 What is clear, in any case, is that the Almoravids who arrived in al-Andalus had kept their tribal structures intact. There they found that the original Arabs established on the Peninsula had completely lost this aspect of their social life, as al-Mu`tamid b. `Abbâd, king of Seville and himself of Arab descent, explained to Yûsuf b. Tâshufîn: “Among us, Arabs of al-Andalus, tribes are lost,


Chapter Seven

unity is divided, and genealogies are altered. [...] We have become nations (shu`ûb), groups without kinship or families.”31 A structural contrast can be detected in al-Mu`tamid’s words. The king was describing a social system that existed in the Andalusi past, but had now disappeared, a system that was recognizable to the Berber prince and practiced by the Almoravids. One can even perceive, in the nostalgic undertones in alMu`tamid’s statements, sadness at the loss of a genealogical heritage from a more glorious past. We have to remember, here, that the Berbers who had arrived a century before the Almoravids, during the final period of the Umayyad Caliphate would have kept their tribal structures much more than Arabs or “old” Berbers. Something of this kind would have been behind the behavior of `Abd Allâh b. Buluggîn, who apparently believed that the Almoravids would treat him favorably because he was also a Sanhâja. However, tribal solidarity with a Berber from al-Andalus was less important for Yûsuf than the conquest of a new kingdom for his empire. The Almoravids ruled al-Andalus for nearly a century. For the first time in Andalusi history, Berbers were actually in power. But, as was the rule throughout the history of al-Andalus, the Almoravid Berbers accepted Arab cultural patterns and Arabic as the language of administration and culture. Andalusi intellectuals and high officials were hired by the Almoravids and integrated into the new elites that governed both al-Andalus and the Maghreb. At the same time, the military character of the Almoravid presence did nothing to encourage the Almoravid Berbers to blend in within the Andalusi population.32 A century after their triumphant arrival in al-Andalus, the Almoravids were defeated by a new Berber power that had arisen in southern Morocco. The Almohads built the most important Islamic empire in the Western Mediterranean, conquering al-Andalus just as they conquered the central and eastern Maghreb.33 The Almohad movement was based upon the Masmûda tribes, and historical sources underline this connection when they call the Almohad empire the dawla masmûdiyya. Other tribal elements were also present, but the preeminence of the Masmûda was uncontestable. Among the other Berber tribes supporting the Almohads, we find the Jadmîwa, Janfîsa, Hintâta, Tinmallal, Zanâta, Sanhâja, Lamta, and Haskûra. All these tribes and the complex new Almohad administration came to al-Andalus as military occupiers. The majority of these newcomers spoke Berber. The Almohads valued Berber as a language much more than the Almoravids.34 In consequence, it was made compulsory for preachers in mosques to know at least the profession of the unity of God (tawhîd) in Berber. According to Almohad regulations, public

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


speeches were to be delivered both in Arabic and in what the sources call “the Western language” (al-lisân al-gharbî), in order that Almohad followers could understand their meaning. What remains obscure is the extent to which the Berber language was adopted by the Andalusi population. The final chapter of the history of the Berbers in al-Andalus was written by the Banû Marîn. These Zanâta tribesmen made several incursions into the Iberian Peninsula well after the Almohad Empire had collapsed.35 Theirs was a sporadic presence related to the political situation in the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, and with a very limited effect outside the military. And when, in 1492, Granada was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella, Andalusis began to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to seek refuge in North Africa. This North-South movement was not new. This chapter has looked at the migration of North African groups to al-Andalus as a continuous flow of Berber elements into Andalusi society. It is also important to point out that there were movements in the other direction, although not on such a large scale. Berbers already established in al-Andalus could and did go back to their homeland in North Africa. This happened on several occasions due to difficult circumstances in al-Andalus, such as droughts and subsequent periods of famine, as in 753-754 and in 812-813 under the reign of the Umayyad prince al-Hakam.36 The Maghreb was also a place of refuge and exile. `Abd Allâh, son of `Abd al-Rahmân b. Mu`âwiya and pretender to his father’s throne, spent some time there, waiting for the right moment to cross the Straits and fight for power.37 By contrast, Cordoban rebels against Umayyad al-Hakam were expelled from the capital and took refuge in Fez. A quarter in this Moroccan city is still called the “Andalusiyyûn” after these refugees, preserving the memory of their forced migration.38 In a very different sphere of human endeavor, crossings of the Straits by Andalusi scholars on their way to Mecca established enduring links between the two sides of the sea. Like traders, scholars carried material goods and intellectual innovations with them, contributing to the cultural exchanges between learned elites as they made their way to the Islamic East.

5. Some Conclusions Throughout its history, al-Andalus saw more Berber immigrants than Arabs. One might be tempted to think that, being greater in number, the Berbers would have had an accordingly greater influence than the Arabs, at least in cultural and linguistic terms. However, as we have seen, this was not the case and, on the contrary, the Berbers who arrived in al-Andalus in the first two centuries of its history progressively adopted Arabic as their language. Moreover, the Berbers who arrived in the first period belonged to different tribal groups and, as E.


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Manzano has noted, at that time there was no homogeneous, shared Berber identity. In fact, the word “Berber” encompassed people of so many different origins that it is impossible to consider the Berbers as a coherent entity at that time.39 Circumstances changed in later years. By the time of al-Mansûr b. Abî `Âmir, the Almoravids, and the Almohads, Berbers who arrived in al-Andalus did not find a society undergoing a process of formation, but a cultural community with well established values. Built through the integration of populations from a variety of origins, al-Andalus was already an Islamic society with significant Jewish and Christian minorities. Faced with the arrival of new groups from North Africa, Andalusis felt a strengthened sense of their own shared identity, with the added result that Berber cultural elements were not readily adopted. Finally, it has to be remembered that, during this period, the Berber presence was military in nature: the Berbers were, in fact, occupying the territory, something that did not enhance their popularity among the local population. The so-called “Berber insurrection” (al-fitna al-barbariyya), which, according to the Arab sources, caused the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate, left a deep impression in the collective memory of al-Andalus. Undoubtedly, these events helped to create a feeling of difference between Andalusis and their neighbors south of the Straits. Andalusis were dependent upon the help of North African armies to defend their territory from Christian attacks, especially after the downfall of the Caliphate and the loss of Toledo. But because they were militarily inferior, they tried to compensate for their position by emphasizing their cultural superiority. Maghribis and Andalusis were both Muslims, but the latter felt themselves to be the custodians of a prestigious legacy, the inheritors of a brilliant Caliphate, enjoying the legitimacy of eastern Islamic history. The consciousness of belonging to a culture superior to that of the Berbers is quite clear in several Andalusi texts written after the eleventh century.40 From the tenth century onwards, the history of the Berbers and their migration to al-Andalus is a story of a double contrast–cultural but also, and more importantly, structural. For the Berbers, tribes were an essential element in social cohesion, while for Andalusis tribal adscription did not play any significant role in the articulation of society, serving instead as a way of legitimizing ancestry and identifying noble origins.

Part III: Jewish and Coptic Minorities


“Could I be descended from a Berber Tribe when the Berbers themselves failed to recognize me as one of their own?” So asks Mordekhai Benillouche, the main protagonist in Albert Memmi’s largely autobiographical novel, Pillar of Salt. Trying to find his identity in the changing world of colonial Tunisia, Mordekhai considers his link to the Berbers: “For a while, I believed my forebears had been a family of Berber princes converted to Judaism by Kahena, the warrior-queen and founder of a Jewish kingdom in the middle of the Atlas Mountains. It pleased me to think that I came from the heart of the country.”1 From the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea began to take hold that a significant number, if not most, of the indigenous Jews of the Maghrib were descended from Berber tribes who had converted to Judaism in late antiquity. Yet for those Jews who lived among Berbers and spoke their language, the idea that they themselves were Berbers was almost entirely absent. North African Jews’ self-definitions reflected their diverse origins and the ebb and flow of migrations in a region at the crossroads of civilization. They divided themselves into a number of ethnic subcategories such as those who came from Spain after the fourteenth century purges and expulsion of 1492 (megurashim) as distinct from the indigenous inhabitants (toshavim). There were various other groups associated to migration and settlement, such as the Livornese Jews who had formed an identity in the Tuscan port of Livrno (Leghorn) and then settled in small colonies throughout the Mediterranean, or Judeo-Spanish speaking Jews who regarded themselves as distinct from Arabic speakers. Many of these categories overlapped, or amalgamated, creating new forms of identity that came to distinguish the Jews of the Maghrib. The identity of Berber Jews, or to be less ambiguous, Berber-speaking Jews, remains perhaps the most problematic question when discussing the origins and cultural development of North African Jewry. Even what to call Jews living among Berbers in the Maghrib is not only a subject of academic controversy,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


but is also an issue that reflects the often contested politics of identity. Jews were scattered throughout Berber speaking regions in North Africa, in Jerba, in the Algerian Mzab region, and throughout rural Morocco, especially in the Atlas Mountains and southern oases. Jews often spoke the Amazigh dialects of the region, could even recite Jewish sacred texts, such as the Passover Haggadah, in Amazigh,2 but the language at home, at least in the twentieth century and probably in earlier centuries as well, remained Arabic. Why is it that the mother tongue of the Jews was not Amazigh,3 in areas that were entirely Berber speaking? Even in the most remote regions of the Atlas Mountains, for example, in Tashemshit, Aït Bou’oulli, or Telouet, the Jews spoke Arabic. Monolingual Berber speakers existed, according to Moroccan Jewish informants who once lived in Tashelhit speaking regions, but always in the communities more remote than their own. And yet Muslims from these more distant communities asserted that the Jews spoke Arabic, as did the Jews from the supposedly monolingual Berber communities.4 Can it be asserted that as the language of power and prestige in Morocco, Arabic enabled the Jews, who had a lower status in the social hierarchy of Berber tribal society, to redress the balance and distinguish themselves from their Muslim neighbors? In the context of the larger world of Moroccan Jewry, the Jews from the rural regions of Morocco were already regarded as inferior: by defining their yet more remote and primitive “other” Jewish coreligionist as Berbers, did this not elevate their own position in the social hierarchy?5 It is ironic that in Tunisia, the country with the smallest percentage of Berber-speakers, some Jews proudly adopted the idea of Jewish descent from Berbers. The legendary Kahina “priestess” believed to have led the resistance to Arab expansion in North Africa, and whose Jewishness and even historicity are questioned, became a heroine among Tunisian Jews in the colonial era, the theme of stories, novels, and plays, or associations; still today, her name is memorialized in sites such as, perhaps becoming an even more powerful figure among the Tunisian Jewish diaspora. While the association with Kahina becomes a source of national pride, perhaps as a kind of powerful preIslamic figure that could counteract the image of Jewish powerlessness, it was hardly an assertion of Amazigh identity or culture.6 Memmi’s protagonist, for instance, is constantly embarrassed by his Berber mother and her primitive superstitious ways.7 Among the Arabic speaking Jews of Jerba, one of the few Berber speaking regions in Tunisia, there is no notion of Berber descent. Throughout the Berber regions where Jews lived, the Jewish population never considered themselves Amazigh or of Berber origin. Berbers saw the Jews living among them as distinct, not only by religion, but also by ethnic and tribal origin. Traditions exist of Berber Jewish tribes converted to Islam in Algeria and Morocco long ago, who are still considered ethnically “Jewish,”8 but beliefs in


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these tribal vestiges of an ancient Judaism are disassociated from the twentieth century Jews who lived in the Berber regions. It has been only after the departure of Jews from these regions in the latter half of the twentieth century, that Berber identity groups began to refer to their historical neighbors as Berber Jews. Myths about the origins of North African Jews are not only connected to contemporary identity politics, but date back to antiquity. In the Berber Moroccan south, in regions inhabited by Jews until the latter half of the twentieth century, legends, probably centuries’ old, trace Jewish origins to the ancient Israelites and the first dispersion of the Jews. Jewish merchants, it is told, reached the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco on Phoenician ships, landing between Aglu and Ifni during the reigns of David and Solomon. In another legend, the first Jews came to Morocco at the time of Solomon, landing at Salé in search of precious metals; the country appealed to them and they stayed. Throughout the Mediterranean world, the Assyrian conquest in the eighth century and legends of the ten lost tribes of Israel has been the source of countless legends of the arrival of far-flung Jewish communities. The conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar has also been connected to the arrival of Jews in Morocco. According to some traditions, Jews were brought in captivity to North Africa and went to Vaden, a Phoenician colony at Wad Nun; from there they settled in Vakka (Akka?). Traditions on the antiquity of the Jews in Morocco were not only maintained by the Jewish communities but also the local population who believed that all along the edges of the Sahara in North Africa sedentary Jews are linked to the introduction of metallurgical and other technical skills in antiquity.9 Similar myths are found elsewhere in Maghrib; in Jerba for example the popular story told is the Jews first arrived following the destruction of the First Temple, while some traditions echo the tradition of their arrival at the time of King Solomon.10 Moroccan Jews today believe that the oldest, continuously existing Jewish community in Morocco, still thriving in the twentieth century, was Ifran (from ifri or cave in Berber, known to the Jews as Oufrane; Jews supposedly were cave-dwellers there for a long time) of the Anti-Atlas Mountains in southwestern region of Morocco known as Sous. Jewish settlers, it is said, were descended from refugees fleeing ancient Israel at the time of the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Their arrival in Ifran, however, was hardly direct according to tradition. They are said to have first crossed Egypt, and it was their descendants who reached the Anti-Atlas region in 361 BCE, settling along the Wad Ifran after gaining the authorization of the local inhabitants. Here, the Jews founded a kingdom under the king Ephrati, from Ephraim, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.11 As in other communities in

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Morocco and elsewhere in the Jewish Diaspora, the Jews of Ifran recounted the legend that when Ezra the Scribe called the Jews back to Jerusalem after the Jews were allowed by the Persians to return from Babylonian exile, the Jews of Ifran preferred to remain in their new country. By attributing one’s origins to the symbolic and formative “First Diaspora,” Moroccan Jews not only establish their links to the ancient Land of Israel and the Jewish world, but they also legitimate their very deep roots in Moroccan soil. Dotted along the Drâa valley in the Central region to the South of the High Atlas Mountains were numerous Jewish communities. Here, as well, there are traditions of the ancient settlement of Jews. Oral traditions of Jewish and Christian kingdoms before the rise of Islam and during the early Islamic centuries were reproduced in more recent times in Judeo-Arabic manuscripts that have been published by scholars in this century.12 A number of versions exist of an ancient Jewish kingdom in the Drâa. The story recounts that Jews arrived in the Drâa at the time of King Solomon in the tenth century BCE, who sent Jews there in search of gold. The Jews first settled in the Drâa following Joab, in one version of the legend, the commander of King David’s armies, who was pursuing the Philistines (believed to be the ancestors of the Berbers). The first settlement was in the Jabal Silman at a place called Tidri, at the bend of the Dra‘ between the oasis of Laktawa to the North and M’hamid to the South. The Jewish community grew, largely the result of new converts to Judaism (or Judaizers) either among the Kushites or the more recently arrived Berbers and other settlements were established: M’hamid, Meggag, Laktawa, and then moving northwards into the Jabal Zagora in the first centuries CE taking control of Tazrut in the district of Fazwata which had for centuries been the seat of power of the King of the Kushites, who became Christians. Some scholars have speculated that the “Kushites” of the Drâa converted to Christianity in the third or fourth century through the influence of the Abyssinian Kushites along the Saharan oases, and belonged to the Alexandrian church with the Copts of Egypt. Other Christians, distinct from the Kushites arrived in the area in the fifth century. After taking control of Tazrut, the Jews established their capital at Tamgrut. After a protracted struggle with the Christians in the seventh century CE, the Jews were victorious and became the sole masters of the region.13 The Jews maintained their supremacy for several centuries, according to the legendary account, even after the Muslims established themselves in Sijilmassa in the eighth century. Muslims who settled in the Drâa came under the protection of the Jews, and for a long period of time coexisted peacefully. Eventually, however, there was a protracted struggle between the Jews and Muslims, with the Jews managing to hold on to the fortified site of Tazrut. Jewish hegemony in the Drâa valley, according to these accounts, was only supplanted in the eleventh or twelfth centuries CE when the Almoravids,


Chapter Eight

followed by the Almohads established their domination from Tazrut.14 The Jews in the southerly mellahs in Ktawa (Beni Sbih and Beni Hayun) and M’hamid maintain traditions that their total submission to Muslims really did not occur until the sixteenth century expeditions to sub-Saharan Africa of the Sa‘di sultan Ahmad al-Mansur.15 Some historians have accepted the essential historicity of these legends, though without evidence contemporaneous to the periods in the above narrative, as even these historians admit, we can only try to interpret the reasons why such legends were produced. As elsewhere in the Mediterranean Basin, Christians likely encountered already entrenched Jewish communities in the Maghrib in Roman times and competed with the Jews, bearing in mind that Jews were still actively proselytizing during this period, over gaining converts.16 It makes sense that the various thriving Jewish communities in Southern Morocco in later periods, living as a minority under Muslim domination, created a history that predated Islam and that speaks of a powerful Jewish kingdom that not only vanquished the Christians but managed to withstand the Muslims for centuries. Indigenous Christians disappeared entirely from Maghrib in the Middle Ages; only Jews remained as the non-Muslim minority. Yet the struggle with the Christians for the control of southern Morocco, especially with the Portuguese, left a legacy of martyrdom among Muslims, mujahidun who lost their lives fighting the foreign invaders. Assuming that these legends were of a much later date, the Jews may very well have been situating themselves in this struggle by creating their own myth of fighting and ultimately vanquishing the Christians in ancient, pre-Islamic times.17 The legends also serve to situate the Jews among the different ethnic and social groups in southern Morocco, the Berbers or the dark skinned group of agriculturalists known as haratin. By connecting the Jews to the Kushites, a genealogy is established connected to the biblical Kush, son of Ham, son of Noah. One of the legends in the Jewish manuscript tells how a converted slave to Judaism was the ancestor of Sidi Muhammad b. Nasir, the founder of the powerful Nasiriyya order that from the seventeenth century dominated the Drâa from its zawiya in Tamgrut. Jews were banned from residing in Tamgrut.18 Excluded from the vicinity of the sanctuary, could not this legend nevertheless give the Jews a sense of empowerment? More generally, excluded from the society of tribes, on which political power relied, the establishment of a biblical genealogy linked to the ancient arrival of the Jews, enhances their own sense of “tribal identity.”19 Finally, while there is little evidence to the veracity of these traditions, they do reflect the ancient roots that Jews planted in the Drâa Valley and Anti-Atlas. Though it is plausible that there were Berbers who converted to Judaism in late antiquity at a time when Christianity and Judaism were both in flux,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


intermingling and competing with each other in their proselytizing mission in the Mediterranean basin, there is no contemporary evidence to assert this claim with any degree of certainty. As we have seen, neither among the Jews nor the Berbers of the Moroccan south did the legends of Jewish origins refer to the idea that the Jews were Amazigh or of Amazigh origin. It is interesting to note that the idea of Berber Jews probably originated among the Arabs, the outsiders’ view of Imazighen. In the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldun writes about Berber Jews who were converted by the Israelites of Syria.20 From this came the notion that through converts to Judaism, the number of Jews increased in North Africa. These Berber converts to Judaism, it was believed, would have been from the Zanâta tribal confederation, the group that formed the Marinid dynasty during Ibn Khaldun’s time. The fourteenth century philosopher also recounts the story of the Jewish “priestess” Kahina who led the resistance to the Arab conquests of the seventh century.21 The theory of Berber origins of the Jews is further supported by the idea that when Islam expanded into southern Morocco, Berber Jews managed to keep their religion, while the Berber Christians, who were smaller in number, became Muslims. The myth of Jewish origins became linked to the more general question of the myth of Berber origins. After the Maghrib was brought into the Islamic world, Arab historians and genealogists sought to account for the origins of the Berbers by tracing their roots to the East. The myths of Berber origins in Palestine, however, originated long before the Arab conquests. Greek, Roman and Byzantine historians also attempted to account for the Berber presence in North Africa with the explanation of Jewish migration to North Africa at the time of or after the Phoenicians. Legends recount also that at the time of the Israelite conquest of Palestine by Joshua b. Nun, Moses’ successor, the indigenous Canaanites were deported from their country, went to Egypt and from there settled in the Maghrib. The Arab historians used the traditions of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish historians, to connect the Berbers to the familiar Biblical traditions, as they did with other groups incorporated into Islam. Jewish authors in eleventh century Granada referred to the contemporary Berbers as Philistines (“sarne Pelishtim” meaning Philistine officers in Hebrew), a term that the Jews of the Atlas still sometimes used to refer to their Muslim neighbors. Berbers in the Maghrib themselves learned about their “Philistine” origins from Arab sources produced in Spain. A tradition, recounted by the fourteenth century scholar, Ibn Khaldun, tells of Berber descent from the Philistines, who migrated to the Maghrib when David (Da’ud) slew Goliath (Jalut). Berber tribes of the Eastern High Atlas preserve the tradition of their descent from the sons of Goliath.22 Jews also have maintained traditions of their Philistine origins. Jews did have other identities, and used other terms to


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describe themselves, but the popular explanation of Philistine origins might serve to legitimate their status among the Muslim Berber population. Though one finds occasional accounts of Jews living among Berbers in the many centuries following the arrival of Islam in the Maghrib, it was mainly in the nineteenth century that the far-flung Jewish communities of the Berber Atlas and Sahara were “rediscovered” by Europeans,23 even though most foreign writers only directly observed Jews living in the cities, and when discussing Jews of the hinterland, they were often reporting from second-hand information. John Davidson, a British traveler in the interior of Morocco in 1835-1836 who was killed during his journey en route to Timbuktu, left the first detailed account of Jews living among Berbers in the nineteenth century, claiming to have inspected more than one hundred villages of Jews and Berbers in the Atlas Mountains never before been seen by Europeans. He makes an observation that became commonplace among writers from the nineteenth century on—that the Jews in the Atlas have a “Berber-master,” a kind of protector of the Jews.24 Another observation that he made is the freedom exhibited by the Jews of the Atlas. “I have never met with such hospitality, or such freedom of manner in any Jews. They had dancing and music, and the ladies mixed in society without the least restraint.”25 Such proximity to Berber culture, however, did not lead Davidson to speculate about the Berber origin of the Jews; rather, though skeptical, he recounts traditions about the Palestinian origin of the Atlas Jews. Throughout the nineteenth century, observers accepted the belief and traditions of the Jews themselves: that they originated in the ancient Holy Land. The famous travel account of Charles de Foucauld from the 1880s also does not refer to or speculate on the Berber origins of the Jews. De Foucauld observes that that Jews in Berber speaking areas knew Berber, and in some places he suggests that they knew it better than Arabic.26 Foucauld’s guide, Mardochée Aby Serour, however, was familiar with traditions of tribes that converted from Judaism to Islam. The latter sent a Hebrew manuscript to the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which was published in French by the organization, on the Daggatoun, supposedly a nomadic group in the southern Sahara that had converted to Judaism.27 By the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea that the Jews living among Berbers were, in fact, descended from Berber tribes began to gain currency. It reflected changes in French colonial thinking about Jews in the Maghrib more generally, and in particular, misgivings about what was seen as mistakes in Jewish policy in Algeria. Algerian Jews benefited from an earlier, more “universal” French thinking that favored Jewish emancipation. Through the support and urging of France’s assimilated Jewish population, the cause of assimilation of Algerian Jews to France was gradually supported by the French administration in colonial Algeria, beginning with the limitation of the authority

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


of Jewish community leaders and rabbinical courts, or rendering them as controlled civil servants of the colonial regime. The communal structure was replaced by the centralized Napoleonic Jewish consistorial system that created three Algerian consistories, which eventually became subordinate to the centralized consistory in Paris. The process of assimilating Algerian Jews to France culminated in the Decret Crémieux in 1870, a law that naturalized Algeria’s Jews as French citizens, the result of a long campaign of French Jews that was supported by the colonial administration who saw the Jews as loyal to the occupation (though criticized by the settler population). 28 Exceptional was the case of the Jews of Ghardaïa in the Berber, Mzab region of the Algerian Sahara. The region was not firmly under French authority at the time of the Crémieux decree, and the French authorities refused to grant the Jews naturalization when the region was annexed in 1882. The Jews from Ghardaïa were still classified as “indigenous” even if they moved to another part of Algeria, and this only changed in 1947.29 That the Jews of Ghardaïa were refused citizenship, I believe, is symbolic of changes taking place both on the Berber question and Jewish question. The idea that Jews were descended from Berbers was not yet known, but the denial of citizenship to the Jews of Ghardaïa anticipated changes that were reflected in the Tunisian and Moroccan protectorates, policies that regarded Jews as “indigenous.” In Algeria, this new racial thinking was reflected, on the one hand, in the mounting, antisemitic campaign of the French settlers in Algeria who were vociferously opposed to the Jewish acquisition of citizenship, and the misgivings of the French authorities on the wisdom of the Crémieux decree on the other. The period following the Crémieux decree marked the transition from military to civilian rule in Algeria, which potentially opened the door to the assimilation of the indigenous population. This led to the growth of racist thinking, which could serve as the rationale for preventing Algerian Muslims population acquiring more rights and hence threaten the racial hegemony enjoyed by the French and other European settlers from the northern Mediterranean.30 This also anticipated a general shift taking place in French colonialism, a transition from the more universal notion of assimilation to one of association.31 The new attitudes towards Berbers and Jews resulted in policies in Tunisia and Morocco that were radically different from Algeria. While there had been no explicitly Berber policy in Algeria, more an ambivalent range of attitudes about Berbers as a distinctive group from the Arabs, there were some who argued for giving the Kabyles special status in Algeria, with the belief that the acceleration of Arabization that had occurred was detrimental to French interests.32 With the establishment of the protectorates of Tunisia (1881) and


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Morocco (1912), there was also new thinking about the Jews by French policy makers who argued that the granting of citizenship to the Jews in Algeria had been a grave error; such policy was inconsistent with the notion of association with the indigenous populations, a policy that necessitated the subtle, often discreet maintenance of what the Tunisian and Moroccan protectorate authorities would define as native institutions. While it would be hazardous to directly link ideas about Berber origins or culture of Jews with changes in French Jewish policy in the Maghrib, the new colonial context certainly accommodated the convergence of certain notions about the indigenous, Berber origins of the Jews. Thus, the legends of Jewish Berber tribes resisting the expansion of Islam, the dispersion of small isolated communities from the Moroccan Atlas to Jebel Nefusa in Libya, and observations on the customs of contemporary Jews living among Berbers that had accumulated since the nineteenth century began to convince scholars that a significant number of North African Jews were descended from Berber tribes. The standard authority on ancient North Africa from the French colonial period, Stéphane Gsell, though perhaps not entirely convinced of the Berber origins of the Jews theory, discovered, (apparently from personal observation) that “either from heredity or adaptation to the environment, many Maghribi Jews display traits that recall Berber, and not at all, Semitic faces.”33 Whether of Berber ethnic origin or culturally assimilated, Jews were considered integral to the Berber world in the French colonial tradition. The theory of the Berber origin of culture of North African Jewry was first developed in a systematic and detailed manner by the Orientalist Jewish scholar, Nahum Slouschz, who published a number of studies on the Jews of North Africa in Archives Marocaines in the first decade of the twentieth century. Slouschz amasses a wide range of sources to support his theory. He claims that Jews migrated from Palestine to Berber regions well before the Arab conquest, spreading Judaism among the Berber tribes. Slouschz’s theory is based on many different kinds of sources, and is not restricted to Jewish traditions. He asserts that well before the Arab conquest of North Africa, Jews from Palestine migrated to the Berber regions, and spread Judaism among the Berber tribes. He summarizes his hypothesis in support of the persistence of a “Judeo-Berber race.” If we encounter throughout North African territory a folklore common to both Jews and Arabs springing from pre-Islamic Arabia or Ethiopia; if the survival of sanctuaries of Aaronid clans, of warrior and dissident Judaisms appear everywhere; if the evidence of Arab historians on the role played by an unknown Judaism are corroborated by archeology, epigraphy, language, and ethnography; if there still exists groups of Jewish nomads, of Jewish cave-dwellers, and Jewish fellahs attached to the soil; then how can we deny the thesis that we are here

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


presenting: namely, that of the persistence in Africa of a Jewish race more or less indigenous, who by constitution, origins, and traditions corresponds to the Berber themselves?34

Aside from his own observations made during his extensive travels in the Maghrib, his evidence is anachronistic and legendary. Even the epigraphic evidence, some of which is ancient, does little to demonstrate the conversion hypothesis. But Slouschz’s theory of the Berber origins of North African Jews, whether attributed to him or not, became unquestionably accepted in writings about the Berbers in the colonial period because it accommodated colonial thinking about the indigenous population. Slouschz also had ideas about Berber Jews, I argue, that accommodated French colonialist policy and thinking, which closely paralleled ideas about the Berbers. In reference to Judeo-Berbers, Slouschz affirmed that the history of the Judeo-Berbers “is the quintessence of the history of the Berbers;” He discovered that in “Blad es-Siba, the Tripolitanian and Algerian qsur— places until now inaccessible to European infiltration, that one can find the Judeo-Berber in a state almost resembling that the the Maghribians represented to us in the Jewish and Arab Middle Ages.” Parallel to the Muslim Berber population who were supposedly superficially Islamicized, these primitive Berber Jews “know nothing about Judaism.” Wherever one finds pre-Islamic Judeo-Muslim marabouts, one finds this ancient population.35 Although he describes the JudeoBerbers living in a state of quasi-slavery, he echoes both nineteenth century observations on rural Jews and the colonial discourse on the Berbers already well established in Algeria, when he finds among the Jews of the Atlas Mountains, “a fair amount of freedom.”36 Drawing from the experience and perceptions of Berbers and Jews in Algeria, the Resident General Lyautey and the French authorities in Morocco formulated both a Berber and a Jewish policy. Many French officials in Morocco came with experience in Algeria and sought to avoid what they believed were the mistakes made towards the Berbers and Jews. For the Berbers, it was believed, that failing to recognize the distinctiveness of the Kabyles resulted in exposing them to Arabization and Islamization. Unlike in Algeria, where the notion of the separateness of the Berbers did not translate into an explicit policy, in Morocco Berbers were accorded a different status. As the “pacification” of Morocco began, the French authorities defined the Berbers differently and decreed already in 1914 that the Berber tribes were to be ruled “according to their own laws and customs,” based on the notion that they maintained ancient, pre-Islamic customs (urf) that were preferable to the Islamic practices of the Arabs. The other key element to the Berber policy, decreed the following year, was the creation of judiciary “djemaas,” based on the traditional tribal “council” elected to run the affairs of the tribe under the


Chapter Eight

control of the French.37 While the eventual goal was to foster assimilation of the Berbers to French culture, through the extension of French schools among the Berbers, this was to be a slow process. Ignorant of the Berber populations of the Middle Atlas Mountains whom they were attempting to subdue, the French authorities set about to study the Berbers and their language in order to define what precisely Berber customary laws were, and for that purpose created in 1915 the Comité d’Etudes Berbères, publishing the journal, Les Archives Berbères. Until this time, most of what was assumed to be known about Morocco’s Berbers, was borrowed from Algeria. 38 As the conquest of Morocco continued (the final conquests only occurred in 1934), the French authorities took the most far-reaching step in the promulgation of the Berber dahir of 1930, in which the Berbers were to be detached from the rule of Islamic law, erupting in the growth of the Moroccan nationalist movement, and the revision or partial abrogation of the dahir a few years later.39 Lyautey’s Jewish policy in Morocco also attempted to avoid the “errors” of Algeria. Especially egregious was the granting of citizenship to Algerian Jews by the Crémieux Decree of 1870. Although there were advocates for granting Moroccan Jews French citizenship, especially among some of the westernized Jewish elites and their Franco-Jewish supporters, the French authorities clearly had no intention of adopting the Algerian policy. Instead they preferred to keep the Jews as a subordinate class of the population to avoid agitating the Muslim population against French rule. The Jews were granted a level of autonomy with the notion of preserving their native institutions, under the surveillance of the colonial state.40 As was the case for the Berbers, the French authorities needed to study the structure and institutions of the Jewish communities in Morocco in order to implement social and judicial reforms. For that purpose, Lyautey employed the services of Nahum Slouschz, veteran of the Mission Scientifique du Maroc, and creator of the Berber Jewish origins’ theory. Slouschz undertook a major investigation of the Jewish communities of Morocco and their institutional structures, and submitted a detailed proposal for reform. He was eventually dismissed by Lyautey because of his personal ambitions, his over-zealous efforts to achieve much greater empowerment for the Moroccan Jewish communities, and finally, his Zionist activism, especially in the United States. Consequently, only parts of Slouschz’s recommendations were adopted in the reforms that were implemented in 1918 and 1919, which formalized a more limited jurisdiction to Jewish judicial and community institutions under French control.41 More enduring, however, was Slouschz’s impact on the Berber Jews’ myth, integral to what Edmund Burke describes as the “colonial archive” in Morocco,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


and ideologically linked to the racial policy of the protectorate. Moroccan Jews themselves began to internalize the stereotype of the Berber Jews, especially among those who received French education. In the most detailed study ever of the conditions of the Jews in southern Morocco, published shortly after independence and based primarily on information supplied by the headmasters of Alliance schools in the 1950s, Pierre Flamand wrote how the Berber region, from where these autochthonous Jews originated, shaped not only their mentality and modes of behavior, but even their physiognomies.42 These images of the Berber Jew that developed in the French protectorate came also to define the self-image of Moroccan Jews, in distinguishing the new kinds of internal hierarchies emerging from rural migration to the city, and generational differences brought by Western education. Proponents of westernization and progress invented a new colonial hierarchy of different types of Moroccan Jews. Social divisions, following in the path set out by Slouschz, were seen in the same kind of polarities that reflected colonial thinking more generally, such as the division between makhzan/siba, corresponding to urban/rural, or Arab/Berber.43 These binaries, so much a part of the colonial lexicon, shaped the writings about Moroccan Jews under the French protectorates, and affected policies as well. The myth of the Berber Jews endured, especially after World War II when the Alliance Israélite Universelle began a concerted effort to spread civilization to the Judeo-Berber hinterland by opening new schools in what they termed the “bled.”44 Ironically, this belated Franco-Jewish mission civilisatrice came on the eve of the mass departure of the Atlas Mountain Jews in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mainly to Israel. Moroccan Jews came to constitute the largest Jewish immigration group in Israel from any single country. Many Israelis saw them as ill-adapted to the new society, not sharing in the dominant Zionist ethos of the state. Those who came from the Atlas Mountains especially were considered to be primitive due to their isolation from the civilized world. The myth of the Berber Jews was easily transported to Israel. The ideological principle of unencumbered immigration of all Jews in the 1950s to Israel, was challenged by Israelis who, fearing the rapid influx of less desirable elements, advocated for quotas and eligibility requirements (selektsia) of only the best “human material.”45 While temporarily slowing down immigration, this policy ultimately did not prevent the mass immigration of Moroccan Jews to Israel. With parity reached in the 1960s between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (or Mizrahim, to use the generalized terminology adopted in Israel), and the ethnic problem gaining more attention, efforts increased at integrating Asian and African Jewish communities into a modern Israeli society, as represented by Jews of European origin. The ideological presupposition was that all Jewish communities of the world were, in essence, the same and the


Chapter Eight

ethnic differences that existed between Mizrahim and European Jews, were produced by a cultural gap that could be bridged by the absorption of Jews of Asian and African origin into national society. There was, thus, an effort to integrate Mizrahi Jews in Israel, which caused the growth of academic institutions and scholarship on “Oriental” Jewish history.46 Among the first generation of Israeli scholars was H.Z. Hirschberg, the first since Slouschz to write a comprehensive history of the Jews of the Maghrib.47 Hirschberg sought to overturn what had become the accepted theory of the large-scale conversion of Berbers to Judaism. He persuasively demonstrates that the various traditions about the Judaized Berbers are anachronistic and unreliable, concluding that it is unlikely that a significant number of Jews were of Berber origin, not only because the weakness of the historical sources, but also because of the absence of Berber linguistic influence in Jewish literature and the relatively few Berber customs among the Jews.48 While casting doubt on the Berber origin of the Jews, Hirschberg does not come up with a theory on where they originated, though one might infer from Hirschberg’s silence that, consistent with the in-gathering of exiles ideology of the new state, he implied descent from ancient Jews in the Land of Israel. Hirschberg’s challenge to the Berber origin of the Jews’ theory, was more recently challenged by Paul Wexler with a new kind of revisionism.49 Seeking to undermine the conventional wisdom bound up in the myth of Jewish unity and Zionist ideology that the Jewish diaspora was formed by the emigration of Jews from Palestine, Wexler first argued for the Slavo-Turkic origins of the majority of Ashkenazi Jews,50 and then turned his attention to the Sephardim who likewise were consigned a non-Jewish, and in this case, predominately Berber origin. To make his argument, Wexler returns to many of the studies undertaken in the colonial period, but adds to this a linguistic/cultural argument by excavating in the language and culture of the Sephardim vestiges of Berber and Arab culture. Stirring into this cauldron, he concocts an odd admixture of philological speculation and anachronistic traditions. While Wexler’s argument is provocative and his “origins” hypothesis is even plausible, he ultimately fails to provide much “Berber” evidence to support his contentions. Wexler’s arguments are as much linked to the “post-Zionist” debates as Slouschz’s work was tied to the colonial enterprise. A final point on these identity issues: it was brought to my attention on several occasions that unauthorized versions of an article I published a few years ago, “La découverte des Juifs berbères,” have been reproduced and posted on several Berber websites (,, as well as appearing in the Moroccan newspaper, in Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb (April 29, 2005). BerberJewish culture is being reclaimed as part of a larger invention of a transnational

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Amazigh identity. The historical marginalization of the Berbers from the dominant Arab-Islamic narrative, coupled with the contemporary debate with Islamists who champion Arab Islam, which would also exclude the Berber origin of Jews’ idea, has produced a kind of counter-narrative among Berber activists who are not only calling for the return to a Berber, and essentially nonIslamic identity, but are affirming their connection to North African Jews. This has even gone so far as calling for the establishment of an association that would link Berbers with Jews of Berber culture in Israel.51 This newly discovered cultural connection has not caught on among a new generation of Jews of Berber heritage. But among the now aging population of Jews who once lived in the Berber regions, many retain a certain nostalgia for the less complicated life in rural Morocco. Their former Berber neighbors of the same generation understand the Jews as once being both a separate ethnoreligious group and an integral, indeed, indispensable part of the social fabric and economy of rural society, and whose departure was seen through the filter of time as a great loss.52


A Jewish poet initiated the following poem: ‘Witness, O you people who are here present, that we all are the same (equal) Only the skullcap, which is a very small thing in fact, separates us (differentiates us).’

1. Introduction Today the Jewish presence in rural Morocco manifests itself in its absence. Jewish communities were once numerous throughout the predominately Berberspeaking regions of the Atlas mountains and Saharan oases. Yet this diverse and ancient population had almost completely disappeared by the early 1960s due to mass emigration to Moroccan cities and abroad, primarily to Israel.2 Despite their departure, Jews retain a vivid presence in contemporary Muslim Berber oral culture. The former Jewish quarter or neighborhood continues to be referred to as the mellah in many of the villages where Jews used to live. An older Muslim woman in a Saharan oasis village absolutely insists she can still smell the wine once made by Jews in the mellah, though to an American nose there are no traces. References to Jews remain in legends, tales, and in the memory of those who lived with them. Muslim Berber elders can reel off the names of the Jews who had left their village forty or fifty years earlier. Some younger Muslims, born after the departure of the Jews (or at least too young to have adult memories of living with them) are deeply interested in the history of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Jews of their native regions, perceiving it as an essential part of their own cultural history. Many are familiar with the oral traditions, and in some cases are themselves transmitting them, at least to American researchers if not among their own communities. Interviews with elder Muslims about their former Jewish neighbors often elicit these legends, folktales, anecdotes, poems or songs which illuminate a shared past, though one not entirely devoid of paradox. These oral traditions reflect many aspects of daily life and shed light on the extent to which Jews, though a minority, were woven into the fabric of rural life. Due to their intimate perspective on the question of how Self and Other are constructed, the oral sources are able to convey the nuanced mixture of admiration and derision that characterized the inter-communal relationship. Given that Tamazight (the official name for the Berber language throughout the Maghreb) was not a written language in Morocco, its oral traditions are especially rich, offering a wealth of resources for revealing insights into these relations.3 While playing on the differences between Self and Other, these oral traditions reveal the depth of knowledge between Muslims and Jews. They convey the familiarity each had with the details of the other’s life, religion, habits, while also reflecting their social and economic interdependence. The stories and poems personalize how knowledge and ultimately respect for the Other is fostered through exchanges of affection and loyalty, as well as through insult and conflict. The apparent frequency of making fun of the Other in his/her presence shows a significant degree of personal safety and comfort. Furthermore, these traditions provide a structure and forum for saying things about the Other that might not be as freely or randomly expressed without it, and serve to release inter-group tension by playing out conflict in a humorous way. In other words, the oral traditions formalize insults in an acceptable structure, in which humor plays a crucial role, and which serves to contain the animosity. Many of the tales and poems that treat these inter-communal relations turn on the wit and guile of the protagonists. In fact, this is pervasive in Berber folktales in general. As Alphonse Leguil wrote in the introduction to Contes berbères de l’Atlas de Marrakesh: This theme of the cunning and intelligence of the weak triumphing over the physical superiority of the strong is quite commonly exploited in Berber literature.…As Hassan Jouad summed up for me in 1979 in this gem of a formula: “There is neither Good nor Evil: It’s to the one who proves master of the ruse that the world belongs.”4

In other words, cleverness and craftiness pay off and merit all. Additionally, as Annick Zennaki wrote in the “Commentary” of the same collection:


Chapter Nine The structure…which opposes one ruse to a ruse-and-a-half pervades Berber oral traditions.5

That is, these are stories of the contest of wits as opposed to tales of revenge and escalation of wrongs. This method of conflict resolution, as presented in the stories anyway, outwitting each other, rather than taking revenge, can serve to ease an uneasy coexistence, as does the humor in the presentation. The stereotypes each group has of the other are exploited by the ruse formula. The word for Jew in Berber is uday, which by extension came to mean a fearful or timid person. Jews were indeed stereotyped by their timidity. Jews were not seen merely as cowardly, however, but cunning at the same time. Berbers were considered gullible and easily outwitted.6 The material presented in this paper is a mix of “folklore” and memories, but as we will see, the line is sometimes fuzzy between the two, and many of the anecdotes have become part of local oral culture. I have organized the material according to the arenas of daily life that the tales somewhat loosely fall into: political, economic, religious, and sexual.7 The final stories were told by a Jewish informant in Israel, and expand the concept of otherness.

2. Political Life, or the Jew as Advisor The Jew as advisor is an aspect of political life that appears in Berber folklore, reflecting both an historical and a contemporary reality. Throughout Moroccan history, and despite Jews’ minority status, there were important Jewish advisors to the various sultans.8 The tradition of the “court Jew” goes well beyond Morocco, to the Middle East and Europe, and many of the formulas found in the following tales are also common in Jewish folktales from all these areas. The tales portray the advisor as trickster whose cunning and craftiness are all important. The following excerpt from one such folktale was told to me by Fatima, a female journalist in her late twenties, during a visit back to her Berber-speaking village, Timulilt, nestled in the foothills of the Atlas mountains and near the town of Beni Mellal. Jews had never actually lived in Timulilt. However, it was a regular transit point for the Jewish merchants coming down from the mountain villages on their way to Beni Mellal. Almost every family in Timulilt had “their Jew,” that is, a Jewish merchant who would regularly stay with them. What had started out as loyal client relationships developed into deep friendships. At the end of my interview with Fatima’s father about his own family’s relationship with a Jewish merchant, she asked him to tell of any folktales he knew involving Jews. He reminded her of the following one, which she then told to me:

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


There once was a beautiful young woman living in the forest with her brother. The brother was a shepherd and would go out every day to watch after his flock. The sister remained at home and baked bread. Every evening, as the brother returned home, he would know his sister was there by the smell of the fresh bread. One day the king’s hunters happened to see the sister. They reported back to the king that there was a young woman of extraordinary beauty who lived in a hut in the forest. Upon hearing this, the king immediately wished to marry her, but wondered how to make it come about. He had as his advisor a Jewish man who told the king he knew a way to get the young woman to come to the castle. The advisor bought some jewelry and other merchandise, and, disguising himself as a peddler on a donkey, took it to her home in the woods. He cried out “’Attar,” (spice seller) whereupon she went up to the roof and let down her long hair to which a basket was attached in order for him to put the items in it.9 He grabbed her hair, but she quickly cut it off before he could pull her down. He rode back to the palace, taking her hair with him. The king’s desire to marry the young woman only increased upon seeing her hair. The Jew went back again with the same items, but this time with the condition that whoever was interested in buying must sit on his donkey to look at the merchandise. While the woman was on the donkey trying on jewelry, he quickly sewed her dress to the donkey. When she was finished selecting, he beat the donkey so that it ran all the way back to the king, taking the woman with it.

There is a different, more gruesome version of this story published in Contes du Maroc: Tafilalet which begins somewhat similarly, but the sister becomes a willing participant in the plan to marry the king.10 She kills her brother, who comes back to life with the help of supernatural beings and eventually kills her and the Jewish spice seller. The Jewish man in these stories appears not only as advisor, but as peddler, one of the most common occupations among Jews of the Atlas. The men sold women’s cosmetics, perfumes, jewelry, fabric, herbs and gadgets door-to-door. Often Muslim women were home alone while their husbands worked in the fields or market. In this way, Jewish men had access to Muslim women in ways Muslim men did not, given that they were not considered sexually threatening; it would have been unthinkable for a Muslim man to enter the home of a woman he was not related to when no other men of her family were present.11 Interestingly, two folktales from Leguil’s recently published collections challenge this assumption.12 In one, a Jew seduces his Muslim business partner’s wife, and in the other a Muslim’s wife seduces her husband’s Jewish partner. The next passage is also an excerpt from a longer story which shows a Jew in the role of advisor. It was told to me by a younger Muslim man as an aside during an interview with an older Muslim Berber in the High Atlas town of Tinghir. The older man added after the telling that one would often find in stories that a Muslim goes to a Jew and asks him or her for advice. He added


Chapter Nine

that there were many stories having to do with the intelligence of Jews, and with their being charlatans and outwitting the gullible Berbers. There was a crow, or anyway, a large bird, that would carry a certain young man under its wings. Every time the young man came to the bird, it would pick him up and drop him down on the roof of the house where he would meet his beloved. This happened every morning. The imam of the mosque had noticed this, and informed the young man’s family. The family wondered how to catch this bird [and therefore put a stop to this inappropriate behavior]. So the family all went together to a certain Jew’s home to ask his advice how to catch this bird. The Jew told them to put honey down where the bird usually landed. His feet would get stuck in the honey before he would have the chance to fly away.

In a published Moroccan Jewish folktale with a similar theme, a king and a queen are desperate to save their son from an eagle who has captured him and flies with him every night onto the roof of his beloved’s room.13 Again, they turn to a Jew for advice who recommends spreading a sticky substance, in this case tar, where the bird lands, in order to catch it and rescue their son. In yet another such tale, published in Contes du Maroc: Tafilalet, a man robs the royal treasury, and the king’s advisor, a Jewish man, together with a rabbi, plays all kinds of tricks to try to find him, yet the robber always outwits the two of them with his “ruse-and-a-half.”14 One of the tricks the Jews use again involves laying down glue as a trap. In the end of the story all make peace and the king welcomes the robber into his family because of his cleverness. As fits the pattern, it is the cleverness that is rewarded, even when used against the king, rather than the crime punished.

3. Economic Life, or the Trickster at Work Many of the oral traditions also reflect the economic aspect of life in the south of Morocco. Throughout these regions Jews worked as merchants and peddlers, as noted already, as well as blacksmiths, jewelers, saddle makers, tailors, cobblers. Business associations between Muslims and Jews were common. Several stories depicting these relationships were told in Goulmima, an oasis town at the eastern end of the High Atlas mountains, with an ancient castle-like adobe walled-in village (ighrem in Tamazight; ksar in Arabic), crisscrossed by narrow irrigation canals, and bordered by palm groves on the edge of a river. There is the constant sound of running water (Goulmima means “many lakes” in Tamazight). The stories of friendship and rivalry between Jewish and Muslim men told there were recounted as if they were memories, but it is interesting to note that no matter who the informant, the two protagonists are always named Moosh, a Berber nickname for Moses, for the Jewish man,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


and Hammu, a Berber nickname for Muhammad, for the Muslim man, both frequent first names, but also the names of each religion’s greatest prophet. Similarly, the Jewish woman’s name is always Biha, meaning “beautiful” in Arabic, reflecting the stereotype of Jewish women as sexually expressive. (See “Sexuality” section below.) The following story was told by Ubelaid, a ninety-year-old Muslim man, who had been a peasant working in the fields, including those of Jews:15 Jews without exception were intelligent. They could even predict the future. I’ll tell you a story that happened between two individuals. It’s a story that is known under the title, SIDDI HAMMU AND THE JEW Once there were two individuals, a Jew named Moosh, and a Muslim named Hammu, who were good friends. With the passage of time, they became associated in commerce, the two of them. They traveled far and wide, buying and selling every sort of merchandise. The intelligence and cunning of Moosh combined with the assertiveness and courage of Hammu brought them great success. And the result was that they amassed quite a lot of money. Moosh was the treasurer of the two. This demonstrates the degree of trust between them. Over time, however, that trust started to diminish, especially on Moosh’s part. To such a degree that he arranged with his wife to pretend to be dead, with the intention of taking off with all the money, he and his wife alone. They would leave the region and would certainly be rich in another corner of this wide world. So, one day when Hammu came to Moosh’s place, intending to travel with him on business, Moosh’s wife, Biha, told Hammu that he had died. Hammu immediately suspected a ruse. Certainly, this very morning he had run into Moosh, who was looking quite well. Hammu said to Biha, “Before his death, and as you always knew, Moosh was an exceptional friend, and because of that he left me with a request.” “And just what was this request?” asked Biha. “Well, he charged me with the washing of his body.” Biha accepted this and Hammu prepared very hot water, actually it was boiling hot. In spite of that, Moosh resisted and continued to play dead. Hammu cried, also faking it, while washing Moosh. Afterwards, Hammu and Biha carried Moosh to the cemetery. At this point Hammu asked Biha for his part of the money, which she refused him, claiming “Moosh didn’t leave me anything.” Later, Biha made a little hole in the grave where everyday she would pass Moosh bread and water, while waiting for Hammu to forget. During this time, Hammu spied on Biha bringing food to her husband. One day Hammu went up close to the tomb and hid himself. A few moments later, Biha came to bring the food to her husband and to speak with him about household affairs. The next day, Hammu came first and disguising himself as a woman, he gave the water and bread to Moosh, imitating Biha’s voice. He said, “My dear husband, the money you gave me is all gone; I would like for you to tell me where the rest of the money can be found.” Moosh told him where the money was kept. Moosh


Chapter Nine believed it was his wife asking. Hammu then hid near the entrance to Moosh’s house, waiting for Biha to leave. Sure enough, a few moments later Biha went out to bring food to her husband. Arriving at the grave, she called, “Take your food, Moosh!” Right away he understood that the first person must have been Hammu, and that he’d been tricked. He asked his wife to lift up the stones and the earth covering him. Meanwhile, Hammu had already taken the money. And so begins another adventure of Hammu and the Jew, Moosh. Each ending of a story begins another one. The following story is as such: Moosh set off in search of Hammu. He went directly to see Hammu’s wife. Moosh asked her, “Where is Hammu?” the wife answered, crying, “He’s dead.” “Well, it’s me, his friend who must wash him.” Hammu’s wife refused, saying that in their religion Jews could never wash Muslims. Moosh returned to his wife, Biha, and scolded her, “You see, you told Hammu that I was dead and he asked you to let him wash me with the intention of hurting me with hot water, and you allowed him, and now I asked his wife the same thing, yet she refused.” Moosh sought Hammu hither and yon, traveling from village to village. Hammu carried the money with him, and now Moosh, in his turn, was wandering in search of Hammu. Someone told Moosh that Hammu was hiding on such and such a mountain. Immediately he went to this mountain. Hammu was up on the peak and Moosh below. At a certain moment, Moosh took off his clothes and pretended to wash them by making gestures and sounds that one uses when washing clothes. Hammu was thirsty, very thirsty. He could hear Moosh, but from the distance still didn’t recognize him. Hammu approached and said, “But it’s you Moosh!” There they were face to face. They divided up the money and left the mountain.

This story exemplifies the contest of wits. Although there is certainly hostility in the tricks they play on each other, Hammu does not seek revenge, so much as to teach Moosh a lesson and get what is justly his. Twice Moosh is naked before Hammu, emphasizing his vulnerability. While Hammu does take advantage the first time in order to hurt Moosh, there is humor in the telling. The story winds up in resolution and reconciliation, rather than escalation of the conflict. Another story featuring Moosh and Hammu and deception between friends and business associates was told by Sakku, an elder man and poet, also of Goulmima:16 Jews were intelligent, even if personally I tricked Moosh one day. He was a Jew who at the time sold dates. One day he had bought twenty kilos of dates from Ubaali, a Jewish wholesaler. The Jew’s dates were of good quality and Hammu’s were bad. So Hammu had the idea to buy Moosh’s dates to mix in with his own, in order to be able to sell them all at a good price. But he didn’t know how to trick Moosh into selling them to him cheaply. So, one night we were all invited to Hammu’s brother’s place. Hammu was there and told us about the affair. I

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


proposed to take care of it for him. He begged me to make it work for him and told me he’d pay me. What I did was in the morning I phoned Moosh. I asked for him, telling him that who was asking was Eazar, a Jewish merchant from Meknes. Moosh spoke to me thinking that it was Eazar. He asked me, “How are you, Eazar? how is the family?” And I, in turn, gave my regards to each member of his family. We spoke of the prices of produce. Following which he asked me the price of dates. I told him that the price was very low. It was better to sell them at no matter what price in order not to lose all. To be sure, right after our call, Moosh went to look for Hammu and sold him his dates at the price Hammu asked for. Here I tricked him and Hammu gave me the money. The next day Eazar phoned Moosh and immediately he realized he’d been tricked. A year later he discovered it was me, and recognized my craftiness. What enabled me to fool him so easily was the language factor. I could speak very well like them [the Jews], with their accent.17 This was due to having been with them in a variety of situations.

As the storyteller points out, the joke he plays using his ability to impersonate shows a deep level of intimacy. It is also worth noting that the tricksters tend to admit their ruses; the point is not to outwit secretly, but to have the cleverness recognized in order to truly win the contest. The intent is not hostile, that is, the hostility absorbed within framework of the contest. This story, also told by Sakku of Goulmima, reveals further the intimacy and familiarity between Jews and Muslims: Me, I stole a chicken from the Jews one day. It was during the period when there was still hunger and misery. With a group of friends we found a dead heron. A heron resembles a chicken except for being long and skinny. This was on a Saturday morning, so we thought right away to go put it in the stewpot of a Jew, knowing that Jews prepare their stews on Friday night [and that the pots sit in the oven until Saturday noon]. And sure enough, after having plucked the heron, we decided to sneak into the kitchen of a wealthy Jew, Mummu [Berber nickname for Solomon], who was always decent and gallant and always wore a skullcap on his head; he was still handsome. We greeted18 his wife until he left the house for synagogue. We then snuck inside and took the chicken from the pot, replacing it with the bird. We ate the chicken outside our homes. When Mummu returned home, he asked his wife to give him the chicken to eat. She served it without paying attention. Mummu tasted it and immediately discovered its bad taste. Upon inspecting it, he discovered that it was not a chicken. The next day we came to tell his wife what we had done, while explaining to her, it’s a lesson for your husband who thinks himself so superior. So there!

Here the storyteller feels free to make up intimate details he could not have known for sure. The story shows intimacy, but also a degree of animosity and the need to make known one’s craftiness.


Chapter Nine

In addition to these folktale type stories, sung poetry jousts or duels are a prevalent and highly developed form of Berber oral tradition. The poetry duel itself is a form that lends itself to exchange of boasts or insults. Usually presented in a public forum, the participants must be recognized as true poets by the community. They must have ability to improvise with wit and spontaneity while keeping to the constraints of the form. Following is a fragment of a poetry joust as remembered by Moh u-Larbi Aqdim, a Muslim native of the village of Tahala in the Anti-Atlas. He was in his eighties and living in Casablanca when I interviewed him. He was recounting events which took place before the French occupation, that is before 1934, (it took the French, who established their Protectorate in Morocco in 1912, that long to take over this region). Tahala is a tiny group of even tinier “villages” with an important Sunday market or suq, in the beautiful Ammeln Valley, which is dominated by a chain of impressively carved red rock mountains. As I had been there recently, I was able to picture the setting for the stories he told: the little Jewish cemetery at one end with the mountains rising up behind it, then the village with the suq. And at the other end, the village with the mellah, or Jewish neighborhood. Each village is very small, and it is not always clear where one ends and the next begins. They are not walled-in and the mellah is not separated or distinguished in anyway from the homes around it, except that today most of it lies in ruins. This particular poetry duel makes reference to working the land. There were no restrictions against Jews owning land, yet it was rare that, even when they did own agricultural fields, they would work the land themselves. In fact, they generally considered that beneath them and often had Muslims work the land for them. Moh u-Larbi Aqdim: It was the period of the harvest and a certain Tahala Jew went to another village to buy some wheat. When he arrived at the seller’s place, he found a Tahala Muslim there for the same reason. Given that the two of them were poets, the Jew knew the other would not keep quiet. So the Jew went on the attack: “One must make sure that one’s own plow is working [sharpened] if one wants the goods, And not serve oneself from what others have reaped.” The Muslim did not respond, and so he lost [for the moment]. However, a few days later, back in Tahala, the Muslim poet passed through the mellah on his way to a blacksmith.19 It was raining and he saw the Jewish poet up on his roof fixing leaks. Taking advantage of the latter’s somewhat vulnerable position he said: “May God put a curse on all that you have brought to the world, you, Satan.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


And may He curse all the Jews as well. Amen.” The Muslim continued walking along the house and the Jew followed him above, moving along the edge of the roof. When they both reached the far corner, the Jew came with his response: “We have no need to work the land nor use water for irrigation “God has granted us sustenance and long life [without having to work the land].”20

This battle of wits is rather an exchange of insults and raises the questions of when do jokes become insults, or insults jokes? Is it a joke because it is formalized and presented in public? In a valuable article on Berber women’s songs at the turn of the twenty-first century, Katherine Hoffman writes that “For women and men of the Anti-Atlas mountains of Southwestern Morocco, community song serves as a discursive medium for expressing displacement and social conflict in ways that Ishelhin (Tashelhit-speaking Berbers) consider unacceptable in conversation speech. The social production, consumption, and evaluation of sung poetry engage broader processes of negotiating Ashelhi identity and community membership.”21

4. Religious Life, or Who is Going to Paradise? Religion is another aspect of daily life that often appears in oral traditions. The bantering and putting down of the other seen in the previous examples is expressed here more directly as rivalry between Islam and Judaism, and in so doing reveals the familiarity Muslim and Jew each had of the other’s religion. Reminiscences by older Muslims reflect the religious debate that ranged from exchange of insults to philosophic discussion. Aqdim of Tahala remembered another poetry duel that depicts this bantering. He had been speaking of social occasions where Jews and Muslims mixed freely which reminded him of a particular Ahwash (a traditional Berber group dance, performed at weddings or other festive occasions). At this Ahwash, everybody participated, Jew and Muslim alike, though Aqdim did not recall what the specific occasion was. As he described it, it began right after lunch and continued without stopping: the Muslims did not stop for takkwzin nor tiwwudsh, nor did the Jews stop for minha or aravit (the afternoon and evening prayers, in Tashelhit and Hebrew respectively). Nothing could interrupt the dancing. Except, that is, the poetry jousts. Spontaneously, a poet would start speaking and the dancing would stop. Another poet would pick up the challenge, answering the first with a new challenge. Then someone would


Chapter Nine

introduce a musical phrase or the chorus refrain and the dancing would start up again. A Jewish poet initiated the following poem: “Witness, O you people who are here present, that we all are the same (equal) Only the skullcap,22 which in fact, is a very small thing, separates us (/differentiates us).” A Muslim poet responded (playing on the fact that the other had not specified with whom he was one): “Witness, O you people who are here present, You and the dogs are the same (equal).”23

Again we see humor mixed with hostility in this exchange of insults. Throughout the telling of these stories and poems, there was no suggestion of any offense taken by the “loser” or one being made fun of. Not being easily offended, along with a sense of humor, seems an asset in a complex coexistence. What Nadia Yaqub writes of the contemporary Palestinian poetry duels in the Galilee aptly applies to the duels of the Anti-Atlas: “For the duel to work, then, the two poets must be perfectly in tune, trained in the same tradition, familiar not only with the same poetic structures, but also with the same imagery.” And “as is the case between interlocutors in the improvised poetry duel” the rivals “must share a poetic tradition.” Furthermore, “Poets need to have internalized the same tradition in order to build on each other’s composition and create a single work in unison...The closer the poets, the more similar their training, the better they will be able to anticipate and build on each other’s turns.”24 However malicious these duels may seem, they also betray a closeness between the poets. An anecdote recounted to me by a thirty-something Muslim man in Marrakesh, who in turn had heard it from the elders of his native village in the High Atlas, also reflects the competition between religions in a more philosophic tone, without the hostility, yet still with an element of humor: The Jews were praying in their synagogue and the Muslims in their mosque. As they were each coming out from their prayers, they met outside and were talking. A Muslim asked a Jew, “Ok, so who is going to paradise, you the Jews, or we the Muslims?” And the Jew replied, “Neither you the Muslims, nor we the Jews have yet had anyone who has died and come back to tell us, so let’s both keep praying.” What he meant was, “only God knows, so we better all keep praying in the meantime, you in your mosques, and we in our synagogues.”

This anecdote reflects the fact that both Jews and Muslims maintained exceptionally strong religious identity, despite the high level of socio-economic and cultural symbiosis between the two groups.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Another story of religious philosophical debate comes from the High Atlas village of Tadighust. On a cold wintry evening, I was taken there by the father of my Goulmima host family on a moonlit dirt road to the very old mud village where a few people moved as dark shapes in and out of the shadows and helped guide us to our interviewee to be. The worn wooden door we knocked on was immense, hanging heavy within the dense walls, as if to a medieval castle. Someone answered from a tiny window way up high, the only one with light. We were led into a dark passageway and up a long stairway by a young man with a lantern into a cozy room full of people of all ages, the thick walls keeping in the warmth, and greeted with kisses, bouncing ones, several times on each cheek. We settled in with tea and cookies. A personal reminiscence told by Amru, a Berber man in his eighties, described the two adolescents debating their religions. The story is told in the third person, as translated simultaneously by my Goulmima host: Amru, a Muslim, was an orphan who lived alone, his house split in two by a staircase. A Jewish man named Moosh Ben Yehia came to Tadighust after having been chased away from his native village in the western Atlas by the warring Ayt Atta tribe. As Moosh did not go directly to the mellah with his family, Amru invited the family to live in the second half of his house. Moosh was a peddler who sold cosmetics, tobacco and other items door-to-door. He had a son Yahu, about seventeen years old, the same age as Amru. Every day the two youths would meet on the stairs uniting their two homes and talk. Amru would try to convince Yahu to convert to Islam. Yahu would respond with arguments pointing out incidents where Muslims they both knew did not adhere to the Qur`an, citing the hypocrisy. He himself was very learned in Torah and planned to become a rabbi. At a certain point he convinced Amru, who then asked if he could become Jewish. Yahu answered him by saying, “No, there’s no more room.” [Laughter from the audience.] Amru went to the fqih25 to ask him what he thought, telling him how he had tried to convert the Jew and how Yahu had responded. The fqih told him, “You did wrong. You shouldn’t even sit with a Jew. You must go ask him, what is the key to Paradise? If he answers that ‘there’s no God but Allah and his prophet Muhammad,” then it’s ok, it means he’s converted unconsciously. But if not, then you must leave him.” Amru went back and asked Yahu the question. Yahu answered, “First of all, your key is not a real one. It has no teeth.26 You, your society is in general like a jellabah [traditional Moroccan robe] with holes in it. You get the material to repair it, but you have to have a complete robe to begin with before you can repair it. Meaning that you don’t yet have a religious system in order to search for the keys.” But Amru would not yet give up. “I’m well off. I have lots of possessions. I’ll split what I have with you on the condition that you convert.” Yahu refused.


Chapter Nine [There was again laughter in the room and my translator explained the comments concurring that if it were the other way around, a Muslim would have agreed to convert, saying to himself, “maybe only for a few years...”] After this conversation, both Amru and Yahu finally realized neither would change their position, nor their religion, and they continued to be close. Given this mutual acceptance, the relationship was able to continue its course. Amru knows that Yahu went to Israel, but after that lost touch with him.

This story reflects again the uneasy coexistence, where differences can be debated and ultimately reconciled in acceptance. That the story provoked laugher and joking, and the rapt attention of the audience of several generations belied a merely polite interest. The following anecdote of religious rivalry was told by Sakku of Goulmima as a personal memory, yet includes a folktale type that is found throughout the Muslim world and beyond27: Another story that happened to me with Jews was this: One day I went into their synagogue to watch them and learn their prayers, out of curiosity. I dressed like them. Afterwards they caught me and brought me to the authorities. And because I had gotten into a fight with one of the them [the Jews], the French sent us both to prison. In prison, as I was a stonemason, the Jew became my worker. So everyday I had him do forced labor. One day we made an agreement that I’d let him rest on the condition that he would pay me for the days spent in prison. It was in prison that this Jew told me the following anecdote: There were three friends, a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian. The Jew proposed to the Christian to play a trick on the Muslim. So they planned a ruse. The Christian said, “During the evening, but before dinner, we’ll suggest that we all sleep a little and then each one can tell what they dreamed. Me,” said the Christian, “I’ll say I dreamed that Jesus took me in his arms over the seas and the mountains of the entire world. And you will say the same thing but with Moses. Meanwhile, we’ll eat all the dinner between just the two of us, because he’ll be distracted thinking about the dreams. What actually took place was that they all fell asleep, but the Muslim woke up shortly after and ate up the entire dinner himself. Upon waking, the Christian and the Jew told the dreams they had prepared in advance. Then the Muslim told them that his prophet Muhammad had woken him up, telling him to eat dinner.

There is a similar story in Folktales of Israel.28 The “winner” typically is of the same religion as the teller. In the above case, the storyteller was not of the same religion as the listener, neither in the “original version” nor in Sakku’s retelling of it. However, if the Jew really did tell him the story, it is likely that the Jew would have told it with the Jew in the story being the cunning winner. But Sakku, a Muslim, in telling this story to a small gathering of fellow

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Goulmima Muslims and for the benefit of a Jewish American, told it as if it had been told to him with the Muslim winning.

5. Sexuality, or Masquerading as the Other An interesting Berber tradition that makes reference to Jews and perhaps has suggestions of Jewish influence is the masquerade that takes place in conjunction with the Islamic holiday ’Ashura, celebrated on the tenth day of the Muslim year.29 It is not known when or how the masquerade and Islamic holiday of ‘Ashura became associated. There are many studies of this Moroccan festival, as well as the masquerade accompanying Ayd al-Kabir.30 Both involve a complex mix of Islamic and popular sources, and both were widespread throughout Morocco at the time of Westermarck’s research in the early 1900’s. Here, I will consider the masquerade as another example of a formalized structure for making fun of the Other. The ‘Ashura carnival has long been an opportunity for political satire and social criticism, in the form of scenes acted out and poems composed for the occasion. No one is spared. Any figure of authority, political or even religious, local administrators, imams, and French authorities during colonialization, are fair targets for derision or mockery. But not only figures of authority; Jewish characters, played by Muslim men, are a constant element of the ’Ashura masquerade. These roles would be acted out in part with scorn or mockery, but also in part because being disguised as “other” allowed for a freedom of expression and criticism of social situations or authorities; a boldness people would not have if playing themselves. Under cover of making fun of Jews, which was socially-politically acceptable, the Muslims could actually satirize, make fun of, rebel against those very authorities. As one Goulmima resident explained to me, “By wearing masks, one is able to speak the truth that in everyday reality would be impossible.” This is characteristic of many carnivals, and very much like the Jewish holiday of Purim, in which masquerades revolve around the derision of figures menacing Jews, whether contemporary or historical. Today the masquerade is celebrated in only a handful of villages throughout the Atlas, each at huge distances from the other, and varying greatly in practice. At least a couple occur in conjunction with Ayd al-Kebir, and the others with ‘Ashura, as in Goulmima, where I attended the masquerade in 1997. There, the festival is called Udayen n’taeshurt (or “Jews of ‘Ashura”). The masquerade takes place in and around the ighrem, or old walled-in village, which had no electricity yet when I was there. The moonlight playing off the walls and towers accentuates the eeriness of all the masked people squeezing through the narrow passages and spilling out to one of the smaller plazas where


Chapter Nine

a scene is played out. Typically men dressed as a Jewish couple enact a wedding where everything is topsy-turvy. For example, instead of henna, “wedding guests” apply a white plaster all over the bride and groom. There are lots of “couples” among the masked crowd, though only men are disguised and all “women” are played by men. Women and children are observers. Obscenity and licentiousness are part of the act. In my interviews with Jews, reactions were couched in nostalgia for the rural life they had left decades earlier (moving either to Casablanca or Israel). At any rate, I found that offense is not easily taken. Jewish men remember the carnival where they were often observers with a lot of humor. Women however remember being frightened of the characters running around in animal skins (Muslim women expressed similar fears, and they were probably refering to the masquerade associated with Ayd al-Kebir, in which “Bu-Julud,” or, “Man of Skins” is a central character). I was given a variety of vague explanations for the origins of the masquerade by Muslims of various ages. Some said the origin of the carnival was purely Jewish, and that Jews and Muslims celebrated it together in earlier times. Others added that it was a way of remembering Jews. One older villager told me that, “We, the Muslims had taken from the Jews’ customs for this holiday. If the Jews were numerous, they would do it on their own. If there were few, then they’d join us.” The young, who had never known Jews expressed a typically paradoxical mixture of stereotypes: that Jews spoke the truth and expressed themselves freely, therefore, by disguising as Jews, the Muslims in turn could speak their minds and say what they might not be able to otherwise; that Jews behavior was bizarre, thus giving Muslims the excuse to act strangely on this night; that Jewish men picked up on women, lewd behavior is typical of the scenes played out this night and the masquerade is an occasion of a lot of flirting between the sexes, “an occasion to express themselves, their sentiments of love.” There are many songs associated with this aspect of the carnival. Many young men seemed to know this excerpt from one about Biha, a Jewish woman31: When Biha goes to get water the brooch falls from her dress. [i.e. the cloth slips down from her shoulder. The dress of this region, the same for both Jewish and Muslim women, l’izar, consists of a single piece of white cloth draped around the woman and pinned together in front by two brooches.]

Here, the play is on the stereotype of Jewish women as being beautiful and freer sexually than their Muslim counterparts. This example also addresses

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


another public taboo, that of sexual expression. Further, it points to women as the collective Other for all men, a subject that calls for another study.

6. The Changing Other: Bahlul, the Trickster The next set of stories were told to me in Hebrew in Israel. The informant was born in Tinghir, a town at the far eastern edge of the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains. He had emigrated to Israel with his family as a young boy (in the mid-1950s). As he says, he and his family feel a lot of nostalgia for their village in Morocco. While a disempowered and sometimes vulnerable minority in Morocco, the North African Jewish immigrants in Israel have been looked down upon by Jews from European ancestry, and have been discriminated against in a variety of serious ways. They have also born the brunt of negative stereotypes and jokes. However, even among the North African Jews in Israel there are hierarchies and stereotypes, and even within one nationality. Urban Moroccans make fun of those from rural regions, and even those of rural origins, consider only those “further up the mountains” as Berber. In Israel, the culture of the shleuhim, as the Moroccan Jews from Berber-speaking regions are pejoratively called in Hebrew (from shleuh, Moroccan Arabic for speakers of Tashelhit), has been looked down upon as primitive, and they are stereotyped as stupid and uneducated. In the following three stories the protagonist is a character named Bahlal. My informant explained that this was a nickname for an actual man who died in the 1970s and is buried in Safed, Israel (the town where most of the immigrants from Tinghir settled when they came from Morocco). While the main character remains the same, the Other in each of these stories is different, though, they are all women.32 Interestingly, “Bahlul” is a wise fool/trickster figure in Muslim folktales, not unlike the more commonly known Joha. I think the resemblance of this nickname for this Moroccan Jewish prankster must be more than a coincidence. We’re very attached to the nostalgia of the town, to the people, the characters. There are many stories. There’s one of Bahlal, who was a prankster. In one of the stories, they tell that he made a bet with someone that he could get an ember from inside the mosque. So he made a bet that he could succeed in getting an ember from inside the mosque. So he turns to a certain Muslim woman and asked her if she would go bring him a bit of fire from inside the mosque because he wants to light his cigarette. He promised her that if she did that, he would give her a whole box of matches. So she agreed to it, went inside, and brought him back a burning ember, which scorched her hand, because she was hiding it so that no one would see it. (And she did all that for the box of


Chapter Nine matches). He lit his cigarette. He smoked, slowly. She says to him, “So, Bahlal, give me already my box of matches.” He says “Wait, let me finish my cigarette,” so he leisurely smoked until he finished. Then she said, “so, give me my matches.” And he told her, “Have you no brains? If I had matches, would I have asked you to bring me an ember?” (laughs) So that’s one story. So another story of Bahlal. One time he went to Rich (a much smaller village several hours away from the town the informant was from). The people there were, what to tell you, naïve and gullible. It was in the morning, after all the (Jewish) men had gone to work, (i.e. likely at a market in another village) and he started to yell: “Help! Help!” The women all came out and asked him, “What happened Bahlal, what happened?” He answered, “You haven’t heard? What happened is that a law was just decreed by the king that no one is allowed to have any gold. Anyone who has any gold will be imprisoned.” And the women started crying, “What will we do? I have a necklace. I have a bracelet, I have…” Everyone had something. They didn’t know what to do with it. With their gold. (in those days there were no banks, and much of a family’s money would be kept in the form of the women’s jewelry). They were afraid they’d be put into prison. They were very naïve/gullible. So he told them, “Listen, I’m prepared to do you a favor. I’ll take the risk upon myself. What will be will be. God above will protect me. I’ll take your gold. I’ll guard it for you. Give it to me.” So they all took off their gold, and their bracelets. They gave everything to Bahlal. Of course, at the end, he returned it all to them, it was only for the prank. Here’s another story of Bahlal. When he came to Israel, he had a lot of cumin. He didn’t know how to sell it. Who would buy such a quantity of cumin? So, in the market he saw a fat Tunisian woman. She had an awful pain in her leg. So he told her, “I have a cure for you, do you want to be cured? You have to take 10 kilos of cumin and put it in water then put it all over your legs. And keep them wrapped in it for a week; that will help you.” So she said to him, “Do me a favor, do you know where I can get so much cumin?” And he told her, “It just so happens, there’s a certain woman (his wife) who has some, go there and she’ll sell you the cumin.’ In short, she went and bought it, put it on her legs, and after two weeks saw him again. “How are you?” he asked her. And she said, “You cured me. I’m all better.’

Perhaps these stories being told in Israel today reflect what Christie Davies writes in Ethnic Humor Around the World, “In principle it is always possible for a member of a group that is the butt of a particular genre of ethnic jokes to stand outside the joke and apply it to some other segment of his or her own people.”33 In one sense, those telling the “Bahlul” stories are Berbers, telling the story about another segment of Berbers, that is the Muslim ones in the first story, and about Berber Jews in the second. Such stories would be especially enjoyed today in Israel, in which tellers belong to the group that outsmarts the “other.” The first story conveys a familiarity between Bahlul and the Muslim woman.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


This story in which a Jew outwits a Muslim may have served to give a feeling of confidence and superiority to Jews, to counter periods of insecurity. In the case of the second story, the Moroccan Jew is making fun of the gullibility and naiveté of “Berber” Jew. Rich is a much smaller village and off the main road, compared to Tinghir which is quite large, as it was expanded by the French into an administrative center. In the case of the third story, the Moroccan Jew is making fun of the gullibility, naiveté, or even stupidity of the Tunisian Jew (i.e, another North African Jew), in Israel. But the story is also making fun of the Moroccan Jew, himself, for having brought cumin to Israel (though not a folk metaphor that I know of, it is like “bringing coals to Newcastle”), and “such a quantity.” This seems to incorporate the Ashenazi’s put-down of Moroccans as ignorant, backwards. Taking the other’s stereotype of oneself and being able to laugh at oneself is a way of dealing with the putdown in a positive humorous way, coopting or appropriating it for one’s own humor.

7. Conclusion These stories, poems, and memories were recounted with much nostalgia by both Muslims and Jews, and received with enthusiasm by the informal audiences of mixed generations that gathered around the informants. This is not to say there is, or was, no ambivalence; this was foremost a human coexistence, replete with stereotypes, prejudices, admiration, and contradiction. All these are evident in the oral traditions, many of which still exist until now, unfortunately, only in the memories of a diminishing number of Muslims and Jews who lived them. These oral traditions reflect a coexistence that was based not on the denial of differences, nor assimilation, but rather on knowledge of the Other and acceptance of these differences, and, ultimately, mutual respect. The oral sources additionally reveal shared cultural traditions outside religious affiliation. Finally, the Other is not a fixed entity, nor is the self, for self-identity is often constructed in response to the Other, as we saw most clearly in the last series of stories. These oral traditions are a poignant testimony of multiculturalism and perhaps can contribute to an appreciation of a world enriched by its diversity.


On the evening of February 8, 1856, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch and British Consul Bruce conferred, at the rooms in Cairo of Nassau William Senior, about the impact of conscription upon the Coptic Christian community of Egypt. The conversation, as recorded by Senior, reveals a great deal as to how Coptic Patriarch Cyril (KƯrulus, often transliterated as Kirollos) IV viewed the mass of Copts, his role as Patriarch, and the nature of Coptic identity in modern Egypt: Patriarch: In many places all the Copts capable from their age and strength of serving are taken. In Sioot [Asynjt] all the males in one house—and they amounted to eleven—were seized. Not one was left to support the women and children. My brother, who has two sons, one of them a priest, has fled from his village with his sons, and is in concealment in Cairo. Under Abbas, Copts were sometimes taken, but when complaint was made they were released. 1

Upon Bruce’s suggestion that the Patriarch recommend to Sa‘Ưd Pasha a distinctly Coptic corps under Christian officers, Cyril made an extraordinary allegation: Patriarch: The Pasha wishes to extirpate the Coptic Church. Almost all the scribes in the public service are, or rather were, Copts. They have almost all been discharged within a few months; hundreds of families are starving. The pretence is economy, but, as in many cases they have been replaced by Mussulmans inferior to them in education and ability, the real motive is hatred of them as Christians. Bruce: I fear that we cannot interfere with the Pasha's management of his troops, so far as respects their exposure to the dangers of their employment. Patriarch: But I think that if there is to be any interference in our favour means may be taken to prevent our being required to furnish an undue proportion

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


of soldiers. We are only 217,000. The population of Egypt is 5,000,000. We ought not, therefore, to contribute more than one-twentieth of the whole army. Sabbatier, the French Consul-General, offered to assist us, but it was on condition that I would order, as Patriarch, the Jesuits to be admitted into Abyssinia. Indeed, I fear the consequences of any interference, if it were known to be at my suggestion. If it were known that I complained, my people, and I myself, might be made to suffer.2

As Cyril’s conversation with Bruce indicates, by the mid-nineteenth century, the Coptic Patriarch not only perceived himself as temporal representative of a Coptic community, but aimed to defend his prerogatives and, indeed, ‘his people’ against the encroachments of the Egyptian state.3 To succeed in this effort, however, would require not merely action from without—negotiating with foreign consuls and government officials—but, perhaps more importantly, action from within—solidifying communal bonds through a distinctly Coptic program of ‘reform.’ Central to Coptic reform, as conceived by Cyril, was developing educational institutions through which he could fashion a modern Coptic subjectivity.4 The Coptic Patriarch grasped the urgency of establishing a relationship with the individual—the ‘Coptic subject.’ Cyril’s schools aimed at marginalizing the ‘superstitious’ practitioners of popular forms of faith, the faith of the common people. What the Patriarch urged, largely by means of ‘modern’ education, was an understanding of text in the place of a blind reverence for the dictates of men claiming holiness. The faith of Cyril was the faith of the textbook—a faith of inwardness, a faith concerned with individual examination of conscience, a faith authorized from above rather than below.

1. The Historiography of the Modern Copts Nearly all the historiography of the nineteenth-century Coptic community, in both English and Arabic, is framed through the classifications and concepts of what one might label the ‘awakening narrative.’ The pioneering work in this historiography, Y‘aqnjb Nakhla RnjfƯla’s book TƗrƯkh al-Umma al-Qibtiyya— published in 1897—established a pattern nearly all subsequent works on modern Coptic history would emulate.5 RnjfƯla was, in an important sense, a product of the ‘awakening’ which he would chronicle in his 1897 history. Fluent in Arabic, Coptic, English, and Italian, he had begun his work life as a teacher in the Azbakiyya school Cyril IV had founded. He followed his tenure as teacher with a commitment to printing as a profession, and served as an editor at the state’s BnjlƗq Press. In 1877, he was instrumental in the establishment of the newspaper Al-Watan. Among the founders of the Coptic TawfƯq Society in 1891, RnjfƯla won election as President


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of the Society in 1893, 1894, and 1896, and paid particular attention to TawfƯq’s publishing activities. RnjfƯla’s TƗrƯkh al-Umma al-Qibtiyya was the inaugural one-volume, comprehensive, indexed, ‘scientific’ study of the Coptic community to appear in the Arabic language, and is lauded as such by the Director of the Coptic Museum in his preface to the work’s recent reissue. In the original introduction to the work, RnjfƯla ventures to label the history of the Copts virtually unknown, and casts his task as an urgent one: A community must know its history as it looks to the future. Indeed, he describes the principal motivation behind the work as love for the Copts as a ‘race’ (jins), and dedicates the book to the children of that ‘race.’ The history of the Copts is traced from the Tower of Babel and the heyday of the ‘Pharaonic state,’ through the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Muslim invasions and ‘occupations’ of Egypt, all the way to the visionary leadership of Cyril IV and the nineteenth-century ‘return to existence’ of the ‘Coptic nation.’6 Far and away the most scrutinized and lauded personality of the modern period in RnjfƯla’s account is Patriarch Cyril IV. The remarks with which he concludes his description of Cyril’s life are emblematic of his attitude towards the Patriarch: He was a person of great energy, understanding, and wisdom, easily satisfied and quick to forgive. Highly respectful of his background as a monk, he preserved the fundamentals of the monastic life. He was most interested in meeting knowledgeable people, conversing and debating with them, and it was never difficult for him to admit mistakes, if he indeed was mistaken. One of his finest characteristics was his love for his flock, and his tirelessness in working for their welfare. If death had spared him a few more years, he would have achieved still greater aims.7

RnjfƯla emphasizes that Cyril could not achieve all that he had wished to achieve, particularly in the realm of modern education—but that he viewed the schools he managed to establish as “stairs on which the Coptic nation would climb in the future to a position of greater stature among nations, and thus regain its ancient glory.”8 Indeed, he ventures to quote two remarks he claims to have heard the Patriarch make: “I am waiting with bated breath for the preparation of students in our schools to receive scientific knowledge, such as logic, which will expand the mind and enrich its matter” and “The transition from where we are, to where we should be, requires much work and pain, enough for a lifetime, the longevity of Noah and the patience of Job.”9 For all the Patriarch’s humility he had, according to RnjfƯla, provided the means for Copts to achieve lofty aspirations. To underscore the point, he suggests that “at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Coptic nation had

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


reached the greatest depths of degradation. Ignorance and poverty had taken hold as a result of corruption in governance, as well as a succession of disasters and crises which, if they had afflicted a different nation, would have destroyed it completely.” RnjfƯla continues, “If we consider the community’s current situation, and compare this with its situation as it existed at the beginning of the century, we find a huge difference, not only in terms of education (tarbiya), but further, in customs, manners, dress, and housing. The credit for all this is due to the fairness of the government, to education, and to witnessing and assimilating foreign ways.”10 In short, according to RnjfƯla, the Copts have at last achieved a sort of equality of opportunity. While, in the past, they had found themselves confined to particular professions—like those of scribe, farmer, or craftsman— now Copts ranked among Egypt’s greatest merchants, poets, physicians, pharmacists, judges, lawyers, and government administrators. While recent scholarship in English on the nineteenth-century Copts has remained largely limited to articles and book chapters, scholars writing in Arabic during the past half century have produced book-length and, indeed, multi-volume studies of the subject. Yet, like their counterparts writing in English, scholars writing in Arabic have failed to offer a critical perspective on the ‘awakening narrative’ as described above. Rather, they have contributed to the hegemony of that narrative, by all too faithfully conforming to the contours of argument pursued by RnjfƯla. The monumental work of IrƯs HabƯb al-Masri is a case in point. Her ninevolume history of the Coptic Church, Qissat al-KanƯsa al-Qibtiyya, remains by far the most detailed study of Coptic history to have emerged in print.11 After studying psychology in London, al-Masri began her career as a teacher in Zamalek. However, she soon became heavily involved in the service of the Coptic Orthodox Church, acting as secretary to Patriarch YnjsƗb II. Her access to the libraries and archives of the Church, both at the Patriarchate and in individual churches and monasteries, permitted her to pursue an interest in Coptic history in unprecedented fashion. The celebration of nineteen centuries of Egyptian Christianity in 1968 drove this research forward, prompting her to survey libraries and archives not in Egypt, but in England, France, and the United States as well. Ultimately, she came to teach Church history both at the Institute for Coptic Studies in Cairo and at the Coptic clerical college, until her death in 1994. As in the work of RnjfƯla, al-Masri depicts the tenure of Cyril IV as nothing less than pivotal in the modern history of the Church. Great emphasis is given to the notion that Cyril was ‘ahead of his time,’ particularly in so far as his educational experiments were concerned. On this score, al-Masri points to the fact that children of all faiths were admitted to Cyril’s schools; that no tuition fees were charged; and that he championed female education.12 Further, she


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points to the fortuitous coincidence of Cyril’s tenure as Patriarch with Sa‘Ưd’s tenure as Egypt’s Pasha: The constraints Sa‘Ưd’s predecessor, ‘AbbƗs, had imposed upon Coptic worship, particularly in the area of church construction and renovation, were apparently eliminated.13 According to al-Masri, Cyril was entirely committed to the notion of Copts as equal citizens rather than protected persons of the Book. She ventures to claim that, when Cyril read of the Sultan’s February 1856 decree mandating equality for non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, he insisted that Sa‘Ưd Pasha permit the unfettered admission of Copts to government higher education. In response to the allegation leveled at Cyril by English sources, that he opposed the conscription of Copts, she proffers a quotation from the man himself: “God forbid that I should be such a coward, one who does not know the value of citizenship, or who would deny the sons of this country the opportunity to express their love of country by serving and defending it. That is not why I am here. I am here to ask for equal rights and equal responsibilities for the Copts.”14 Riyad SnjryƗl’s Al-Mujtama al-Qibti fƯ Misr fƯ al-Qarn 19, despite an exclusive focus upon the period in question, has little to offer in terms of reinterpretation of the existing Arabic sources, or reconceptualization of the dominant ‘awakening narrative.’ Once again, 1854 and the accession of Cyril to the Patriarchal seat become a turning point. According to SnjryƗl, from 1854 onward, the Coptic Church extended its concerns well beyond elementary shepherding by priests and basic instruction in the principles of Christianity, arithmetic, and Arabic. Due to Cyril’s influence, church construction and theological exploration grew apace.15 This pervasive reliance upon the ‘awakening narrative’ has forestalled among historians questions I want to explore. Indeed, I would argue that the Enlightenment paradigm historians of the modern Copts have uncritically accepted from RnjfƯla—with a necessarily attendant disdain for the ‘lower orders’ of the community, afflicted with ‘backward’ and ‘offensive’ customs— has forestalled all possible research agendas focused upon questions of power. Specifically, how were technologies of power like the modern school adapted to an Egyptian context, and subsequently, resisted by those whose ‘subjectivity’ the technologies were intended to influence?

2. Cyril’s Rise to the Patriarchal Seat Cyril was the successor, in 1854, to Peter VII, who had held the Patriarchal seat since 1809.16 Accounts of the life of the ‘father of reform’ abound, particularly in Arabic. According to legend, DƗnjd—as Cyril was known prior to his accession—was born in the village of al-SawƗma al-Sharqiyya, near AkhmƯm, in 1816, of poor parents. Despite the fact that his father was illiterate,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


DƗnjd was sent to a Coptic kuttƗb, wherein he commenced his study of Arabic, Coptic, the Bible, and Church doctrine. He is reputed to have mingled with Bedouin as a young man, and to have become proficient at riding among them. In 1838, at age 22, he ventured to the Monastery of Saint Anthony in the Eastern Desert. At the monastery, he devoted himself to the study of grammar, literature, and history, as well as to the education of his peers. According to J. Heyworth-Dunne, “he soon made himself conspicuous on account of his intelligence, good judgment and studious habits.”17 Within two years, he was unanimously acclaimed abbot of the monastery, and proceeded to undertake such projects as a reading room and discussion circle for his fellow monks, and a kuttƗb for the instruction of the Coptic youth of Bnjsh in Arabic and Coptic. Indeed, the monks themselves came to attend the school at Bnjsh, in the Beni Suef district. DƗnjd’s efforts drew the attention of the Patriarch, who decided, in 1851, to dispatch the monk to Abyssinia, to mitigate tensions between Bishop Salama and the Abyssinian clergy. A year after DƗnjd’s departure, the ailing Patriarch recommended his envoy as his successor to the Patriarchal seat. According to Edith Butcher, upon Peter’s death in 1852, a movement arose in support of DƗnjd: “Those who had been his fellow-students and knew his desire for a reform of the Church clamoured for his appointment.”18 However, a lengthy struggle with several bishops prevented a smooth succession. The Bishop of AkhmƯm had garnered much support among fellow bishops for his aspirations to the Patriarchal seat. His supporters ventured not only to claim they had the sanction of ‘AbbƗs Pasha for the appointment, but spread rumors about DƗnjd, to the effect that he had not only interfered in the politics of Abyssinia, but married and fathered children during his mission there as well. To resolve the dispute within the Church, an Armenian mediator was appointed. In 1853, ‘AbbƗs agreed to the mediator’s plan—that DƗnjd be appointed a bishop on a trial basis, to determine his suitability as a leader for the Church as a whole. DƗnjd immediately resolved to demolish several houses for the purpose of building a large, modern school for the education of Coptic youth—and collected roughly 44,000 piastres to that end. The audacity of the project apparently convinced DƗnjd’s detractors, with the exceptions of the Bishops of AkhmƯm and Abu TƯg, that he was the man for the job. Within two years of the death of Peter VII, Cyril had risen to the Patriarchal seat, and become the 110th Patriarch of Alexandria.

3. The Patriarch’s Project Upon his rise, Cyril’s principal concern was educating the Copts. The Patriarch was extremely sensitive to the critique of the existing village schools,


Chapter Ten

kuttabs, mounted by European travelers and missionaries in their journeys through Egypt. The conclusions of a deputation from the Malta Protestant College were typical: The instruction in the schools is conducted by ignorant teachers, and consists in a mechanical exercise of the memory, without any cultivation of the other mental faculties. The consequence is, that the people mostly repeat the Scriptures, without understanding them, and have only a superficial knowledge of other subjects.19

Indeed, there was a feature of the Coptic kuttƗb that particularly troubled European visitors: Virtually all the ‘arƯfs, the heads of the kuttabs, were blind.20 Cyril began his educational project by condemning deacons’ and priests’ lack of familiarity with the Coptic language—in particular, their ‘blind’ engagement in the Coptic incantations that pervaded church services, and their reliance upon Arabic commentary to comprehend the services.21 ‘ArƯƗn Girgis MuftƗh, who assumed responsibility for the teaching of Coptic in the Patriarch’s schools, insisted upon a grammatical, rule-based approach to the language, in contrast to the techniques of memorization imparted by kuttƗbs. Indeed, the Patriarch created a committee for the purpose of developing a text for Coptic language instruction in all Coptic schools. In 1855, Cyril founded ‘modern’ boys’ schools in ‘AbdƯn and Mansnjra, and a series of girls’ schools—one adjacent to the Patriarchate, in Clot Bey, and one in ‘AbdƯn. According to al-Masri, Cyril “realized that an uneducated girl would not become a good mother who could look after her children properly. He was of the view that, as the mother is mentor to the children, she must be educated.”22 Apparently the parents of the girls complained to no less an authority than Sa‘Ưd Pasha about Cyril’s ‘modern methods’ of education, but Sa‘Ưd stood behind the Patriarch, and ventured to endow the school with a tract of land. In her writings, al-Masri emphasizes that Cyril’s concern with fairness to women extended beyond education into the legal realm: When asked by a Catholic family to offer an opinion about shares of an inheritance, he insisted that daughters receive their due.23 Most importantly, the Madrasat al-AqbƗt al-KubrƗ—known variously as the Great Coptic School and the Coptic Patriarchal College—commenced instruction in 1855. Coptic historians laud the ‘sound pedagogical approach’ the School embraced, a phrase one can interpret as denoting a shift from recitation to the printed text.24 Students received all the books and supplies they required at the Church’s expense. The curricula of the School were under the strict supervision of the Patriarch, and he carefully monitored the progress of each class of students.25 According to ‘Abd al-HalƯm Ilyas Nussair, the School’s teachers were carefully selected, and remarkably well paid for the era. The

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


English instructor, Muhammad Badr Bey al-HakƯm, received twenty pounds in gold each month; Mustafa RashwƗn served as French instructor, and Iskandar Garwa, as principal.26 Not only Copts and Muslims, but indeed, Syrians, Lebanese, Italians, and Frenchmen were all employed as teachers. IrƯs HabƯb al-Masri makes a point of noting that Cyril’s aim “was not just to educate but to build character.” Apparently, a number of well-heeled parents visited him with the complaint that one of their sons had suffered a beating at the hands of a teacher, with no regard paid to the boy’s high social status. AlMasri claims that the Patriarch found the complaining parents so offensive that he refused to release their children from the School that day, until they had each paid five years’ worth of tuition fees. Further, he admonished them in the following terms: “your children will be the men of the future, they will be the ones who build our country, and they should be raised properly.” The parents withdrew with the commitment, “they are not our children, they are yours, and we give you permission to do what is right, according to your wisdom.” 27 The Patriarch had personally supervised the construction of the School, adjacent to the Patriarchal residence, and the project as a whole cost 600,000 piastres. Cyril admitted students of all faiths, and frequently invited foreign travelers and residents, particularly educationalists, to visit the School, to examine his students.28 Indeed, there was a reception area devoted specifically to welcoming such guests, and they were invited to record their comments in a register. RnjfƯla claims Abu IslƗh often remained in the classroom during students’ lessons, and departed with the words, “I have gained with you today something I had not known before.”29

4. KuttƗb or Kufr? However impressive the School may have seemed to visitors, Coptic youth and their parents were extremely reluctant to give Cyril’s institution a chance. Despite the fact that there were no fees associated with instruction at the School, the Patriarch was hard-pressed to convince parents to withdraw their children from kuttƗbs. ‘Abd al-HalƯm Ilyas Nussair speaks of a rumor campaign directed by the heads of kuttƗbs against the School—heads fearful of the loss of income that could result from the transfer of students to a central school. They apparently suggested that the Great Coptic School was a source of kufr, or infidelity, and would lead to a corruption of belief. Nussair recounts that the kuttƗb heads ultimately came to an understanding with the Patriarch. Under that agreement, they would receive monthly salaries for their efforts in early education, after which their students would face examinations to distinguish those fit for the Great Coptic School.


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Nevertheless, in the face of determined resistance from Coptic parents, Cyril realized empty references to the future benefits of modern education would not suffice to lure students to the School. To demonstrate the immediate benefits the School could offer pupils, he recruited a priest to develop a choir from among the School’s student body. Choir members were provided impressive vestments to wear during church services. According to Nussair, the uniforms served to dampen parents’ resistance to the School, while Coptic youth themselves reveled in the hymns. Despite his best efforts, Cyril would not, during his lifetime, manage to convince the mass of Copts that ‘modern education’ was in their interest. Particularly detrimental to Cyril’s efforts in this regard was the long-standing association in people’s minds between such ‘modern education’ and conscription. Mehmed Ali’s educational projects had had the specific aim of preparing the inhabitants of the Nile Valley for service in the military, and peasants were scarcely oblivious to this link, resisting the recruitment of their children for ‘modern education’ as fiercely as they resisted their seizure for the army or public works. Indeed, the state decision, in 1855, to make Copts subject to conscription—a decision that virtually coincided with the opening of the Great Coptic School—could not have helped Cyril’s educational mission. This problem of perception yielded a Great Coptic School, patronized, largely, by the sons of the Coptic elite. Among the graduates of the schools Cyril founded were Faltaus Ibrahim Baghdadi, the architect of Egyptian personal status legislation; MikhƗ’il ‘Abd al-Sayyid, the founder of the newspaper al-Watan; MikhƗ’il Sharubim and Barsoom Girgis RnjfƯla, judges; and Boutros Ghali, prime minister. Cyril could not possibly have foreseen how the beneficiaries of Church largesse in the Great Coptic School would ultimately rise up against the institution to which they owed their education—ironically enough, all because of the modern Coptic subjectivity Cyril had imparted to them.

5. The Nineteenth-Century Coptic Elite Elite Coptic laymen of the late nineteenth century defended their wealth as ‘citizens of Egypt,’ but never intended to forsake their Coptic communal identity. In their view, the Egyptian and Coptic dimensions of their identity were scarcely irreconcilable. Quite to the contrary, they were mutually reinforcing, and the link served elite Copts well. Yet, a troubling question soon emerged: Who, among the Copts, in fact merited the ‘modern sons of the Pharaohs’ label? Elite Copts were plagued with ambivalence and apprehension about the Coptic masses. Coptic peasants, with their ‘backward’ and ‘offensive’ customs, were scarcely considered heirs to the illustrious Coptic heritage, of

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


which elite Copts considered themselves proprietors. The ‘lower orders’ needed not the equality for which the elite was then striving, but ‘enlightenment.’30 Enlightenment would emerge through the textualizing and moralizing processes developed in Cyril’s educational institutions. The aim of such processes was to eliminate those local intermediaries to whom villagers and townspeople had long looked for guidance. Indeed, for the elite laymen of the Coptic community, the monks controlling the Coptic Orthodox Church represented a problem. In the laymen’s view, due to the monks’ mismanagement, “The revenues of Church property are squandered in the most reckless manner, whilst the churches are suffered to fall into decay, and secular priests are paid only beggardly salaries, or are entirely left to depend for their subsistence on the charity of their congregations.”31 The monks were mere ‘superstitious’ anachronisms. They still, for the most part, could not understand the sacred language of the Church, yet ‘mindlessly’ uttered prayers in that language. In 1908, Murqus Fahmi launched a moral indictment of the Coptic community in the pages of the newspaper, Misr. Fahmi had graduated from the French Law School in 1892, and continued with his legal studies in Aix-enProvence. Upon his return to Egypt in 1895, he took up the practice of law, and ultimately became the motive force behind the idea of an Egyptian lawyers’ syndicate. Indeed, he wrote the syndicate’s inaugural charter in 1899. Further, he was heavily involved in the reform of personal status law within the Coptic community. In his columns for Misr, Fahmi claimed that, as a people, the Copts were not merely uneducated as to their legacy, but shamefully backward as to their morals. They refused women the education to which they were entitled, and thus harmed the Coptic home. Further, the Copts were concerned only with material advancement, rather than the spiritual advancement of their community.32 The attack Ramzi Tadrus launched upon his community was of still greater virulence. For Tadrus, the Copts were a selfish, filthy people. As Samir Seikaly recounts, the Coptic Committee for the Suppression of Evil Habits was, at the time, engaged in the effort to raise the moral condition of the community. The Committee sought to rid Copts of “offensive burial customs, premature and senile marriages, the exclusion and veiling of women, belief in amulets, and finally, excessive drinking, smoking and gambling.”33 Fahmi and Tadrus concurred that if elite Coptic laymen—men who had purportedly served the state, cultivated the land, and constructed factories with industry, discipline, and order—were in control of the community, they could at last render the Church a ‘functional’ institution, and the Copts, a ‘moral’ people. As the ‘modern sons of the pharaohs,’ Egypt was their ‘native’ land, after all. In the eyes of their Western ‘Christian brethren,’ the Copts of Egypt constituted a


Chapter Ten

human link, both to the erudition of the ancients and to the morality of the primitive Church. This ‘imagined’ narrative of cultural distinctiveness was vital for the elite Copts of the nineteenth century, with their disproportionate influence and wealth, for the narrative declared Copts the ‘most Egyptian’ of all Egyptians. Through the ‘modern sons of the pharaohs’ claim, Coptic landowners succeeded both in strengthening their communal identity and in legitimizing their control of vast estates. With the ‘modern sons of the pharaoh’ claim at hand, endorsed by the ‘scientific’ judgment of a host of archaeologists, how indeed could a Muslim question Coptic involvement in Egyptian public life?34 Hence, the elite Copts published Coptic newspapers—notably, al-Watan, developed by Great Coptic School graduate MikhƗ’il ‘Abd al-Sayyid in 1877.35 They distributed Coptic journals—among them, the literary al-Majalla alQibtiyya, the spiritual al-Haqq, and the educational al-Shams.36 They conferred at Coptic clubs, such as NƗdƯ RamsƯs.37 Most prominently, however, they sought to ‘enlighten’ the ‘lower orders’ of the Coptic community through the TawfƯq Society, founded at Cairo in 1891. In the pages of their newspapers and journals—or cloistered in their clubs and ‘benevolent’ societies—elite Copts applauded the success they enjoyed and, just as the evangelicals had years prior, attributed that success to their ancestry. Ramzi Tadrus pointed to the Copts as “the remnant of a people for ever persecuted but never destroyed; pure descendants of the ancient Egyptians, similar to them racially and in genius and ability.” As Seikaly recounts, Tadrus concluded that, given such ‘genius and ability,’ the Copts were destined to serve as “instruments of social change, the harbingers of a true civilization that would not completely dispose of the past, yet would accept European modernity.”38 Elite Copts believed they had an equal right to the abundance of that land, and looked to the British to aid them in securing their ‘inheritance.’ At the 1911 Coptic Congress, MikhƗ’il Fanous captured the notion succinctly: “As regards man’s personal well-being it is for everyone to struggle for his own advancement.” He continued: once the principle of equality is established, no more importance will be attached to the mere acquisition of posts; the words Moslem and Copt will be forgotten. By equality we mean that people should live with each other in science and education, so that only qualified persons shall hold these posts. Thus we arouse in every man great activity and eagerness to improve his mind for the sake of his career.39

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


6. Elite Collaborators Despite such exalted ambitions, elite Coptic laymen faced a significant obstacle in the quest to achieve such ‘equality,’ and lead their community to ‘progress and advancement’—the hierarchy of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In ideological terms, whereas the landowners were convinced that Copts had to struggle for their ‘rights of citizenship’ and a position of prominence in Egyptian public life, the Church hierarchy sought to preserve the status quo of a ‘separate,’ ‘protected’ Coptic community. In practical terms, however, whereas the landowners were convinced that elite laymen were the members of the community most ‘qualified’ to represent the community and to administer Church affairs beyond the spiritual realm—that is, to control the endowments and the leadership of the Copts—the Church hierarchy sought to preserve the authority of the Patriarch, in both spiritual and temporal affairs. In 1873, after seven years and seven months in the Patriarchal seat, Demetrius passed away. Upon his death, Bishop Murqus of Alexandria assumed responsibility for the Church hierarchy. In the midst of the confusion surrounding the selection of Demetrius’s successor, elite Copts, who came together under the banner of a ‘Reform Society,’ saw an opportunity. Society members put together a report for Murqus explaining their dissatisfaction with the state of Coptic youth and the Coptic poor. Further, in a petition to Khedive IsmƗ‘Ưl, Great Coptic School graduate Boutros Ghali requested permission to wrest control of the Church administration—personal status law, the endowments, Coptic schools, and poor relief—from the Church hierarchy, through the election of a majlis al-milli, or Coptic Community Council. Through a decree issued on 3 February 1874, the Khedive furnished his consent for Ghali’s proposal.40 Patriarch Cyril V cooperated with the Council for a time. Within a year, the Church had founded both a school for girls and a theological college. However, as Cyril came to grasp the aspirations of the laymen—particularly as far as control of the endowments was concerned—the arrangement collapsed. The Patriarch began to absent himself from meetings of the majilis. The Reform Society called upon the government to intervene, to force the Patriarch to respect majilis decisions. Although the government exerted much pressure on the Church hierarchy, Cyril resisted that pressure, to the extent that the majilis was virtually disbanded for a period of seven years. The educational projects initiated with the Council apparently withered.41 By 1883, however, the balance of forces in the dispute had shifted significantly. British troops trod upon Egyptian soil. As Seikaly notes in his doctoral dissertation, “The Copts were a tool to be utilized to further British aims in Egypt, they were a factor in a fluid political situation, and as a politician


Chapter Ten

Cromer had no hesitation to manipulate such a factor in order to insure that his policy would succeed.”42 Further, the Church of England had seized upon the opportunity occupation represented, and developed an Association for the Furtherance of Christianity in Egypt. The elite laymen were sufficiently emboldened by meetings with Association leaders to condemn the Patriarch in public. No doubt frustration was mounting within the community at large due to the administrative confusion majilis dissolution had prompted: Legal issues surrounding inheritance and Church endowments were in limbo. Led by Boutros Ghali, elite Copts petitioned the government in February for the restoration of the Council. A Khedival decree issued on 14 May required the Patriarch to seek Council approval for all his decisions beyond the spiritual realm. Elections to the Council were held, supervised by government officials, but the Patriarch refused to cooperate. Although Cyril had a representative at all Council meetings, he disregarded Council decisions and, within a year, the laymen had withdrawn.43 They were, however, scarcely prepared to admit defeat. The laymen developed societies independent of the Church, and cultivated support both within the government and among the British. By 1891, they thought themselves prepared for a further confrontation, and dispatched a delegation to the Patriarch, with the traditional demand for the restoration of the Council. According to Edith Butcher’s account, “a great popular demonstration was arranged in Cairo, to which came delegates from all the chief Coptic communities of Egypt.”44 The response of the Patriarch was particularly virulent, and the delegation immediately sought the intervention of Khedive Tawfiq. When the laymen attempted to hold elections at the Patriarchate, Cyril called for police intervention to prevent voters from entering the building. The Patriarch proceeded to convene a synod under the chairmanship of his deputy, Bishop Yuannis of Alexandria. The synod declared the notion of the majilis contrary to the laws of the prophets, and both Bishop and Patriarch traveled to Alexandria to present the synod’s declaration to the Khedive.45 Boutros Ghali, away in Europe during these events, was briefed by the Khedive upon his return to Egypt. Tawfiq instructed Ghali to find a solution to the Council dilemma and, accordingly, he brought the disputing parties together in the majilis chamber. Although a tentative agreement with the Patriarch as to the powers of the Council seemed to emerge from the meeting, requests to convene the majilis went ignored for a year. At this point, the Patriarch took the initiative and contacted a number of Coptic notables for informal consultations—but the notables refused to meet, insisting upon a formal session of the Council. Communal infighting became particularly virulent, with the anticlerical, reform-oriented TawfƯq Society squaring off against an ‘Orthodox Society.’46

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


In July 1892, incensed by Patriarchal ‘intransigence’ and under British pressure, the Khedive ordered the restoration of the Council. As expected, the Patriarch refused to sanction elections to the Council. Elections were held, despite the Patriarch’s opposition, under the supervision of Cairo’s chief of police. In the face of insistent petitioning from the Patriarch to the effect that such elections were illegal and improper, the Khedive snubbed Cyril in a most public, embarrassing way, refusing to receive the Patriarch’s official greetings on the occasion of ‘Ʈd al-Adha. Indeed, the Khedive ventured to inform Boutros Ghali that the palace would accept no further communications from the Patriarch.47 Elite Copts resolved to call for government removal of all the temporal authority Cyril retained, submitting a report to the government illustrating the Patriarch’s efforts to obstruct the Council. ‘AbbƗs II acceded to the petition, and designated Athanasius, the Bishop of Sanabu, Patriarchal Vicar and President of the Council.48 Athanasius was promptly excommunicated by the bishops—but the Khedive was prepared to enforce his decision by force. By September, the Council of Ministers had banished Cyril to the desert monastery of Nitria. Butcher recounts that four committees were put in place to administer Church affairs—“one to supervise schools, another to receive the Church funds and look after her property, a third to examine the condition of the churches, and a fourth to regulate the ecclesiastical courts.”49 Throughout the confrontation, the elite laymen emphasized their commitment to render the Coptic Church a ‘rational,’ ‘functional’ institution. Edith Butcher, writing in 1897, congratulated the Coptic reformers for having rid the community of one particularly ‘backward’ custom: “At one time fifteen was considered a suitable age to marry for a boy, and twelve for the girl. Already, however, public opinion, backed by the remonstrances of the Church, has improved in this respect, and now a man must be twenty and a girl sixteen before the Patriarch or Bishop will grant the license without which no priest can celebrate a marriage.”50 Elite Copts were, however, racing not merely towards an abstract notion of ‘progress’ or ‘modernity,’ but towards affluence. Despite the rhetoric of Church ‘modernization,’ the confrontation was, in fact, about control—both of vast tracts of precious yet ‘unexploited’ waqf land, and of the leadership of the Coptic community. The British found among the elite Copts willing collaborators, due not merely to a common commitment to ‘modernization’—to the values of industry, discipline, and order—but to common material and political aims. Indeed, with the modern, moral values of industry, discipline, and order, elite Copts possessed an enunciative capacity to defend the extraction of resources and the seizure of authority. As Ramzi Tadrus recounted, “Thanks to the freedom, the justice, and the rapid improvement the Nile Valley was


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experiencing under British rule, Coptic dignitaries and their families were able to develop their abilities for work and finance, and concentrate almost exclusively their zeal in accumulating fortunes in land, stocks and bonds, companies.”51

7. Morality for the Masses Perhaps the most powerful illustration of resistance to the ‘moralization’ of the community was the scene Cairenes witnessed in February 1893, upon the return to Cairo of the Copts’ banished Patriarch. Throughout the period of banishment, Copts had forsaken church services, baptisms, and marriages. Church and community were in a state of utter chaos, and the elite laymen were forced to concede the measure of control they had secured. As Seikaly notes: The Patriarch, accompanied by a special government envoy, made a triumphal entry into Cairo. The thoroughfare leading from the main station to the Patriarchate was thronged with jubilant people of all denominations. Women and children perched on balconies cheered uninhibitedly, while in the streets below exultant Copts expressed their joy by slaughtering sheep. Wild with emotion, several Copts unharnessed the horses drawing Cyril’s carriage and themselves dragged it to the Cathedral, where prayers of thanks were offered.52

For the moment, the ‘superstitious’ masses had triumphed, and defeated the forces of industry, discipline, and order. However, despite such episodes of resistance, Coptic landowners embraced the ‘educational process’ that evangelicals had brought to Egypt and that Abu IslƗh had perpetuated through the Great Coptic School. Elite Copts aimed, through the schools they developed, to cultivate the values they had learned under the tutelage of Abu IslƗh— industry, discipline, and order—within Coptic youth. Ultimately, elite Egyptians, both Copts and Muslims, aimed by such means to render impoverished coreligionists industrious and disciplined laborers. At the 1911 Coptic Congress, Aknoukh Fanous spoke not only to his fellow elite Copts, but indeed to all elite Egyptians, when he described the importance of religious education: “It is the most important consideration, both for humanity, and for Governments, that people should obey the commands of their religion, because a religious people is always the least inclined to crime, and the most careful of the rights of others, and a Government can always feel confidence in such a people.” Fanous left precious little ambiguity as to his point: “He who is not faithful to his God knows not how to be faithful to his Government.”53 Fanous was merely voicing a sentiment upon which elite Coptic reformers like himself had acted for two decades, through the TawfƯq Society.54 The

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


TawfƯq Society, founded in 1891, was the specifically Coptic instrument for the ‘moralization’ of the masses—for spreading the values of industry, discipline, and order among subaltern Copts. As Hilmi Ahmad Shalabi notes in his history of TawfƯq, a Coptic Benevolent Society closely associated with the Church had come into existence in 1881.55 However, the TawfƯq Society, although founded with little fanfare, would distinguish itself through its wide network of operations in Egypt, extending to branches as far afield as Alexandria, TantƗ, Asynjt, MinyƗ, and Beni Suef. TawfƯq constructed hospitals and orphanages—but the preponderance of resources were committed to schools for, according to the leaders of the Society, “the advancement or backwardness of any community was commensurate with the condition of its schools.”56 In his account, Shalabi specifically attributes the paramount concern of the 21 founding members of the Society with education, to the influence of Cyril IV: The only means by which to achieve social reform in the Coptic community at large was the ‘modern’ school.57 The Society reported that the number of ‘bona fide,’ ‘modern’ Coptic schools rose from six in 1892 to forty-six in 1907—a rise one can credit, in large part, to TawfƯq.58

8. Epilogue In contemporary Egypt, notes Gregory Starrett, “More people are praying, more people are reading about Islam and listening to its preachers, more people are discovering consciously the salience of religious ideas and practices to their private and public lives, than did a generation ago.”59 Dina el Khawaga has identified a strikingly parallel development in the Coptic Orthodox community of Egypt, in a recent book chapter. In her words, the urban Copt currently “finds himself ‘absorbed’ by dozens of daily activities which he must carry out not only to witness his faith or partake of the moments of communion provided by the services, sermons, or prayers, but also to ‘progress’ along the spiritual path to life.”60 The ‘resurgence of faith’ in Egypt is typically associated by social analysts, political scientists in particular, with deteriorating socio-economic conditions. Policies of economic liberalization implemented during the 1970s are specified as the cause of a widening breach between the wealthy and the poor. Lower middle class Muslims, the argument runs, chose to employ Islamic symbols to articulate political grievances—themselves rooted in distinctly material concerns—given the long-standing structural weakness of the left in the country. In contrast to the preponderance of her colleagues in political science, Dina el Khawaga eschews the relative deprivation thesis, insisting upon a long-term perspective in analyzing the ‘resurgence of faith’ within the Coptic community. Rather than pointing to the oft cited milestones of 1967 or 1974—the


Chapter Ten

decimation of Egypt by Israel in battle, and the inauguration of the infitƗh era, respectively—she steps back to the years 1893 and 1918. In the former, the Coptic Seminary was established; and in the latter, the Coptic Sunday school movement began to emerge, in earnest. Both developments are cited as milestones in a clerical effort to render the Church the focal point of Coptic communal life, in the face of acculturative threats from the Coptic elite and Egyptian political institutions. The argument Dina el Khawaga advances is reminiscent of that Starrett advances in Putting Islam to Work, not least given her focus upon transformations in Coptic educational structures. As Starrett potently declares, “The textbook provides the liturgy for ritual dramatizations of the moral authority of the state.”61 The school has emerged as a venue for the inculcation of particular values, and sacred texts—whether the Qur’an or the Bible—are cast therein as codes of morality available for interpretation not only to properly educated and accredited scholars of Islam and Christianity, but further, to state functionaries with a range of educational backgrounds. Stewardship of Coptic communal morality has gradually passed from the hands of the community elite into the hands of the Church hierarchy. By the 1930s, a Sunday School Movement had spread through the Coptic community— one explicitly devoted to the application of Scriptural ‘wisdom’ to the lives of Coptic youth. By the 1960s, the Coptic Patriarch had appointed a Bishop of Education committed to delivering a ‘lesson’ to Coptic youth each Friday, interpreting the Biblical passages relevant to such matters as dating, studying, family planning, and class relations. By the 1990s, Moussa, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s Bishop of Youth had not only published booklets entitled ‘Youth and Pure Living,’ ‘Youth and Family Life,’ ‘How Can I Make Decisions?’ and ‘Sex from a Christian View,’ but developed an internet page to ‘enlighten’ Christian youth as to ‘proper’ conduct.62 Analysis of such polemics yields insight into a marked shift in the deployment of sacred texts among Coptic Christians. Just as the Muslims, Starrett describes, select and interpret Qur’anic passages to serve particular political aims, in the broadest sense of that term, Coptic Christians deploy Biblical passages in comparable ways—that is, in ‘functional’ ways. This modern Coptic subjectivity is the legacy of a century and a half of schooling which has framed Coptic Christianity as a moral code.

Figure 1 Taken in November 2005 in Smara Camp during a culture ‘competition.’ From Jacob Mundy.

Figure 2 Taken in September 2003 in Awsard Camp. A picture of a Sahrawi family that “disappeared” by Morocco. From Jacob Mundy.

Figure 3 Jewish family from Sous in 1953. Photograph © by Elias Harrus. From Sarah Levin.

Figure 4 Kabyle Girl in Ait-Abdelmoumene Photograph by Rabah Seffal

Figure 5 Tuareg Photograph by Richard Goldman

Part IV: Minorities and the Moroccan State


1. Introduction As a North African state,1 Morocco has vigorously attempted to create a nation of inclusive identities under the overarching political umbrella of a constitutional monarchy that espouses the democratic ideals of the West, while it stresses the symbolic and historical Arab-Islamic principles and traditions embodying the imagined Moroccan identity. The struggle to forge a collective and national identity was encouraged during the liberation movement and this continued after independence. The new state ruling leaders, largely members of the dominant pan-Arab Istiqlal party, were concerned to counter the divisive colonial ideology that stressed the disparate character of Berbers and Arabs in Morocco.2 The forging of a national identity became a cultural project.3 The state relied on education, national radio and television, and other forms of communication and leisure to draw a strong association between culture and Moroccan identity. Moroccanness was defined in terms of a culture deriving from an Arab, Islamic, Berber, African and Jewish past. This legal definition of the nation and its protection became vested in the institution of the monarchy and in the state’s constitution.4 The Hammoudian paradigm of MasterDisciple/father-son captures this relationship: the state exercises overwhelming political power through a legitimizing ideological hierarchy based on religious and textual icons.5 Nevertheless after the first decade of Independence, the struggle over power between the monarchy and other political forces affected this democratic definition of minority inclusiveness. The state, to survive a political dissent within its institutions, relied on coercive methods to instill a national feeling of unity utilizing its hegemony over the media to propagate its ideology. The

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Berber ingredient (the nation is generally discussed in official discourses as an organic body of different elements) of the nation came to acquire a new definition after the involvement of many Berber leaders in two failed coupsd’état against the monarchy. The Berber element was foregrounded within this new value system mainly as folkloristic.6 Berbers were stigmatized in popular culture and associated with a backward tradition. They were also seen in the popular imagination as uncivilized. Educational text books were also an important instrument in this effort to ‘domesticate’ the individual into believing in these leisure activities as a key element in the celebration of the collective identity. The state’s primary objective was to downgrade the political challenges of the Berbers. However, instead of using force to subdue their cultural challenges, the state utilized a method of structural violence making the inclusive homogenization symbolic instead of physical. National festivals were one of the few national stages where the Berber aspect of Moroccanness used to be celebrated. In the collective national consciousness, Berber patrimony came to be perceived as a set of folklore and folkdances that are staged on a regular basis during national celebrations and holidays. As Michael Herzfeld noted, “even in the popular discourse, people increasingly identify nation with culture, and thereby surrender the right of cultural definition to the agencies of state control: folklore gives way to folklorism.”7 Accordingly, the Berber culture has been at the center of the tourism industry in Morocco. “Berber” has been a bestseller commodity of Moroccan national tourism. Exotic Berber villages, Berber Kasbahs, and Berber food are highly sought by national and international tourists. Berber rugs, Berber jewelry, Berber architecture, Berber pottery and Berber what not are also widely sought by tourists worldwide. Hotels and tourism marketing agencies are also providing Berber recipes and folk dances for tourists. Hundreds of websites feature major Berber exotic destinations. The Office National de Tourisme,8 the government’s organization responsible for the development and marketing of tourism, has produced thousands of brochures where Berber villagers are in perfect harmony with nature, dressed in their colorful costumes and captured in their beautiful natural backgrounds. Kasbahs are shown from the outside, Berber women are pictured in joyful wedding-ceremonies, and smiling children are photographed on the roofs of a Berber ksar with a Moroccan flag in the background. There are no daily struggles, no hardships, and no tragedies when the word Berber is mentioned. The Ksar/kasbah, the desert dunes and the oasis have become cultural icons in the marketing strategies used by the ministries of Tourism and Culture. Even at the turn of the twentieth-first century, the Berber discourse of the Office National de Tourisme and the Ministry of Culture cannot be differentiated from the orientalist accounts of the French colonial travelers. The image is still exotic. It is as if Berbers were fixed in time and space. After all,


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they are what makes Morocco worth visiting in the global tourism industry. In contrast with this aforementioned exotic image of the Berbers, Berber cultures, languages and customs have been marginalized in the Moroccan national political, cultural and educational agenda. By the 1990s, worldwide human rights calls forced the government, including the late King Hassan II and King Mohammed VI, to rethink the state’s policies toward Berbers. Hence, there has been a dramatic change in the Moroccan national discourse on the Berber identity, culture and custom. Prior to this unprecedented change, “Berber” folklore was generally seen as exotic and presented to tourists and nationals as a traditional cultural heritage to be safeguarded in museums as opposed to being experienced as a living cultural heritage. Today, the official discourse describes the Amazigh component of the Moroccan culture as a key aspect of the hawiyya al-wataniyya (national identity). On Throne Day, July 30, 2001, Mohammed VI, the reigning King of Morocco, described his vision of national hybridity as natural organic body of different yet complementary and historically related units: The Moroccan pluralistic identity is built around different tributaries: Amazigh, Arab, sub-Saharan, African and Andalusian. Many types of mulch which, by their nurturing of many diverse cultures and civilizations, by interacting with them, have contributed to refine and enrich our identity. As for the homogeneity, it has been achieved through the attachment, with fraternity, to the Islamic creed, an indissoluble source of our nation. Our identity has succeeded in giving a concrete example of our unity, integration and syncretism which were manifested within the context of our unified nation, recognizing neither a majority, nor a minority, because its citizens have joined around its immutable values and because of the perpetuity of our monarchic regime which has been faithful, during thirteen centuries, in maintaining, through its constant solicitude, our identity in its unity and diversity; which has allowed it throughout our national history to emerge as unique with its own specificities without parallel anywhere.9 [Identité plurielle (marocaine) bâtie autour d'affluents divers; Amazigh, Arabe, Sub-Saharien, Africain et Andalous, autant de terreaux qui, par leur ouverture sur des cultures et des civilisations variées, et en interaction avec elles, ont contribué à affiner et enrichir notre identité. Quant à l'homogénéité, elle s'est réalisée par l'attachement, dans la fraternité, à la foi islamique, ferment indissoluble de l'unité de notre nation. Notre identité a réussi à donner une illustration concrète de l'unité, de l'intégration et du brassage qui se sont opérés dans le cadre d'une nation unifiée, ne connaissant ni majorité, ni minorité, car ses citoyens se rejoignent à l'unisson autour de ses valeurs immuables et ce, grâce à la pérennité de notre régime monarchique qui s'est attaché, treize siècles durant, à entourer de sa constante sollicitude, notre identité, dans son unité et sa diversité; ce qui lui a permis de se singulariser, tout au long de notre histoire nationale, par ses spécificités, à nulles autres pareilles.]

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


This chapter is based on intermittent ethnographic and archival research activities in southern Morocco between 1996-2006. I discuss how the frozen state and hegemonic Arab identity has changed its political discourse to accommodate the Berber ethnic group as an essential component of national identity. I look specifically at how the Moroccan state, through its ministries of tourism and cultural affairs, has redefined, repackaged, and re-marketed Berber folklore/dances through festivals to fit the new emerging hybridity of national cultures and languages that undermine the once single voiced Arab authority, and authoritative discourse of Berber folklore and music. If we recognize that nations are constructed and conceptualized through ideological narratives, identities are what we make of them. I would like here to caution the reader to the fact that there is no “pure” Berber identity, no matter how Berbers try to make of it so. At the same time, a nation is also produced through a repetitive performance of ideological icons. In this sense, folk dance as folklore is utilized by the state to institute a new Moroccan identity through a stylized repetition of discursive acts.10 In the case of Berbers, these stylized acts generally take the form of festivals. In fact, the use of folk dances as part of festivals is in line with the nineteenth century European idea of nationalism. According to LeeEllen Friedland, folk dance is: [I]nextricably tied to the nineteenth-century view of the folk as guardians of the pure national soul and folk culture as the repository of customs descended from ancient religious ritual. The term folk dance is valuable only when this historical connection is maintained.11

The concept of das Volk (the folk) is an integral part of nationalism. The spread of Romantic nationalism in Europe was partly based on the celebration of folkloristic traditions. In the midst of social changes and economic upheavals, the Europeans constructed folk as a national referent. The use of folk dances as part of enhancing nationhood is also an integral part of the Moroccan state policies. This cultural debate over Berber folklore and its uses is part of the general discussion about Moroccan state policies toward the question of the Berber minority. The state’s slogan “diversity and unity” is part of a discourse that perceives all the different groups as equals in an inclusive state. What is striking about the state’s political reaction to the Berber demands at the cultural level is the modification within its traditional conceptualization of the performance of nationalism and the politics of culture. Since the Moroccan state was undermined by the global overflow of media and people, it started to lose its grip over a common national imagination of descent and cultural belonging. The performance of nationalism as a primary Islamic and Arab concept has to be reformulated to include regional diversities of the country, and of the people. Before the age of the Internet and satellite media, the


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state did not have a problem maintaining a national solidarity. In the recent decade, voices of cultural dissent have questioned the state’s cultural policies. This national discourse is emerging within the context of challenging Berber and Islamic voices that question the national Berber policy. Islamic voices criticize the Berber movement as part of a Western modernity project that rejects Islam; Islamic newspapers and media also campaign against the state’s policies of festivals as a waste of public resources, and as a means to encourage the spreading of “immoral activities.” The leaders of the Berber movements, on the other hand, see this policy of festivals as an ineffective policy that pays lipservice to the poor Berber regions of Morocco instead of introducing genuine incentives and alternatives, and they denounce the official discourse about Islamic heritage for having corrupted the “pure Berber essence” by overemphasizing the Arabization within the post-Independence national agenda.12

2. Historical Background: The Berber Sin During the colonial period, Berbers were key players in the national liberation movement. Berber leaders joined many pan-Arab intellectuals to denounce the French Berber Dahir of 1930 and fought along urban Arab resistance to expel the French from Morocco. They were aware of the colonial schemes to hamper any attempt towards national liberation by creating an ideological division between the Berbers and Arabs. Berbers were also a factor in the northern and southern Armée de Liberation Nationale. After independence, some members of the Armée de Liberation Nationale were left outside the political realm of decision-making and accused the Arab nationalists in the Istiqlal party of being behind the marginalization of Berber and southern resistance fighters. Harakat shaykh al-‘arab was an example of the first Berber movement against an “Arab controlled state apparatus.”13 Led by Ahmed Agouliz, alias shaykh al-‘arab, this Sousi revolutionary movement relied on a network of urban, largely in Casablanca, Sousi merchants who hid the arms and managed the supply and communications systems. On 7 August 1964, General Ahmed Oufkir, Minister of Interior, killed Ahmed Agouliz and brought the organization to an end.14 Nevertheless, this anti-monarchy and anti-pan-Arab Istiqlal movement influenced many intellectuals and students to join other underground revolutionary cells. In the 1971 and 1972 coup manqué, Hassan II realized that many participants in both coups were of Berber origin. This led to a long lasting manque de confiance, which would be translated in the government’s lack of economic investments in the southern and northern regions where Berbers formed the majority. These pressures were seen by the governments as measures

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


to curb the Berber threat. At the same time, the monarchy relied on a cooptation strategy that led many Berber leaders to work under the umbrella of the monarchy. Hassan II secured a rural basis through these loyal local notables and excluded the Istiqlal from the countryside. After his enthronement, Hassan II used the same Berber lords that worked with the French and the Spanish as local administrators and members of the parliament. These Berber technocrats, many of whom attended the Berber College at Azrou, were used by Hassan II “to oversee the rural caids rather as French officers once had done, and they became governors or top bureaucrats in the countryside.”15 Mahjoubi Aherdane, a former caid at the time of Mohammed V’s exile, became one of the official representatives of the ‘Berber case’ in the postIndependence era. Aherdane’s background as one of the leaders of the Armée de Liberation Nationale earned him trust among many Berber nationalists who could not tolerate the hegemonic discourse of the Istiqlal. His rural origin also led many to sympathize with his movement. In 1957, the Mouvement Populaire became not only a political party that stands for the rural population and lowlevel industrial workers, but also a strong supporter of the royal palace. Therefore, Aherdane positioned himself against the communist block and other voices in the Istiqlal party. In June 1956, Abbès Messaâdi, a Berber from the Middle Atlas and a staunch critic of the pan-Arab Istiqlal party, was assassinated after his continuous attacks on El Ghali Liraki, Abdelkbir El Fassi and Allal Fassi, who denied Berber languages and culture any role in the post independence cultural sphere. Aherdane’s movement benefited from this political conjuncture which instigated a social and cultural animosity in public memory (still alive even in jokes) between Fassis and Berbers/Soussis. The palace took advantage of this political division to gain more control of the postindependence political structures. Because of this historical context, Aherdane’s movement was never perceived (at least by some) as a “genuine Amazighi movement.” Being aware of the primary importance of Amazigh culture in the post-independence era as a political card, many critics claim that the intellectual and political Amazighi leaders, including Aherdane and Mohand Laansar, have profited from their cultural capital to attain political ascendancy. They drew on the illiterate masses by appealing to their Amazighi origin as opposed to the urban controlling Istiqlal party. As a cultural identity, the 1960s and 1970’s Amazigh Movement presented a political opportunity that was exploited by the Berber bureaucrats to attract disciples and followers in order to challenge other political parties and align themselves with the monarchy to maintain their political power over the rural areas. In Bourdieu’s words, Amazighism (as perceived by Aherdane and the other political parties that played the Amazighi political card in the years


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after Independence) had “symbolic capital” that served the interests of a small group of Berber families with privileged access to the central government.16

3. The Cultural and Political ‘Intifada’: Renaissance Berbère In Morocco Although the Berber movement was kept in check by state authorities during the post-colonial era, there were some timid attempts to advertise the Berber plight and the need for a recognition of Amazigh linguistic and cultural rights. These attempts continued to be structured through the political movement of Mahjoubi Aherdane himself. Although timid and done through the context allowed by the government, these calls led to a certain revival of the Berber issue inside the university especially with the publication of the revue Tifinagh, which would be banned in 1981. In 1980, the Algerian city Tizi-Ouzou was the stage for an Amazigh uprising (Printemps Berbère). This regional North African incident led King Hassan II to organize in Ifrane a conference on the reality and perspectives of Berberité (Amazighism). The conference discussed for the first time the possibility of teaching Amazigh dialects in Moroccan public schools. In 1981, the Amazigh poet Ali Azeykou (1942-2004) was imprisoned for demanding a “democratic approach to culture and a rewriting of Moroccan history.”17 The escalating Amazigh opposition to the government’s policies towards their culture turned into a strong political movement. Aware of its dangers, the Ministry of Interior headed by Dris Basri launched a series of arrests leaving the movement without a public voice. The crackdown on the movement culminated in the firing of Mohammed Chafik from the Collège Royal in 1989. Although these national and Algerian regional events led to the re-emergence of the Amazigh conscience, the international democratization movement and the human rights call for the respect of minorities and their cultural identity facilitated an Amazigh local “intifada” (some extremist Berbers equate their plight with the Palestinian struggle) in Morocco in the 1990s. In August 1991, the Charte d’Agadir became the first Amazigh document which called for: a democratic linguistic and cultural policy founded upon an acknowledgement and respect for the legitimate legal and cultural rights of all components of the Moroccan population… (with the perspective) of establishing a national democratic culture.18 [une politique linguistique et culturelle démocratique fondée sur la reconnaissance et le respect des droits linguistiques et culturels légitimes de l’ensemble des composantes du people marocain… (dans le perspective) de l’édification de la culture national démocratique.]

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


The charter was signed by representatives of six local associations: L’association marocaine de la recherche et l’échange culturel, l’association nouvelle pour la culture et les arts populaires (Tamaynut), l’association de l’université d’été, l’association culturelle Gheris (Tilelli), l’association Iimas, and l’association culturelle de Souss. The document called for the state recognition of Tamazight and Arabic as two national languages. The movement received international moral support during the Vienna conference in June 1993. The Amazigh question became an international issue: The conference condemned all attempts by the North African governments (mainly Algeria and Morocco) to assimilate the Amazigh minority into Arab culture and stressed the unique characteristics of their language and culture. The internationalization of the Amazigh question continued during the Congrès de Douarnenez (France) in August 1994 by raising for the first time the concept of the “peuple Amazigh.” In December 1994, Hacène Id Belkacem, a former Moroccan political prisoner, declared in a speech at the United Nations how the cultural identity of the Amazighs is violated by the nation state and called for the protection of their linguistic and cultural rights. He compared the situation of the Amazighs to the political plight of the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation calling their struggle a “movement that struggles for existence.” This comparison raised waves of criticism in Morocco. In May 1994, a worker protest celebrating International Workers’ Day (in Goulmima, an oasis situated 60 kilometers from Errachidia) turned into an Amazigh call for the recognition of the Amazigh language. Led by Ahmed Kikich and Alil Harcherras, teachers in Goulmima High School and members of Tilelli association, the protesters raised banners in French which read: Hebrew is taught not Tamazight (L’hébreu est enseigné, pas le Tamazight); Tamazight in School (Tamazight à l’école); and No democracy without Tamazight (Pas de démocracie sans Tamazight). Kikich and other Amazigh protesters were arrested, judged and imprisoned before being released following royal amnesty. The Goulmima event propelled the movement forward to the extent that Hassan II called for the teaching of Tamazight in a royal speech in August 1994: I have spoken, dear subjects, of dialects. Why? I believe that dialects are one of the components of our identity. Coming with the Quran, Arabic has not effaced our dialects…. We are a historic people, people whose history is based upon multiple foundations, strong and healthy, foundations rich because of their diversity, genius, and authenticity. [J’ai parlé cher peuple bien des dialectes. Pourquoi? J’estime que les dialectes font partie des composantes de notre identité. Venu avec le Coran, l’Arabe n’a pas supprimé nos dialectes… nous sommes un peuple historique, un peuple dant l’histoire repose sur les fondements multiples, solides et sains, des fondements


Chapter Eleven riches par leur diversité, leur genie, leur authenticité.]

Following this historical statement, the national television network started broadcasting its news in the three Amazigh dialects. Amazighi political demands were partially granted and the government ensured that its official discourse could finally reach the illiterate members of the Amazigh households. In September 1995, a meeting (the Pré-congrès mondial Amazigh) was held in Lozère (France). Representatives from the Maghreb and Sahel (Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, Canary Islands) as well as Europe and the United States attended the meeting. The conference led to the conceptualization of the ‘peuple amazigh’ instead of the ‘nation’ to rule out any calls for ethnic separation from the existing North African States. In 2001, the Congrès Mondial Amazigh adopted the Amazigh Manifesto sending an international call for official recognition of the language and the incorporation of the Berber element in the democratic, economic, political, and cultural makeup of the North African nation states.

4. Nation State and Ethnic Discourse: National Hybridity Mikhail Bakhtin defines hybridization as the “mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consciousnesses, separated from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation or by some other factor.”19 Hybridity is a mechanism that dissolves difference and otherness into an ideological framework of homogenization. Following the same line of thought, Homi Bhabha articulated a postcolonial theory of cultural hybridity where fixed national ideologies and ethnic identities encounter each other in what he calls “the third space.”20 Hybridity can become an ideological tool whereby the clashes of ethnic differences are consciously mitigated to construct a seemingly homogeneous body. When we transfer a hybridizing concept to the nation state as an organization that includes heterogeneous ethnic elements we assume a direct movement towards the reconciliation of cultures and races. In the 1920s, Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican education minister, initiated an acculturation and cultural integration program to promote nationalism based upon racial homogenization. Manuel Gamio, a student of Franz Boas and the father of Mexican anthropology, provided an ideological basis for the racial mixing and the fostering of nationality. In his seminal book Forjando patria (Forging a Nation),21 he articulated his ideas of nationalism based on the concept of mestizaje (racial mixing).22 Gamio’s anthropological study was designed to deal with ‘the Indian problem’ in the emerging of a Mexican nation state and provide an ideological basis for the transformation of the different

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Indian groups into Mexican nationals. President Lázaro Cardenas, a Tarascan who ruled between (1934-1940), backed this homogenizing attitude with the formation of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Anthropology and social sciences were used to establish the theoretical and practical basis of the nation. In Morocco, since the Amazighi call for linguistic and cultural recognition the state has been deeply involved in a discourse of cultural hybridization through its state-sponsored national rituals and media apparatus. This discourse relied mainly on assimilated Berber voices to vulgarize its message of ethnic mixing. In fact dar al-Makhzan (state) has maintained its cultural grip on the ‘Berber’ territories by relying on Berber bureaucrats. Faced with international pressures that call for respect of Morocco’s women and other minorities’ (Amazigh and Sahrawi people) rights, the nation state is breaking the political, geographic, ethnic and cultural boundaries to establish a homogeneous nation. Morocco is often referred to in the Royal discourse as a tree whose roots are a ‘mixture’ of ‘Berber,’ Jewish, Arab, Islamic and African origins and whose branches are in Europe and the Middle East. Antonio Gramsci argues that the state cannot enforce its controlling policies on minorities unless intellectual strategies are implemented.23 The state is thus a coercive institution combining hegemonic discourse and moral leadership. In the case of Morocco, the post-Independence era created a political debate over political power. After a period of instability that was managed through the armed forces, the state sought the political support of some Berber intellectuals and politicians to maintain its authority through a negotiated consensus and moral hegemony while at the same time providing a sense of a civil society. This cultural and political consensus with the “Berber” minority, or at least its ruling class, was created through media, political parties, the religious institutions and regional associations. Popular ‘Berber’ consciousness was usually articulated in national ceremonial rituals through dancing. The state-run universities, caught in a colonial discourse, participated in forging an image of a Berber community satisfied with its reality and happy to be disconnected from any ‘modern/colonial’ development project. Gramsci argues that the system of cultural hegemony is not static. It transforms itself and accommodates its principles to changes any time the ‘false consciousness’ is challenged. The recent emergent Amazigh consciousness has forced the state to adapt its hegemonic policies to the recent developments. Through its Foucauldian surveillance, the state is creating a cultural Panopticon, in this case the Centre Royal de la Culture Amazigh as an institutional machine to control the different ‘Amazighi’ voices and produce a homogeneous discourse.24 This Panopticon is a laboratory of state power and control over the ethnicities that tries to mask its cultural hegemony. “Thanks to its mechanisms


Chapter Eleven

of observation, it gains in efficiency and in the ability to penetrate into men’s behaviour; knowledge follows the advances of power, discovering new objects of knowledge over all the surfaces on which power is exercised.”25 This process of the docilization of the “threatening ethnic” is facilitated directly and indirectly by the Amazigh himself. By involving the new Amazighi citizen in the new negotiated interactions of the national public sphere, the state is creating an elusive reality of an accepted Amazigh intellectual citizen. This cultural Panopticon emerged after the state realized that Moroccan Amazighi intellectuals, including Mohammed Chafik, were highly involved in the design of the Amazigh Manifesto. Aware of this development, the government utilized its media to counterbalance any internal or external discourse. Le Matin du Sahara, the official daily newspaper of the government, has recently published a plethora of articles on Amazighi cultural issues and social institutions. According to an article entitled “Amazigh Patrimony Revalued” (“le patrimoine amazigh revalorisé”) it states that: By opening, since March 2003, its columns to culture, traditions and Amazigh patrimony, le Matin has been able to participate in the effort of acknowledgement, of rehabilitation and revaluing of an essential component of Moroccan identity. This effort was accompanied by the publication of a weekly page dedicated to this element of national culture and to this cultural patrimony whose presence has been manifested throughout all the expressions of the Moroccan history and civilization.26 [En ouvrant, depuis mars 2003, ses colonnes à la culture, aux traditions et au patrimoine amazigh, le Matin a pu participer à l’effort de reconnaissance, de réhabilitation et de valorisation d’une composante essentielle de l’identité marocaine. Un effort qui s’est accompagné par la publication hebdomadaire d’une page dédiée à cet élément de la culture nationale et à ce patrimoine culturel dans la présence s’est manifestée à travers toutes les expressions de l’histoire et de la civilisation marocaine.]

This editorial change echoes the many calls by Mohammed VI since his speech in Ajdir (Khenifra) that resulted in the establishment of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture. At the opening of the 2002 Parliament’s Fall Session, the King urged the parliamentary and government body to: favor the development of the different components of the national culture, especially by supporting the Royal Institute of Amazighi Culture, while working for the preservation of the Muslim identity of Morocco, its attachment to the unity of its Maliki rite, and this with a total opening to modernity, in order to build a society based on knowledge and communication.27 [favoriser l’épanouissement des différentes composantes de la culture nationale,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


notamment en soutenant l'Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh, tout en veillant à 0la préservation de l'identité musulmane du Maroc, à son attachement à l’unité de son rite malékite, et ce avec une totale ouverture sur la modernité, en vue de l’édification de la société du savoir et de la communication.]

Table 11-1. List of Some Major National Festivals28 Festival Place Marrakesh National Festival of Popular Art Khouribga, Oued Zem-Bejaa Abidat Rma Aïn Leuh Ahidous Safi Aïta Ouarzazate Ahouach Oujda Gharnati Music Rachidia, Erfoud, Rissani Malhoun Music Tétouan International Festival of Lute Chefchaouen Andalusian Music Casablanca Rawafid Dakhla Hassani Poetry Figuig Oases Festival Nador Amazigh Poetry Azrou Cedar Festival Midelt Tiwan Festival Moulay Idriss Zarhoun Madih and Samâ‘ Festival The Amazighs are part of an “ethnic revivalism… [with] organized demands of peoples pressing for cultural and linguistic recognition within the administrative and territorial boundaries of a nation-state.”29 This Moroccan nationalism is described as: The general imposition of a high culture on society, where previously low cultures had taken up the lives of the majority, and in some cases the totality, of the population. It means the general diffusion of a school-mediated, academysupervised idiom, codified for the requirements of a reasonably precise bureaucratic and technological communication. It is the establishment of an anonymous impersonal society, with mutually substitutable atomized individuals, held above all by a shared culture of this kind, in place of the previous complex structure of local groups, sustained by folk cultures reproduced locally and idiosyncratically by the micro-groups themselves.30

The folk dance is a powerful instrument through which the nationalist ideology is shaped and the national subjects are invented. Berber folklore and folk dances are utilized to display cultural pluralism in Morocco. The following sections demonstrate how the ‘Berber’ folk dances, namely, Ahouach are


Chapter Eleven

idealized as an emblem and authentic pre-colonial past. They also describe how national ideologies have played a role in the selection of these dances.

5. Ahouach: The Celebration of the Collective Ahouach31 stands for any form of collective dance in southern Morocco, particularly in the region known for the Tashelhit dialect. The dance refers to a set of complex, cohesive and structured movement systems, with miscellaneous and interconnected aesthetic aspects and verbal and corporal expressions, and where men and women perform through dance and poetry in social celebrations. Usually performed among Amazighis in the High Atlas, Sous and the AntiAtlas, Ahouach is one of the most traditional forms of collective celebration in the different Ksours of the south. Just like Ahidous (another collective Amazighi dance in the Middle Atlas), Ahouach can be labeled what I would call a zone folk dance because of the geographic area where it evolved among Amazighis to express their daily activities, struggles and family as well as tribal celebrations of marriage, circumcision, etc. Ahidous and Ahouach are collective and ceremonial dances because they are based on the participation of the whole tribal community. Historians of the dance have not been able to trace its beginning and place of origin because of the lack of written documents and the oral nature of Amazigh art and literature. However, some colonial ethnographic works argue that Ahouach originated in Telouet (High Atlas). This argument is not conclusive because the conclusion was only drawn on the basis of the aesthetic sophistication of the Telouet Ahouach. It is highly possible that the dance migrated from place to place as people moved. Then, it continued to transform itself through its acclimatization to the social, political and cultural environments. The result is that in almost every tribe and village of the High Atlas, Sous and Anti-Atlas there is a form of Ahouach with a slight variation. Ahouach is then categorized into different groups depending on the geographic region, the form of the dance, gender participation and the musical instrument(s) used. Usually, summer and fall are the most favorable seasons for collective celebrations in Morocco. In summer 1996, I carried out an ethnographic study in the Anti-Atlas and Ouarzazate where I attended two annual moussems (religious festivals): Sidi Abdallah Ou Mhand in Tissint and Sidi Daoud in Ouarzazate. At this time of the year, the commemoration of the saints’ deeds turned into a religious, economic and social mahaj (meeting place) where different tribal groups met. In Tissint (Anti-Atlas) the annual moussem lasted three days. Every night, Ahouach was performed until sunrise (Ahouach n’tafoukt). The dance took place in assais (the main square of the village). As I arrived in the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


company of my host, himself a renowned and respected andam (poet) and former leader of Tissint folk dance, a group of men watered the dusty square while others tended the big fire near the center of the square and heated their drum. The careful partitioning of the square caught my attention. Men, women and children positioned themselves in separate areas of the square. Everything was in perfect order. I sat on a flat stone with a group of old men waiting for the dance to begin. People continued to arrive from all directions of the village. It was 10:30 p.m. when an old man made his ceremonial entrance to the center of the square, cupped his right ear with his hand and started singing. My informant referred to the singer as the amarir (poet). Performed as a solo, an unaccompanied couple of lines referred to as lamsaq signaled the beginning of the dance. Lamsaq, usually and adage, set the general meter arrangement and the musical tune of the performance. Everybody listened attentively to this couplet. This couplet was a central ingredient of the dance. It generally finds itself in the daily conversation of the community becoming a reference. Usually, famous poets deliver these lines of poetry and initiate the performance. The dance is not only a moment of entertainment; it provides an opportunity for the elders to school children and teenagers and raise them to respect the communal and family values and rules. An example of lamsaq reads as follows: ‘atamount ‘ayrgazan rziigh asiif imoun yinnagh ’ibda laboudda aat niit ’iik ’ougharas Unanimous agreement, people, the river’s strength is in its abundant flow. If the river’s flow branches out, it becomes easy for children to cross it

While the amarir repeated his couplet, a dozen group of men entered the square and stood near the circle of about seven men who were sitting near the fire. In chorus, this group of men, dressed in their white djellabs (long garment) and lined up in a larger circle started repeating the couplet. Outside this circle more than sixty women in multi-colored garments stood still in a long curved line around the circle of male dancers. Slowly the group of men at the center of the square by the fire started playing a set of instruments. These include a tbal (large tambourine) and bendirs (drums). The communicative relationship between the center circle, the outer circle and the women’s line is controlled through these musical instruments. Every movement is managed through the rais (leader) at the center of the dance. Holding a drum, this man, generally the amarir, maintained a communication between the center and the male dancers in the lateral circle.


Chapter Eleven

6. Pasha Thami El Glaoui: Ahouach and the Glorification of the Tribal Lord During the nineteenth century, the Glawa family rose to power in the High Atlas Mountains. In the 1870s, the Makhzan was short of resources. The sultan Moulay al-Hassan I decided to rely on the powerful lords of the southern Atlas Mountains to raise more taxes on the dissident rural areas. These families developed in the southern regions where the Makhzan had difficulty in direct taxing of the tribes. The Makhzan’s external pressures and its inability to raise taxes from other sources due to the international treaties forced the Sultan to legitimize wealthier and more powerful families. By the turn of the twentieth century, three major families shared control of the Marrakesh region: EL Glawa, Mtougga and Goundafa. In this political context, Thami El Glaoui (1878-1956) emerged as Lyautey’s favorite lord of the Atlas. Through a system of indirect rule, Thami El Glaoui, who succeeded his brother Madani El Glaoui, ruled southern Morocco with an iron fist and became France’s representative in Marrakesh and its southern provinces. In August 1918, Thami Glaoui was appointed the leader of the Glaoua family and, then, the Pasha of Marrakesh (by Lyautey) after the death of his brother Madani. Thami was not only interested in the political and economic control of the southern region, but he relied on folk dances namely Ahouach and other forms of art to maintain his ideological and aristocratic position. With Arnaud Massy (the only Frenchman to win the British Open), Gustave Golias and Churchill, he played golf in the field he built in Marrakesh in 1924. In the Kasbah of Telouet (the capital of Glawa) he used Ahwash to vulgarise his ideas as the seigneur de l’atlas. Glawi perceived himself as new leader open to modernity and grounded in tradition. Culture, in this case Ahwash (the traditional Berber folkdance in the region) became a form of entertainment to rally the population behind their new leaders. According to an informant interviewed in Taourirt (Ouarzazate), Hadj Thami Glaoui transformed the themes of the dance. The songs were no longer about the daily concerns of the ‘ama (masses). They revolved around the glory of Thami and the Glawa family. Every night, when we dance our song puffed up Thami and his descendants. In the summer, our wives and sisters were forced to dance and entertain Thami and his guests every time he visited the Kasbah.

André Paris, an army doctor during the colonial period in Marrakesh wrote a personal communication about the relationship between Ahouach and the Glawa in Telouet in 1920. He points out how:

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


In the summer of 1920, during the harka in the regions of Dades and Todgha, and under the command of the pasha of Marrakech, Hadj Thami Glaoui, we had the opportunity to attend haouach during two short stays at Telouet. Our intention, here, is not to evoke, as a literary man or as an artist, the picturesque aspect of these strange scenes, nor to specify, as an ethnographer, the value or the primitive significance of it but to transcribe the few observations we made about the songs and the dances which compose these night ceremonies.32 [En été 1920, au cours de la harka, faite dans les regions du Dades et du Todgha, sous le commandement de Hadj Thami Glaoui, pacha de Marrakesh, nous eûmes, pendant deux courts séjours à Telouet, l’occasion d’assister à des haouach. Notre intention n’est pas, ici, d’évoquer en littérateur et en artiste le pittoresque de ces scenes estranges, ni, en ethnographe, d’en préciser la valeur ou la signification primitive mais bien de transcrir les quelques observations que nous avons pu prendre, en passant, sur les chants et les danses qui composent ces ceremonies nocturnes.]

Thami Glaoui developed an interesting conception of culture. His close relationship with the colonial authorities influenced his economic and cultural strategies. He became a traditionalist and a modernist. In the 1920s, he built an infrastructure of guest houses in Marrakesh and tied it to an entertainment (which can be called today a tourist) industry. Supported by a French colonial apparatus, Glaoui constructed a model of traditional yet progressive ideology. He looked upon the West as a model for economic development while he displayed his own cultural ‘patrimoine’ as the exotic and authentic picturesque for the French colonial authorities and his Western and national guests. In Marrakesh he organized music nights where Egyptian singers were invited. In Telouet and other southern Kasbahs he forced the local population to entertain his guests by performing Ahouach. This strategy was framed in a way that sounded as if it was spontaneous. Generally, the celebrations were organized during national celebrations or local festivities. In different occasions, Glaoui’s personal involvement in the dance performance gave an aura of ‘authenticity’ to the celebration. One of the famous moments of this ‘spontaneous performance’ by Glaoui took place in 1950 when the Sultan of Morocco Mohamed V visited Telouet. Glaoui did not only celebrate the visit by organizing this collective celebration but was also a key dancer in the performance. When in 1950, the sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef made Glaoui the honor of agreeing to be received in Telouet, the Sultan was offered one evening of ahouach which left a great impression in the memory of the Glaoua. This was that the pasha had made a point of seizing a tombourin and himself entering the dance! It was his way of expressing the joy which brought to him the presence of the Sultan in this antique house of the Glaoui family.33


Chapter Eleven [Lorsqu’en 1950, le sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Youssef fit l’honneur au Glaoui d’accepter d’être reçu à Telouet, on y offrit au Sultan une soirée d’ahouach qui a laissé un grand souvenir dans la mémoire des Glaoua. C’est que le pacha avait tenu à s’emparer d’un tombourin et à entrer lui-même dans la danse! C’était sa façon de manifester la joie que lui apportait la presence du Sultan dans cette antique maison de la famille Glaoui.]

Although Thami Glaoui did not introduce drastic changes to Ahouach and its formulaic patterns because he kept it in its natural environment, his influence was limited to the themes of the dance poetry and chants. The themes of Ahouach poetry varied largely: eroticism, war, as well as political and social issues. With El Glaoui, Ahouach became an opportunity to celebrate the victories of his harkas or the birth of his grandchild.34 André Paris described how the themes of the dance revolved around their victorious expedition in the south: During our passage to Telouet, the occasion of the festival had been this remote expedition towards the Sahara and the presence of Colonel de Labruyère, Commandant of the areas of Marrakesh, of Caïd Si Hammou, of Hadj Thami, the chief of the great Glaoua family. The themes of the songs were drawn from this memorable event .... According to what they could explain to us, they were almost solely praises to the powerful characters.35 [A notre passage à Telouet, l’occasion de la fête avait été cette lointaine expédition vers le Sahara et la présence du Colonel de Labruyère, commandant les régions de Marrakesh, du Caïd Si Hammou, de Hadj Thami, le chef de la grande famille Glaoua. Les motifs des chansons furent tirés de cet évènement memorable…. D’après ce que nous avons pu nous faire expliquer, il s’agissait presque uniquement de louanges à l’adresse des puissants personnages présents.]

Thami El Glaoui set up the ideological cornerstone of a new tribal order where the Durkheimian collective and organic Amazighi community is controlled economically, politically and culturally by a despotic amghar (tribal lord). This new administrative regime is also maintained through a spatial configuration where the amghar’s Kasbah (fortress) is set apart from the collective ksar. According to Robert Montagne, this new urban strategy developed by the lords of the Atlas and the Glaoua in particular was designed to bracket off the rest of the population from the ruling family lineage.36 Therefore, the urban design bolsters the new cultural vision. The local community does not perform the dance for itself. Instead it leaves the spatial borders of the ksar and enters another space (Kasabah) to entertain the Glaoua.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


7. Dancing For the State,37 Celebrating the Authentic Since 1956, folk dances and music have emerged as a potent icon of the Moroccan national identity. This overlapping resonance between folk dances and national identity emerged in 1956 during the first Festival National des Arts Populaires organized in Chella, Rabat. Meriem Aherdane described this moment in the following paragraph: In 1956 was born the idea of a festival gathering in a place accessible to all (the enclosure of Chellah) the Moroccan provinces, beautiful in their ethnic diversity and traditions. We still remember with emotion these first evenings being prolonged to dawn, the public mixing with the groups of men and women come, for the first time, from all the areas of the country to celebrate with rediscovered independence, in a historical encounter, the return to authenticity. And the feast continued in the camps, after leaving the Chellah, under the tents, behind the ramparts, because it was necessary to perpetuate this unique moment which allowed the North and the South to unite, the ksourien and the nomad having crossed the mountains to meet the plains and the sea.38 [En 1956 naissait l’idée d’un festival rassemblant en un lieu accessible à tous (l’enceinte de Chellah) les provinces marocaines, si belles dans leur diversité d’ethnies et de traditions. Nous nous souvenons encore avec emotion de ces premières soirées se prolongeant jusqu’à l’aube, le public citadin mèlé aux groupes d’hommes et de femmes venus, pour la première fois, de toutes les regions du pays célébrer avec l’indépendance retrouvée, dans une rencontre historique, le retour à l’authenticité. Et la fête au sortir du Chellah se continuait dans le camps, sous les tentes, derrière les ramparts, car il fallait éterniser ce moment unique qui permit au Nord et au Sud de s’unir, le ksourien et le nomade ayant traversé les montagnes à la recontre des plaines et de la mer.]

The association of ‘Berbers’ with folklore was reinforced during the postindependence period. As the state started to build its tourism industry it turned to the colonial discourse on dance and nationhood to reinforce its nationalist model of ‘historical authenticity of its past.’ Berber were the central commodity in this commercial package. Ahouach, Ahidous and other ‘Berber’ folk dances were taken from the villages in the Atlas Mountains and commoditized for an (inter)national arts market. The Ministries of Culture and Tourism used these dances every year in tourism promotions abroad relying on “live dance performances by touring companies that advertise national identities and seek to secure international prestige.”39 In general, the tourist advertisements by the government have promoted and sold the Berbers as dancing natives and the


Chapter Eleven

“archetypes of the ‘exotic.’”40 During its first economic plan, the government initiated a development plan based on regionalization. According to this economic program, the cultural and economic characteristics of each region were utilized to benefit the different regions as well as the national economy. Marrakesh along with other southern provinces provided a rich cultural repertoire for the development of a tourist industry. The government started improving the hotel industry in Marrakesh, Ouarzazate and Agadir as well as putting together a tourism package that included the ‘Berber cultural heritage.’ Then the Festival National des Arts Populaires was moved to Marrakesh and started to take place by 1959 in the old Saadian Palace El Badi during May-June. For almost a month, local, national and international visitors were entertained every night “thanks to many spectacles presenting the diversity and the authenticity of the Moroccan people.”41 This hegemonic national appropriation is part of what Savigliano calls “auto-exoticization.” In her analysis of the way Tango dance is appropriated in Argentina, Savigliano concludes that: The Exotic is not an item exclusively for the delight of the imperial West; it is in turn exported, in its new, colonized package-once modern, now postmodernizedto the Rest (including “Western” colonies such as Argentina, those from whom the “raw” emotionality was extracted in the first place). When exported to the (neo)colonies of “origin,” practices of autoexoticism develop conflictively as a means of both adjusting to and confronting (neo)colonialism. Through these complex activities of autoexoticization carried out in the periphery’s internal political settings, the exotic/exoticized representations end up becoming symbols of national identity.42

This process of cultural appropriation started going beyond the tourism context and was expanded to national holidays and local as well as regional festivals. Under the patronage of the state these festival not only bolstered the ideological bond between the monarchy and the other groups but also instigated a feeling of national belonging: The propagation of the national ideology during the moussems consists above all of a process of interiorization of symbols. Initially, the ground and the sanctuary are decorated by the Moroccan flag.... In second place, official governmental delegations go in the moussems. Their participation consists of the collective recitation of the prayer pronounced in the name of the King.43 La propagation de l’idéologie nationale pendant les moussems consiste avant tout en un processus d’intériorisation de symboles. En premier lieu,

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


le terrain et le sanctuaire sont décorés par le drapeau marocain…. En deuxième lieu, des délégations gouvernementales officielles se rendent dans les moussems. Leur participation consiste en la récitation collective de la prière prononcée au nom du Roi.

The state appropriation of the ‘Berber’ dance set the example that has been emulated all over the country sometimes by ‘Berbers’ themselves. Chez Ali is a tourist theme park built upon the idea of a ‘Moroccan Disneyland.’44 The park provides a variety of folk music and dance from different regions of Morocco. Chez Ali exotic nature not only builds upon the folkloric aspect of the ‘Berber’ heritage, but also draws on the orientalist Arabian night concept. This ‘bastardization’ of the Berber cultural product is the result of the initial position of the government vis-à-vis this component of the Moroccan culture as folklore and part of the traditional authentic Moroccan history. Unlike the Andalusian music, which kept most of its aesthetic characteristics, Ahouach and other ‘Berber’ dances were outside the strict protection and regulation of the state. Tourism developers have used them depending on their whims. The Andalusian music was, by contrast, studied in state-run institutes. On the basis of this situation the Amazigh Movement has demanded the creation of an academic center for Amazigh dance that would standardize its uses by tourism developers. Many Amazigh intellectuals have pointed out that these decisions would have to alter the old orientalist image of the ‘Berber’ as primitive. Recently, many members of some dance groups refused to participated in the Annual Festival National des Arts Populaires in Marrakesh. Among these dancers we can distinguish the leader of the Ahidous dance group. Nicknamed the Maestro by the American President Ronald Regan, Moha Ou Lhoucine Achibane recently criticized the cultural abuse by the Ministry of Culture of the Amazigh cultural heritage. After more than thirty years of representing Moroccan tourism at home and abroad, Achibane criticized the exploitative nature of the Ministries of Culture and Tourism insofar as the Amazigh culture is regarded. He also pointed out the necessity to develop an economic project for the Middle Atlas communities.

8. State-Sponsored Amazigh Festival in Fes: From Regional Compartmentalization to National Unification Since the end of the 1950s, the state was deeply involved in fostering a nationalism based upon Arab and Islamic culture. Berbers and other minorities were culturally, socially, politically and economically engineered to see themselves as Moroccan nationals with a historic, and distant, Amazigh past. In the Gellnerian tradition, the government excluded the role of any


Chapter Eleven

agrarian/Berber/rural propensities to generate nationalism. The minorities’ cultures lack the means of “enhancing social cohesion, and cohesion explains the emergence of nationalism which comes into existence through state education in order to facilitate communication beyond local boundaries.”45 Berber dances were only seen as a constant reminder of the Amazigh roots of the Moroccan tree. In the national public sphere, the Berbers were used only as a symbolic past and their folklore was utilized to inspire among the population a sense of cultural uniqueness. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the government was forced to change its approach to go beyond the use of the Berbers as a mere symbol of a collective past. The ‘Berber,’ now the dignified Amazigh, was asked to join the public sphere as an actor and a factor of development. At the level of tourism, Ahouach and other Amazigh folk dances were redefined to be part of this emerging hybridity. The Amazigh Manifesto credited for convincing King Mohammed VI of the need to create IRCAM called for an involvement of the native artist in the revival of the Amazigh culture. The Manifesto demanded that the: Original Amazigh art is to be rehabilitated. This includes literature, dancing, singing, architecture and decoration. This art is to be modernized so that it will be improved and promoted. Moreover, the practice of using the negative appellation “folklore” should be abandoned, as it was the colonizer’s appellation. This is in spite of the fact that such use has been compiled with the people in charge of this sector during the “independence era,” people who could hardly hide their hatred towards “Timmuzgha.”46

In the last three years, the state has put an elaborate program of festivals all over the country. These festivals are not only about Berber folk dances but they included the International Festival of Lute in Tetouan, The Festival of Andalusian music in Chefchaouen, the Festival of Gharnatie music in Oujda, the Festival of Ahouach in Ouarzazate, Festival of Aita in Safi, Festival of Ahidous in Aïn El Leuh, Festival of Abidat Rma in Khouribga/Oued Zem/Bejaad, Festival Hassan of chant poetry (Dakhla); Oasis Festival (Figuig); Festival of Amazigh poetry (Nador) and Festival Melhoun (Errachidia). These festivals according to the ministry of culture are organized to achieve the following objectives: . The protection and the promotion of the cultural patrimony, music and popular arts. . The opening toward other cultures. . Progressive extension of the activities of the Ministry to all the areas by the development of a national program of cultural events. . establishment of a cartography of the festivals according to the cultural and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


artistic characteristics of each area. . The sensitizing of the elected officials, the authorities, the institutions, governmental and nongovernmental, with the need for supporting the expression of the local and regional cultural potentialities.47 [. La sauvegarde et la promotion du patrimoine culturel, musical et des arts populaires. . L’ouverture sur d’autres cultures. . L’extension progressive des activités du Ministère à toutes les régions par l’élaboration d’un programme National des manifestations culturelles. . l’etablissement d’une cartographie des festivals en fonction des caractéristiques culturelles et artistiques de chaque région. . La sensibilisation des élus, des autorités, les institutions gouvernementales et non gouvernementales à la nécessité de favoriser l’expression des potentialités culturelles locales et régionales.]

In its revamped political drive to create an Arab-Islamic super-identity without the cultural erasure of minorities, the state is also trying to get rid of the regional boundaries it created in the post-independent era. For instance, the state is trying to eliminate the traditional political divide between the Berbers and the urban Fassi-based Istiqlal leaders through this cultural process of hybridity. During March 9-12, 2005, the Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh (IRCAM), L’association Fès-Saiss and the Conseil de la ville de Fes organized the first national festival of Amazigh culture. The festival, organized under the patronage of the King, surprised many Amazigh intellectuals because it took place in the heart of Fes, stronghold capital of the Istiqlal party. In an interview for the French newspaper Libération, Bouzoubaa Abdesslam, President of the Fés Saïs Association, explains the reasons why the festival was held in Fes: The first symbiosis between Arabs and Amazighs was carried out on the east bank of Fès city in 788 between Moulay Driss I, Zoarra and Beni Zraten, the latter having accepted that Moulay Driss I from Iraq would be their leader. Moulay Driss I chose to settle close to Volubilis the site of Zerhoun and married with a Berber. Their son who represents the symbiosis between Arab and Berber, Idriss II founded the town of Fès in 808. The builder of the town of Fès is none other than Youssef Ben Tachfine, King of the Amazigh. All this is to say that if one speaks much about Kairouanais and the Andalusians, the true builders illustrate the genetic and cultural symbiosis of Arabs and Berbers. Throughout history, this melting pot survived the vicissitudes of time. Who brought Islam to Andalusia? They are Amazighs with at their head Tarik Ibn Zyad. Europe calls them the Moors but they are Moroccans of Berber origin who return to their country of origin. In the Andalusians, there is Berber and Iberian ancestry. All these reasons and others which demonstrate that the Amazigh substrate of the


Chapter Eleven Moroccan culture is irreducible led to our thought of organizing in Fès, the source itself of our Arabo-Berber history, the first national festival of the Amazigh culture, it is a return to the origins.... We are neither making political statements, nor trying to compensate for past wrongs, we are simply returning to the authentic sources of our history.48 [La première symbiose entre Arabes et Amazighs s’est réalisée à la rive-est de la ville Fès en 788 entre Moulay Driss 1er, les Zoarra et les Beni Zraten, ces derniers ayant accepté que Moulay Driss 1er venu d’Irak soit leur leadeur. Celuici a choisi de s’installer près de Volubilis le site de Zerhoun et s’est marié avec une berbère. Son fils qui illustre la symbiose enter Arabe et Berbère, Idriss II a fondé la ville de Fès en 808. Le bâtisseur de la ville de Fès n’est autre que Youssef Ben Tachfine, roi amazigh. Tout cela pour dire que si on parle beaucoup des Kairouanais et des Andalous, les véritables bâtisseurs illustrent la symbiose génétique et culturelle des arabes et des berbères. A travers l’histoire, ce melting pot a survécu aux vicissitudes de l’histoire. Qui a apporté l’Islam en Andalousie? Ce sont les Amazighs avec à leur tête Tarik Ibn Zyad. L’Europe les appelle les maures mais ce sont des Marocains d’origine berbère qui reviennent à leur pays d’origine. Chez les Andalous, il y a du sang berbère et ibère. Toutes ces raisons et d’autres qui démentrent que le substrat amazigh de la culture marocaine est irréductible on fait que nous avons pensé à organiser à Fès, à la source même de notre histoire arabo-berbère, le premier festival national de la culture amazigh, c’est un retour aux origines…. Nous ne faisons ni politique, ni de la récupération, nous revenons aux sources et à l’authenticité de notre histoire.]

Following his discourse on the teaching of Amazigh dialects in public schools, King Hassan II criticized the reluctance of many intellectuals to accommodate the existence of a hybrid national linguistic arena. He declared that as protector of individual and collective liberties, he was against a systemic Arabization that negates other components of society. This official statement signaled a huge shift at the level of the ethnic, cultural and linguistic policies of the state.

9. Conclusion: Building the Democratic Citizen The Amazigh dialects and cultures went through a stage of exclusivity in the post-independent nationalism. By the 1980s, local, regional and international pressures forced the government to develop inclusive structural strategies whereby the Amazigh component of the Moroccan society was idealized not as an authentic pre-colonial past heritage, but as an evolving discursive force of the national public sphere. These dramatic changes that were translated largely through the position the government started to take vis-à-vis Berber folk dances were part of an attempt to construct a new citizen and build a new democracy where the categories of ‘minority’ and the ‘majority’ are not only excluded from

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


the public sphere, but are replaced by the homogeneous, yet superficial version of a multi-cultural democratic citizen. In the 1990s, the Moroccan state was concerned with the cultural effects of globalization. The media and other technological innovations have broken the state political, ideological, and information borders that withstood external influences since Independence. The state became interested in forging a new memory and constructing a new citizen.49 In order for this to take place, the state started to abandon some of its bureaucratic practices. The idea of a civil society was advertised and sold to many constituents of the larger society. The idea of the equal citizens of the nation was disseminated by means of a new canonical historical narrative that goes as far as challenging some of the very basic ideas of Arab nationalism. The folk dance as a text has been implemented as a significant tool in this performance of nationalism. Through a new process of a regenerative memorization, the state has been working on forging a new nation where every group is entrusted with its cultural categories while respecting the essence of the nation inherently vested in the monarchy. The challenge of this new ideological construction will remain the economic and educational opportunities of the targeted groups. Since the beginning of structural adjustment in the early 1980s, the Moroccan economy has continued to face many challenges which have led to major challenges at the level of education and economic empowerment.


The turn of the century has heralded a new era of change, amendments, and development projects that the Moroccan state has embarked on with the hope of moving the country forward and thus marking a break from the policies and politics of the previous regime that came to an end by the passing of King Hassan II in 1999. Among the most salient of these projects are the creation of a human rights agency (Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l’Homme–CCDH) and a reconciliation committee to investigate human rights violations committed during the previous regime, changing the family code (al-Moudawana) to reflect new rights for women, launching the National Initiative for Human Development, a program meant to fight poverty and exclusion, reforming higher education, and recognizing the Amazigh (Berber) language and culture and introducing Tamazight (Berber) in the Moroccan system of education. The introduction of Tamazight in Moroccan schools is what this paper is concerned with, in particular the implications of this recognition and the different reactions that have emerged on the socio-political scene ever since this policy started to take shape. After centuries of neglect and marginalization, the Amazigh language and culture have come to be recognized as essential components of the collective national identity of Morocco. The king of Morocco’s speeches of July and October 2001 came to mark a turning point in the history of the Amazigh language and culture, and the establishment of IRCAM1 (Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture) has sealed this recognition and at the same time triggered various reactions, not only towards the recognition per se, but most importantly towards the inclusion of Tamazight in the Moroccan system of education and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


the implications that this language policy might have on the socio-political and educational scenes in Morocco. Boukous (1995) suggests that there are two perspectives vis-à-vis the Amazigh language and culture question in Morocco: one that campaigns for its promotion and integration and one that advocates its exclusion and marginalization. However, in my view, another more recent perspective, which is rarely publicly debated, is that of the state, which appears to have been caught up between the two extreme discourses. The first perspective is represented by an Amazigh elite made up mostly of activists and intellectuals who insist that recognizing and maintaining the Amazigh language and culture is an ethical duty of the state and of every Moroccan and is a human right that the original inhabitants of this part of Africa2 should be granted. For this group, maintaining and revitalizing the Amazigh language is a linguistic right “derivable from general human rights, namely the principles of non-discrimination and freedom of expression” (Spolsky 2004, p. 120). Furthermore, they insist that it is only fair that the Amazigh language and culture be treated fairly and appreciated as a fundamental component of the Moroccan national heritage, which should be regarded as a diverse and plural one, where different cultures and peoples ought to be allowed and encouraged to interact and enrich each other. After all, the Amazigh people, with their language and culture, were in what is now known as Morocco long before the arrival of Arabs and Muslims from the east in the seventh century. By and large, the proponents of this perspective reject the ulterior motives of Arabization, which many of them claim aims at mainstreaming and assimilating the Imazighen of Morocco. At the other extreme is the perspective of the nationalists and the Islamists that openly preaches against the maintenance and promotion of Tamazight and calls for its exclusion from the linguistic scene of Morocco as it may represent potential competition for the language of the Qur’an, Arabic. The nationalists and the Islamists may not have much in common in terms of their ideologies and worldviews, but when it comes to the Amazigh question, especially the question of maintaining and preserving the Amazigh language and teaching it in Moroccan schools, these two ideologies find common ground for their rhetoric of disapproval and omission. Between these two perspectives stands the state’s discourse, which can be characterized as a reluctant one, even after the Amazigh language has been officially recognized and instituted as a mandatory subject of study in all Moroccan schools. The state’s position has wavered among several stages. Initially, the state’s response to the Amazigh demands for recognition of their language and culture were met by total indifference, dismissal, and even persecution. The arrests of several key Amazigh activists and their imprisonment for demanding such recognition is well documented and is part of


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what is often referred to as les années de Plomb (literally, the years of lead), the years of the iron fist of the previous regime. During this time, there was no tolerance towards Amazigh activists who dared oppose the status quo. More recently, however, the new regime, has finally recognized, or rather had to recognize, the Amazigh language and culture, yet state institutions remain far from enthusiastic about implementing the necessary steps to maintain and preserve this language and culture. Most observers talk about two distinct periods in the recent history of the Amazigh Movement in Morocco: a pre-IRCAM period and a post-IRCAM one. The establishment of this institute represents a turning point in the history of the Amazigh Movement in that it marks a change from the state’s old attitude of indifference and lack of concern in dealing with the Amazigh demands and officially heralds a new era wherein all Moroccans are called upon to cherish, revive, and maintain this language and culture. It is important to point out early on that this recognition does not consist of the inclusion of Tamazight in the Moroccan constitution, a right that many Amazigh activists are still demanding. The recognition is official only by virtue of the fact that the King of Morocco publicly recognized the Amazigh language and culture as essential parts of the historical and cultural makeup of Morocco and called for the creation of IRCAM as an institution whose role is to represent and promote the interests of the Imazighen by a royal dahir (decree), which in Moroccan law renders this recognition official. But even though Tamazight is not part of the Moroccan constitution and is neither referred to as a national nor official language, the initial recognition remains an important step that will most probably lead in that direction. The state’s discourse vis-à-vis the Amazigh question ever since the latter surfaced as a major predicament on the political scene has gone through three distinct periods: The first period was marked by total indifference and rejection of Amazigh demands. It was also characterized by several arrests of key Amazigh activists and their imprisonment in addition to continuous threats from local and central government agencies to discourage Amazigh activities aiming at promoting and preserving the Amazigh language and culture. The second period, or the mid-period, is characterized by the 1994 speech of the late king who called for the preservation and the maintenance of all Moroccan dialects, including Amazigh dialects, but the speech remained nothing but a symbolic move meant to placate the Amazigh activists whose voices were beginning to be louder at the time. Consequently, the marginalization of the Amazigh language and culture remained the order of the day until his death in 1999, the date which ironically marks the rebirth of the Amazigh Movement, which gathered momentum and became more active on the socio-political scenes than anytime before.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


The third period is what is generally referred to as the New Era of the Amazigh language and culture. This is the era of the new King Mohammed VI, during which the Amazigh question became a major problem for the new government, not that the new King had decided to give it priority over other issues, but the Amazigh question was simply one of the most pressing issues that needed immediate attention for the sake of national unity. Hence, the year 2003 witnessed the hasty introduction of Tamazight in over 300 schools, and currently3, and according to statistics of the Ministry of Education, Tamazight is being taught in over 1900 schools across the country with over 175000 students and 3400 teachers (Boukous: Le Monde Amazigh # 72, May 2006).

Two important dates constitute major turning points in this new era: the King’s speech of 30 July 2001, in which he insisted that the Amazigh language and culture are fundamental components of the Moroccan personality and national culture and are thus the heritage of all Moroccans, who are called up on to cherish and preserve them. In this speech, he also called for the teaching of Tamazight in all Moroccan schools. The second date is 17 October 2001 in which the King announced his decision to establish the first Amazigh institution responsible for the maintenance and promotion of the Amazigh language and culture: The Royal Institute for Amazigh Language and Culture (IRCAM). The choice of the setting for the October 2001 speech had a fundamental significance and a clear indication of the state intent to deal with the Amazigh question with the seriousness it deserved: Ajdir, near the town of Khenifra, is not only the heart of “Amazigh land” so to speak, but more importantly this region was the symbol of Amazigh prowess and resistance to French colonialism. King Mohammed VI made sure that the attendees at this national event represented all political parties, government agencies, non-government agencies, and unions, in order the underline to the nation and its representatives the importance of the Amazigh question as a national rather than a fringe concern that was the responsibility of everyone involved in national politics. If the official discourse of the state, prior to this new era, often referred to Tamazight as a dialect or a cluster of dialects and never as a language, the new discourse, epitomized by the speeches of King Mohammed VI, for the first time mention Tamazight as a language whose importance in the make up of the Moroccan national character should not be underestimated. The beginning of the twenty-first century has marked yet another turning point in the history of the Amazigh language and culture. Political parties and their newspapers for the first time refrained from their usual trends of attacking the Amazigh Movement as a separatist movement inspired and supported by imperialist, colonialist, and Zionist tendencies. Although the average person in Morocco still feels indifferent to the Amazigh demands and to issues surrounding the recognition of the Amazigh language and culture, political parties and their channels are


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becoming more and more aware of the significance of toning down their rhetoric against the Amazigh language and culture and the Amazigh Movement as a whole. In the end, these political parties may not endorse the Amazigh question, but at least they have come to acknowledge that Amazigh is a major component of the Moroccan national identity that should be addressed with sensitivity and caution. Now, after years of considering Amazigh a taboo, different government institutions have began to collaborate with IRCAM and with other Amazigh organizations in order to promote this language and culture. The presence of Amazigh on the public sphere is increasingly felt in Morocco. There is more space for Amazigh in the media, radio, television, newspapers, etc. There are more newspapers in Amazigh and about Tamazight than ever before. Furthermore, since the Amazigh question became a public and national issue, urban Imazighen have started to feel less embarrassed about being Amazigh and are gradually starting to express themselves in Tamazight in public, something which was looked down upon prior to this recognition. Furthermore, IRCAM, the major Amazigh agency that represents the interests of all Amazigh people, has been hard at work establishing agreements with different government institutions with the goal of promoting Tamazight and its culture on the national and international scenes. IRCAM’s two major partners are the ministry of education and the ministry of communication, the two channels viewed as most fundamental for the advancement of the Amazigh language and culture. These two institutions are responsible for implementing IRCAM’s propositions for the promotion of Tamazight in schools and in the media. Still, the question is whether this attitude of initial zeal and enthusiasm will last or not, whether the average person on the street will take to considering Tamazight a language worthy of respect, and whether the different state institutions will do their share of promoting this language. Early estimations indicate that the state institutions, especially the Ministry of Education and its different branches are not serious enough about implementing the directives of the king. This is especially evident in the lack of seriousness that marks the implementation of the teaching of Tamazight in Moroccan schools4. When it comes to implementing the recommendations and propositions of IRCAM, we see reluctance if not unwillingness from the part of local government agencies to do their share in promoting Tamazight. In other words, while researchers at IRCAM carry out research and make propositions to the ministry, the latter hardly acts on these propositions, and even when it does its regional agencies simply refuse to go along. Examples of this lack of action abound, from lack of training for teachers of Tamazight, to inefficiency in the distribution of books to the appropriate schools, to lack of inspectors to oversee that the teaching of Tamazight is

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


carried out in sound pedagogical methods, to lack of teachers who are proficient in Tamazight, to lack of teachers who are specialized in the teaching of Tamazight only5. At this point, the future of Tamazight looks bleak: this year the teaching of Tamazight, which was supposed to be at the third grade level, hasn’t materialized, which goes counter to the Ministry of Education’s own plans. In several schools, Tamazight is not being taught to first graders either because the schools do not have any more teachers who can actually teach Tamazight or who are willing to take on the added responsibility of teaching this language without being compensated for it and without receiving any moral or financial support. Thus, the ministry’s projections of having every child learning Tamazight by the year 2010 are already in jeopardy. Problems of this nature, which have started to surface early on in this venture, can only be indicative of the total lack of planning and the great deal of improvisation that have characterized this venture from its inception.

1. Discourses on Tamazight and its inclusion in the school curriculum in Morocco Tamazight, which has often been associated with folklore and rural and illiterate Morocco, has all of a sudden become a required subject of study across Morocco. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that its introduction in schools would generate a great many reactions, both in favor and against this venture. Everyone in Morocco seems to have an opinion about the teaching and learning of Tamazight, from the average person on the street, to university professors, to Amazigh villagers, to nationalists, to Muslim fundamentalists. The main concern in what follows is to investigate the views of the two major groups that seem to have developed clear positions vis-à-vis the teaching of Tamazight in Morocco: the nationalists and the Islamists. However, a brief overview of other views expressed by different groups is in order. First, the targets of this mandatory language policy of teaching Tamazight are the pupils, who are generally receptive and enthusiastic about learning this new language since they haven’t formed any ideologies at this age. Parents on the other hand seem to be generally resistant and uncertain about the value of their children’s learning of Tamazight. What seems to irk many parents is the mandatory nature of this project. In other words, most parents seem to resent the fact that every child in the Moroccan school system is or soon will be required to learn Tamazight regardless of her ethnic or linguistic background. The common view of most parents is to make Tamazight a matter of choice. But IRCAM seems to think otherwise: making it discretionary would most certainly translate into parents bypassing it for another foreign language, especially a language that has more social and economic capital in their opinion.


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Furthermore, IRCAM argues that Tamazight is part of Moroccan identity, and everyone should be required to learn it in order to maintain it. For IRCAM, the mandatory nature of this language policy appears to be the only way to ensure its success, a controversial assertion that even some researchers from within IRCAM oppose6. In Amazigh rural areas, it is extremely difficult to form any conclusions about the parents’ views towards the teaching of Tamazight in schools. First, rural parents are generally oblivious to this debate as they have to deal with other more pressing day-to-day concerns. Furthermore, the majority of rural parents are illiterate7, and although they might value the importance of education, there are several factors that stand in the way of receiving an education in most rural parts of Morocco: distance to schools, lack of human and material resources in schools, inability of parents to buy books and school supplies, etc. Education for rural parents is usually viewed as a means to guarantee a job and an income that would eventually help them. And when it comes to the usefulness of Tamazight in education, the majority of rural parents believe that Tamazight will not accomplish that task, although they are often reluctant to say that it is not worth teaching. A few are more vocal and express their wish to see their children learn a foreign language instead of Tamazight, which Amazigh children already speak as their mother tongue. Comments such as, “let them (the pupils) master one language first (Arabic) before introducing them to another language,” which are interestingly reiterated by both rural as well as urban parents, point out that for these parents, education is associated with Arabic and with French, but not with mother tongues, which are seen only as vehicles for communication among family and friends. Parents are not convinced that Tamazight can actually be a subject taught in school or a medium of schooling. This raises the question of how to raise the status of a language to the point where people can actually view it as a useful language, and not simply as a dialect or a low variety, as Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic (Darija) are viewed. To accomplish such an enormous goal, Harold Schiffman (1996) reminds us that there ought to be a congruity between the policy (teaching a language in order to raise its status) and people’s beliefs and practices. In other words, what is more important than the teaching of a language as a means to raise its status is to first change popular beliefs and perceptions about that language, which is no easy feat. Still, again and again the instrumental value of the target language comes into play: Today’s parents are becoming more and more pragmatic about their children’s education and want to be able to choose what their children ought to learn, which is always tied to whether that particular subject or language can guarantee them a job and an income or not. And in the views of most parents, Tamazight is still far from being an instrumental language able to compete with

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Arabic, French, and English in the linguistic marketplace. Hence one notices that the views of both rural and urban parents coincide when it comes to the instrumental value of a language. To put it simply, parents in general want what is best for their children, and for most parents in Morocco, Tamazight does not figure prominently as a useful language. The majority of university professors and researchers, especially those with backgrounds in language teaching, see the whole project of teaching Tamazight at the primary level as doomed to failure because of what they consider as the lack of vision of those involved in orchestrating this policy. First of all, they are not in favor of the politics surrounding this venture and feel that that there is too much reliance on improvisation and intuition, in addition to the lack of human and material resources to guarantee the success of this project. Instead of teaching Tamazight at the primary level and introducing pupils to three different alphabets by the third grade, this group of educated elites seems to opt for the introduction of Tamazight in higher education and in scientific research before attempting to generalize it at the primary and secondary levels. Many seem to argue that introducing three different languages with three different scripts in the first three years of a child’s schooling seems too ambitious of a task, and the outcome of this policy could easily yield students who are not proficient in any one language. Furthermore, they maintain that introducing Tamazight at the primary level is not based on any pedagogically sound scientific research that would confirm the reliability of this project. The idea of introducing Tamazight with its Tifinagh script at the primary level has been decided regardless of whether the pupils would indeed be capable of internalizing three different languages with three distinct alphabets, which is a clear indication that the decision is purely political and far from being an educational one. The only group that seems convinced of the rightness of the project (introducing Tamazight at the primary level and making it mandatory) is the IRCAM group, whose members are hard at work preparing projects, curricula, textbooks, teacher training, orientation and providing expertise on the teaching of Tamazight to the ministry of education, the institution responsible for the implementation of these projects and guidelines. However, even among the IRCAM researchers, one finds clear disparities in how to accomplish this task. Everyone at IRCAM seems to be working towards the same objective–the promotion of the Amazigh language and culture–but they clearly have different ideas about how to accomplish that objective. But they are very careful about pronouncing these differences explicitly to outsiders. The mandatory nature of teaching Tamazight and the use of the Tifinagh script as the medium of teaching Tamazight are the two aspects of this venture that have given rise to the most controversy so far, and this controversy extends even to within IRCAM,


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wherein several activists clearly disagree on the soundness of these two decisions and the extent to which they may in the end hurt the Amazigh cause8.

2. Nationalists and the Islamists’ Discourses vis-à-vis Tamazight For proponents of the perspective that denies Amazigh its legitimacy, the Amazigh language is seen as a historical handicap that stands in the way of development and modernization, an issue of a past that was characterized by tribalism and anarchy (bled siba), a neo-colonial project meant to strengthen the West’s hold on Morocco and make it more in line with western ideologies both economically and culturally. This position is supported by two views: the first one is of pan-Arabism and Arabic nationalism that aims at the integration and assimilation of all groups in the Arab world under one transnational culture based on Arab civilization and the recognition and use of Arabic as the national language of all Arab states. The nationalist discourse in Morocco is articulated especially by the Istiqlal Party (Independence Party), the party of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and the urban intellectual elite that feel a certain apathy towards Tamazight and accuse it of representing separatist tendencies and a dividing force of the Moroccan nation, an accusation refuted by the Amazigh activists, who insist that their movement is more integrationist than separatist in that it aims at the recognition that Morocco is a plural nation with roots in Africa, but embracing several cultures, Arab, Muslim, African, and Mediterranean. The other front that the proponents of the Amazigh language and culture have to contend against is the Islamist discourse, represented by two groups: the moderate PJD (Party of Justice and Development) and the banned Islamist group, Jama’at Al Adl wa al Ihssan led by Abdessalam Yassine. With the exception of its explicit condemnation of the choice of Tifinagh as the script for Tamazight instead of Arabic, The PJD’s discourse is generally more in line with state policies vis-à-vis the Amazigh question, and its members are careful not to publicly voice their views on Tamazight lest their party be viewed as extremist. On the other hand, Yassine’s group does not shy away from publicly voicing out their negative views towards the Amazigh language. Thus, their view will be the focus of what follows. This Islamist group views the Amazigh language and culture as part of the world of Jahiliya (Pre-Islamic period) and considers Tamazight a pagan language with no religious or spiritual reference, contrary to Arabic. In their view, promoting Tamazight could potentially turn it into a competitive language to the language of the Qur’an. Therefore, in order to strengthen Islam, of which

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Arabic represents a major tool to accomplish this task in their view, Tamazight should be eliminated from the linguistic scene of Morocco.

3. The Nationalist Discourse Nationalist ideology was initially adopted in Africa and the Middle East as a mobilizing force aimed at fighting colonialism and western ideology. This philosophy remained in effect even after independence, except that instead of fighting colonialist ideology, nationalism took on the task of uniting the once colonized peoples around the new nation-states of Africa and the Middle East. Thus, the ideal of one people, one language, one state became the founding principle of many newly independent Arab states. Arab nationalism, which is based on the same principles, came as a reaction to the colonialist ideology of divide and rule and against the concept of the nation state, which was thought of as a purely western model that should not be emulated. In fact, “One of the major consequences of colonial rule was a further reinforcement of allegiance to Classical Arabic. The language became the central trope through which opposition to that rule was articulated (Haeri 2004), hence the pan-Arabist ideology, which is an offshoot of Arab nationalism. At a time when the Arab world was undergoing defeat and humiliation at the hands of colonialist nations and Israel, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser stood up to the Franco-British coalition and defeated it. Henceforth, he became the long-awaited Arab hero and by default the leader of the Arab world. Nasser’s objective became the unification of all Arab states under the banner of one Arab nation unified by one language. The Arabic language, the most fundamental link among all Arab states, became the mobilizing force that was seen as the means capable of eventually unifying all Arabs, in Nasser’s view. Nasser’s ideology, which consisted of a fusion of pan Arabism, socialism, and populism (Laroussi 2), spoke especially to the lower social classes in the Maghreb, who found in this ideology an antidote to their badly damaged Arab dignity and honor. Arab nationalism used the Arabic language as a unifying force that symbolizes a common history and a shared destiny of all Arabs, regardless of their political views and ideologies. And those who still subscribe to this philosophy in Morocco are reluctant to allow another language on the linguistic landscape lest it do away with this unity, even if the idea of this unity remains but an ideal that has never been achieved. Another argument of the nationalist discourse in Morocco is more universal and secular and claims that in order to be competitive in a world based more and more on technological development and led by western rationality and logic, it is essential to look forward instead of attempting to revive the past, of which Tamazight constitutes a major part. The Amazigh language and culture, which


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can be grouped with the cultures of the periphery, are condemned to loss because they cannot be competitive on the linguistic world market (Boukous 1995) when faced with dominant languages and cultures, notably the English language and the Anglo-Saxon culture. In today’s global village, the new world order requires looking ahead to the future, and to sponsor these cultures amounts to a waste of time, resources, and energy and is an anachronistic attempt that is historically condemned to failure from the start. To this end, in the view of the pan-Arabists, the process of Arabization is a necessary step to achieve total modernization.

4. Arabization One of the direct results of nationalism in Morocco was the policy of Arabization. Arabization is a process often described in nuanced terms. Some describe this process as primarily a linguistic phenomenon (Montagne 1973), opposing it to the process of Islamization, which is seen as a religious and political phenomenon, while others, including Assid (2000) and Hoffman and Crawford (2000) see it as an ideological process that aims at assimilating the Amazigh people into mainstream Arab culture. Arabization as a linguistic process is the official argument adopted by the state and its institutions, according to which Arabization is a process meant to replace French by Arabic in all social, political, economic, and educational domains. It is a means to help Arabic regain its lost prestige and status, which were conceded to the French language on the eve of the Protectorate, which lasted until independence in 1956. This viewpoint suggests that the Arabization process is not a new policy but simply a re-Arabization of the country, as Arabic was the dominant language prior to the colonial period. The state’s discourse towards Arabization has evolved and served different purposes since independence. The policy of Arabization has been used as a measure to promote Arabic, to counter the rise of Marxist ideas of the Sixties and Seventies, and until recently to placate Muslim fundamentalists by insisting that the policy is meant to enhance the integrity of the Arab-Islamic identity of Morocco, which has often been threatened by so-called neo-colonialist ideas. However, with the rise of political Islam in Morocco and on the eve of the Casablanca terrorist attacks of May 16, 2003, which were directly linked to the Islamists, the Arabization discourse has been deemphasized in favor of a discourse that promoted diversity and pluralism, of which Tamazight represents a major part. This change in discourse has been viewed by many as nothing but a politically motivated move wherein Tamazight is used as a Trojan horse to counter the rise of Islamism in Morocco. Another reason for this change could be the state’s implicit admission that the policy of Arabization has failed

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


miserably, and as a result a new course of action needed to be taken, which resulted in a new policy aimed at bringing about a rapprochement with the Amazigh cause. The effect that the process of Arabization9 has had on the place of French in Moroccan society is quite complex, to say the least. In a nutshell, since the process of Arabization was completed at the primary and secondary levels in the late 1980s, the number of Moroccans proficient in French has been on the decline, especially among those on the lower end of the social stratum. Another outcome of this policy has been the emergence of new private schools offering bilingual education to those who can afford it. What this means is that Arabization has turned into a policy imposed on the children of the poor. As Marley suggests, “Arabization has led to the very opposite of what was claimed for it: lesser rather than greater equality of opportunity” (2004, p.352). In fact, it is often the proponents of the nationalist discourse and Arabization who have been known to send their children to study in France or in the “Mission Française” (French Mission schools offering education purely à la française), as a way of circumventing the Arabized school system in Morocco. Thus, one can easily conclude that the whole process of Arabization is rather politically and ideologically driven, and in no way does it serve the interests of the whole population in Morocco. French, which seems to have been the initial target of the policy of Arabization, is still alive and well in Morocco. In fact, it is stronger than ever, especially due to its hold on the economic sector of the country. More recently, French has become competitive even to Tamazight. A few years ago, Tamazight was introduced as an elective subject at Al-Akhawayn University, an English-medium university in Morocco, only to be pushed aside and replaced by French after only a few semesters. In fact, this English-medium university realized the importance of arming its graduates with the French language if they are to compete on the job market and decided to write off Tamazight and adopt French as a mandatory subject for all students. This shift in policy is a clear indication of the instrumental nature of French in the job market in Morocco, where English can be helpful, but French remains most dominant. Even Moroccan television channels seem to have finally made peace with bilingualism and code switching between French and Moroccan Arabic, for now several television programs are characterized by an amalgam of Arabic and French, which is more of a realistic reflection of the linguistic situation in Morocco. This also shows that bilingualism, a marriage between French and Arabic, is still the preferred mode of communication in Morocco, and that neither Arabization nor globalization with its hegemonic Anglo-Saxon language and culture will be able to nudge French from the linguistic landscape of Morocco anytime soon.


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Having realized this linguistic and cultural reality, and having implicitly conceded the defeat of the process of Arabization, the Ministry of Education embarked on a project to reform higher education. The result of this reform has been the “Charte Nationale d’Education et de Formation” (The National Charter of Education) of 1999. This charter emphasizes the “renforcement et perfectionnement de l’enseignement de la langue arabe, diversification des langues d’enseignement des sciences et des technologies, et ouverture sur le Tamazight” (reinforcement and perfecting of the teaching of Arabic, diversifying the languages of teaching science and technology, and openness on Tamazight) ( What is worth noting here is the vagueness that marks the above statements. Reinforcing and perfecting the teaching of Arabic has always been the goal of Arabization, while scientific subjects have always been taught in French in higher education, so this is not something new that the state is introducing. The other implicit message here is the attempt to revert to French as the medium of teaching science subjects, which Arabic has not been able to accomplish. The charter goes even further as to suggest that French may not be the only language used in science and technology, and the implication here is that English might also be used at the secondary level and in higher education as a medium of teaching science and technology. Again, this so-called reform of higher education is an implicit recognition that the policy of Arabization has failed, and that a return to bilingualism is a necessary course of action to guarantee that in the global village, Morocco is not left behind. What is clear from this discussion is that Arabization was initially set up with the objective of eliminating French from all socio-economic and cultural domains. What is hard to prove, however, is that the process of Arabization has been a de facto process of assimilation meant to mainstream the Imazighen into Arab culture. Still, although it may be difficult to prove that assimilation was the intended effect of the Arabization policy, it is important to note that imposing a language on a minority usually translates into assimilating the targets into the mainstream culture, whether it was intended or not. Arabization might have been intended to replace French by Arabic, but it has also resulted, albeit indirectly, in the linguistic and cultural assimilation of the Imazighen. This argument is especially salient in the view of several observers and Amazigh activists who accuse the nationalist discourse of portraying the Arab personality as the model for all other ethnic groups to emulate. Hoffman and Crawford (2000) claim that Arabization was the cause that mobilized the Amazigh Movement, but there seems to be several other factors that have contributed to this mobilization: x Effects of the recent waves of democratization that have swept across different parts of the world.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities



The new significance that diversity, pluralism, identity politics, and minority rights have gained in the last few decades. x The rise of an Amazigh intellectual elite that has become vocal about the importance of recognizing the human and linguistic rights of the Amazigh people (Errihani 2006). On the other hand, Boukous (1995) appears to acknowledge that Arabization had no effect on the Amazigh language, and that Amazigh can and indeed has always co-existed with Arabic in a diaglossic relationship. More recently, however, Boukous’s position seems to have evolved, for he suggests in his most recent work (2003) that Arabization had the goal of both eliminating French and homogenizing the Amazigh people. Such a view coincides with Assid’s claim that Arabization targets first and foremost Tamazight since the French language has always been politically and institutionally protected by the state, which cannot be said of the Amazigh language (Assid 2000). Assid goes further by claiming that Arabization aims primarily at Islamizing the Imazighen, a claim that is probably true when one refers to the early encounters between the Arabs and the Imazighen. Moroccan history books do not deny that the Arabs came armed with Islam, and their objective was to primarily Islamize the North African region after they conquered it. But as a post-independence phenomenon, Arabization was primarily a nationalist movement in its inception rather than an Islamist one. Arabization has always been a nationalist project, and the Islamist discourse started to coincide with the nationalist discourse only more recently, especially after the publication of Abdessalam Yassine’s book Hiwar ma’a Sadik Amazighi (A Dialogue with an Amazigh Friend). In fact, Assid’s book, in which he makes the link between nationalism and Islamism, Al-Amazighiya fi Khitab al-Islam as-siyassi, (Amazigh in the Islamist Discourse) is primarily a response to Yassine, in which he reacts to the Islamists’ arguments against the legitimacy of the Amazigh language and culture. In my view, although Assid’s book is a worthwhile account of refutations of the Islamists’ discourse, he seems to have spent too much time attacking the Islamists’ discourse instead of making the case for the Amazigh language and culture as being able to carry the weight of the Amazigh experience in contemporary Morocco, something which to my knowledge has not been done yet by any Amazigh activist or scholar. Contrary to Assid’s attempt to link Arabization with Islamization, Boukous does not necessarily see the process of Arabization as a de facto Islamization. Boukous argues that the threat to the Amazigh language comes from Moroccan Arabic (Darija) more than it does from Classical Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic10. This is a very reasonable argument, given the functional role that Moroccan Arabic plays as a vehicle of communication and a facilitator for the learning of Classical or Standard Arabic. This is why many argue that in


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addition to preserving and promoting the Amazigh language, the need to have Tamazight taught in schools is a necessary step to also counter the hegemony of Moroccan Arabic. Therefore, there is no denying the fact that Tamazight is a victim of the nationalist ideology of Arabization, whether intended or not. This is not surprising since nationalism is known to be an enemy of diversity and decentralization, as these do not coincide with nationalist projects. Arabization promoted the notion of one language, one nation, a philosophy that was seen as essential for the unity and territorial integrity of the newly independent nation, but this unity and conformity came at the expense of diversity and pluralism, and Tamazight might have been an unintended casualty, but a casualty nonetheless.

5. The Islamist Discourse The Islamist position towards Tamazight, on the other hand, cannot be viewed outside its overall call for the overhauling of the political and social establishment and its replacement by a purely Islamic state. The Islamists view Tamazight as competitive to the supremacy of the language of the Qur’an and to their Islamist project as a whole. For them, Tamazight is a pagan language, indeed not even a language but simply a cluster of closely related dialects with no standard form, no grammar, no literature, and no functional or symbolic value. They also argue that recognizing the Amazigh language and culture would eventually lead to apostasy, a fact which was recorded by Ibn Khaldoun, who relates that the Imazighen were guilty of repeated apostasy after their initial Islamization. Using Ibn Khaldoun’s findings, Abdessalam Yassine (1996) argues that the Amazigh Movement’s demands for the recognition, the teaching, and the promotion of Tamazight is their thirteenth time abandoning the Islamic faith. Yassine, the spiritual guide and the charismatic leader of the Islamist movement in Morocco does not hesitate to voice out his negative views towards Tamazight, which he does unabashedly. Like Mokhtar Soussi, Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim Khattabi, and El Youssi before him, he renounces his Amazigh identity and adopts the Muslim and Arabic one, insisting that whoever is not a believer in the Arabic tongue is not a believer in Allah and insists that maintaining and promoting the Arabic language is equal to upholding the word of God. In his view and the view of most devout Muslims, Arabic is a sacred and holy language since the Qur’an was sent to the Muslim umma (community) in the Arabic tongue. Therefore, no language should take precedence over the language of the Qur’an.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


In 1996, a conversation in the form of letters started between Yassine and Mohammed Chafik, the leader of the Amazigh Movement, on the Amazigh language and culture question in Morocco. This correspondence was subsequently developed into a book by Yassine, which turned out to be the most important tool that articulates the Islamists’ position towards Tamazight and the Amazigh Movement as a whole. The two leaders happen to be long time friends and have known and always respected each other despite their conflicting ideologies and outlooks on life. The main difference between the two, as both of them make it clear in their correspondence, is that while Yassine’s outlook and references are founded on Islam and on the Qur’an, Chafik is more rational and uses reason and logic as grounds for his arguments. This is the reason why the correspondence between the two collapsed shortly after a few letters. In fact, after two long letters to Yassine, Chafik decided to put an end to the conversations because the two could not agree on a point of departure for their arguments which emerged from different convictions. In Yassine’s view, Tamazight represents competition for the language of the Qur’an; its maintenance and promotion would mean taking away from the time and space that Arabic enjoys, especially in the social sphere in favor of Tamazight. Thus, Yassine argues that more time and energy should be devoted to the promotion of Arabic, which by default will promote the learning of the Qur’an and the Islamic faith as a whole. Yassine’s main grievance against Tamazight is that it is not only secular but represents a pagan past that the Imazighen should dissociate themselves from if they are to be true Muslims. Arabic, on the other hand, is a sacred and virtuous language because of its association with Islamic values and principles; it is a sacred message (rissala wa amana) entrusted to the believers who are called upon to maintain and spread. Yassine even goes further to point out that Tamazight is not a language that needs promotion since it is incapable of leadership in the fields of science and technology, an argument that coincides with the nationalists’ claim discussed earlier. He goes on to suggest that bilingualism is a necessary policy to adopt, but by bilingualism he means Arabic coupled with another western language, not a local language. In fact, he acknowledges that a foreign language is a necessary evil, “a temporary cane for the lame while he recovers his strength again” ( Yassine’s book is marked by a great deal of inconsistencies, contradictions, and at times ramblings. For one thing, it is hard to make sense of his arguments since they do not consider any other views as being worthwhile. In other words, any arguments or thoughts that do not have religious grounds have no value in his view. What this means is that it is impossible to argue against Yassine, especially from a rational standpoint, and Chafik found out early on in their conversations and decided to simply give in to Yassine’s line of reasoning.


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Secondly, Yassine is extremely inconsistent in his dealings with the West. Early on in his book, he attacks western ideologies, especially democracy, which he insists is at odds with Islamic principles only to come back in the middle of the book to call for justice, equality and shura (consultative decision-making), which is but another name for democracy, at least from the point of view of many Islamist scholars who argue that “Shura, or consultative decision-making, is the source of democratic ethics in Islam” (Special Report: usip. Washington 2002). Yassine in fact seems to be more in line with “some western scholars and ideologues [who] have tried to present Islam an anti-democratic and inherently authoritarian. By misrepresenting Islam in this way they seek to prove that Islam has a set of values inferior to western liberalism and is a barrier to the global progress of civilization” (ibid). Yassine also lashes out at any language, especially French, which promotes foreign values, decadence, and alienates Muslim youth only to come full circle and advocate bilingualism, a marriage between Arabic and a foreign language. The most blatant contradiction in this book is Yassine’s approach to nationalism and pan-Arabism, which he initially considers to be arrogant, secular, and therefore atheist ideologies. He fiercely attacks the pan-Arabists, the Ba’athists and Saddamists, to whom he refers as corrupt and unbelieving, but towards the end of his book, he elevates the leader of the nationalist movement in Morocco, Allal Fassi, to the status of a prophet because of the latter’s leadership in the resistance to French colonialism and his strong faith. He refers to him as “the leader of the resistance,” “a good Muslim who deserves to be praised and eulogized” ( For Yassine, Fassi’s ideological orientations are far less important than his religious faith. Yassine might be antagonistic towards the nationalist and pan-Arabist ideologies, but he still feels a deep connection with the nationalist-Muslim leader, Allal Fassi, whose nationalism is said to be inspired by his Islamic faith. Islamism, nationalism, and the Amazigh Movement seem to represent three antagonistic discourses, but there are also common denominators among them. The Amazigh Movement is secular in nature; in the same vein, nationalism is condemned by the Islamists for being a secular ideology, although the religious orientation of several nationalist leaders is hard to dismiss, as pointed out above. The Islamists and the nationalists seem to find common ground for attacking Tamazight and for considering the promotion of Arabic as the only viable solution to Morocco’s linguistic and cultural woes. The Islamists and the Amazigh activists have hardly anything to agree on, on the other hand, since the Amazigh Movement identifies itself as fundamentally secular in orientation, anti-nationalist and anti-Islamist. Ahmed Assid is probably the most well known Amazigh activist to have clearly articulated the Amazigh position towards the Islamists on many

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


platforms11. According to ‘Assid (Le Monde Amazigh: March 2006), the Amazigh Movement does not attempt to deny the importance of Islam or exclude it from what makes up the Moroccan cultural heritage. However, he argues, Islam is only one of several elements that make up that heritage. Therefore, the Amazigh Movement refuses to accept the Islamists’ project, which postulates that the mission of Islam is to introduce not only Islam, but also Arabic to other peoples as the two go hand in hand.12 In the Islamists’ view, Arabization is a necessary step towards becoming a good Muslim, an argument that does not take into account the fact that the majority of those who profess the Muslim faith are not Arabs. Assid insists that although Islam is deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of most Moroccans as well as in most of the institutions of the country, there should still be a separation between “mosque” and “state.” In other words, the state should refrain from acting as the custodian of the Islamic faith in Morocco. According to Assid, religious practices should not be the business of the state; they are rather a personal and human right that is part of the freedom to practice, or not practice, religion, a right that the state should defend and protect. As such, the Amazigh Movement does not endorse the belief based on a single religion (or a single language for that matter) for a single state, for the principle of freedom of religion is a universal human right that translates into the right of the individual’s freedom to choose his or her beliefs, whether religious or nonreligious. These ideas are dangerous and amount to atheism from the Islamists’ perspective, which justifies their attacks on the Amazigh language and culture in their view. In fact, these ideas might be dangerous even from a nationalist standpoint, for they go against what is stated in the Moroccan constitution, where the preamble clearly states that “The Kingdom of Morocco, a Muslim, sovereign state, whose official language is Arabic, constitutes a part of the Grand Arab Maghrib ( Still, the potential for change is always present, and the official website of the Moroccan government makes this clear in its preface to the Moroccan Constitution: “A constitutional text is by definition an evolutionary one. In other words, it can be modified qualitatively and quantitatively according to the evolution of society and the new social and political realities” ( The Muslim and Arabic orientations of Morocco, which are clearly stated in the constitution, seem to trouble many Amazigh activists, especially those who call on the state to acknowledge the diversity of Morocco and the separation of ‘mosque’ and ‘state.’ Still, this in no way means that all the Amazigh activists of Morocco speak with the same voice when it comes to voicing their views on the role of Islam and Arabic in relation to the Amazigh language and culture. Even among


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Amazigh activists and scholars themselves, there seems to be disagreement on the role of Arabic and Islam in the revitalization and maintenance of the Amazigh language and culture. While Akhyat and Assid are strong advocates of the teaching of Tamazight in the Tifinagh script, and both take issue with the Islamists’ and nationalists’ project of Arabization, which they argue aims primarily at assimilating the Imazighen of Morocco, El Outhmani, and to a certain degree Boukous, who represent the moderate discourse, insist that the Amazigh language and culture are the property of all Moroccans, Amazigh and Arab, and as a result must be protected and cherished by all Moroccans. On the other hand, other Amazigh activists such as Boughden, Khalfi and Yatim are outspoken advocates of the Arabic language and the Islamic faith, although they insist on the importance of maintaining and promoting the Amazigh language and culture. In fact, Khalfi takes issue with Assid’s criticism of Islamist ideology and accuses him of relying too heavily on the Marxist discourse in his treatment of the Amazigh question. Yatim, on the other hand, suggests that the importance of Arabic lies in the message it carries, not the language itself, since the Arabic language predates the religion of Islam. He blames those who declare war on Arabic to be nothing but Marxist demagogues who in no way represent the majority of the Amazigh people and insists that neglect and marginalization is the lot of all rural Moroccans and not just the Imazighen, a point that is hard to argue against in my view. He also argues that the Amazigh activists who advocate justice for the Amazigh language are not real Imazighen who are immersed in the Amazigh language and culture on a daily basis but are urban elites who have lost touch with their rural origins, and the proof is that they are most likely to communicate in French rather than in Tamazight or Arabic. He even goes as far as to blame this elite’s attempt at standardizing the Amazigh language to being tantamount to inventing a new language in a linguistic laboratory, instead of developing the real dialects, which represent the core linguistic and cultural value for all Amazighophones. What does all this tell us about the role of Islam in Morocco? David Hart (2000) rightly suggests that the thread that unifies all Moroccans, regardless of whether they are Amazigh or Arab, is Islam. Hart titles one of his chapters “Scratch a Moroccan, Find a Berber,” to which one would easily respond rather: Scratch a Moroccan, Find a Muslim. Gellner (1972) also suggests that rather than see themselves as members of a linguistically defined ethnic group, the Imazighen see themselves primarily as part of this or that tribe, yet within an Islamically-conceived world. This observation has not changed much in the last 30 years, even after the Imazighen have migrated in large numbers to urban centers. The Imazighen’s allegiance to Islam remains more fundamental than allegiance to their ethnic identity. The majority of urban Imazighen have actually abandoned their Amazigh identity in the face of modernity and

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


globalization. The Imazighen’s linguistically anchored ethnic identities, [which] seem to be remarkably resilient” (Skuttnab-kangas 2000, p. 54), have been abandoned for other identities and loyalties in contemporary Morocco. Nonetheless, most remain attached to their Islamic identity, which only indicates that of all the identities that a Moroccan might adopt, the Islamic identity remains the strongest and most durable. Thus, Islam provides a very strong tie that binds all Moroccans together, regardless of their ethno-linguistic, regional, or tribal differences. The Islamic faith provides the foundation for the country’s social system, and since its introduction in Morocco in the seventh century, Islam has interacted with the Amazigh culture and evolved into what is considered by many as a uniquely “Moroccan Islam.” According to Montagne (1973), the Amazigh people were able to reconcile the new religion with their traditional social organization through Maraboutic or saintly Islam. Gellner (1972) reinforces this view by insisting on the existence of two kinds of Islam in Morocco: what he calls the puritanical, orthodox Islam of the urban, literate elite, and the ritualistic, saintly Islam of the illiterate rural tribes. The orthodox version of Islam could be seen as the equivalent of Protestantism while the saintly version is comparable to Catholicism since this brand of Islam relies heavily on mediation in the form of saints, shurfa, and Sufi shykhs. What is also obvious from this discussion is that the Amazigh people are no longer a group whose history is often told by “the other.” The Amazigh people are actively involved in the rewriting of their own history through the ongoing conversations, debates, and scholarly work they are producing. The extent to which they have succeeded in making their voices heard has become concrete with the decision of the Moroccan state to officially recognize the Amazigh culture and have the Amazigh language taught in all public schools across the country. The Imazighen have long been written out of Morocco’s history, and these days, they are demanding that they be written back in, and their discourse seems to have gotten everybody’s attention.


1. Introduction The Moroccan Middle Atlas, as we know it today, is basically a highland area unfortunately saddled with a notoriously checkered past, as a result of which it still labors under some serious handicaps. Rather than having influenced history, it could be agued that a dire succession of events has been inflicted on the Middle Atlas, and that it has earned itself a bad reputation in the process, as will be demonstrated in due course. Otherwise, the principal purpose of this paper will be to portray that discarding age-old prejudice is a serious burden for any society–not least that of the Middle Atlas. The area, however, would appear to enjoy serious assets. Indeed, boasting thick forests and abundant upland pastures, it is Morocco’s main water-tower. Known as Jbel Fazaz to early Andalucian historians, it was re-christened “Middle Atlas” by French geographers at the end of the nineteenth century. For the requirements of this chapter, the area has been expanded to include the Middle Atlas cultural ensemble which overlaps west to cover the Zaïan azaƥar and Oulmès areas, south to take in Midelt and the Upper Moulouya, not to mention north-easterly extensions beyond Bou Iblane to Jbel Tazekka overlooking Taza. Situated in the heart of northern Morocco, but away from the country’s mainstream activity, it was conceived negatively as le Maroc inutile (‘useless Morocco’), despite the fact that some of the most important historic trade-routes in the land cross or circumvent it. These include: the classic, early medieval route from Moulay Idriss Zerhoun to Marrakesh via Azrou, Zaouiat Ifrane, Adekhsane, and the Tadla region; the triq as-ssultan from Fez to Qsabi (Kasbat al-Makhzan on the Moulouya) via Sefrou, the usually snow-free Oum Jeniba col

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


and the qsar of Enjil, as followed by the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta; the shorter, direct Azrou-Qsabi route via Timhadit and Tizi n-Taghzeft. Both of the last-named eventually pass Midelt, cross the eastern High Atlas and continue on down to Tafilalt, terminus of the old-time trans-Saharan caravan routes.

2. Population The area harbors a mix of Zanâta and Sanhaja Berbers, according to the classification of early scholar Ibn Khaldoun,2 for most of whom it has been a zone of passage rather than a place of residence. Thus, what we have on the ground is a combination of independently-minded pastoral tribes, based on inaccessible mountain hide-outs, some of whom were, often out of necessity, highwaymen or foot-pads.3 As if to remind the observer of this fact, there is a traditional tamawayt–style short poem from the Beni Mguild which runs as follows: a wi ma ƥra asen yini wattay i lqer as may as irwus lla teggwedx ad d i mel yiwn wasif iþþ it lla teggwedx i dduyt mš as tummer s un ar lla teggwedx adda wr as illi wmnay lla tekkam, ay išabar, İamayn! Hearken to what the tea says to the cartridge: “I fear that the river in spate will sweep him away; I fear the rain that may fall and dampen his powder, Depriving the horseman of ammunition; I fear that For two years, caravans will pass by unscathed!”4

The area was for long notorious as a sanctuary for Christian communities. The chroniclers of Idris II’s reign refer to isolated pockets of Christians, encountered by the sultan’s troops during their campaigns against hill-top fortresses of the Banu Fazaz, already perceived as trouble-makers.5 In fact, Christian communities in the Atlas appear to have survived until Almohad times. It was also a refuge for heretics and Jews, especially under mountain Zanâta princedoms, the most famous of which seems to have been that of Mahdi Ibn Tuwala, a probable ally of the Barghawata. In this connection, we hear of the fabled early medieval mountain fortress of Qal’at al-Mahdi, situated near the sources of the great river Oum Rbia’, or Wansifen, as it was known in those days. Eventually capitulating to an Almoravid army after a seven-year siege in the eleventh century, it was subsequently incorporated into the Almoravid military system.


Chapter Thirteen

Its chief claim to fame lies in the fact that Mu’tamid, poet king of Sevilla, one of the reyes de Tayfa was placed there under house arrest.6 The king refers to his brief captivity in a wooden fortress with Jews and monkeys for neighbors, before being sent to languish and die in exile at Aghmat at the foot of the Marrakesh High Atlas. The precise location of Qal’at al-Mahdi remains a mystery to this very day.7

3. Land of Saints The Fazaz area can boast numerous famous holy men, or marabouts (igweramn), some of them peacefully inclined, others somewhat less so. Chief among these was Moulay Bouazza (yilanur), an uncultured monolingual Berberspeaker and undoubtedly one of the leading lights of the Moroccan Middle Ages. After becoming famous as a divinely inspired shepherd on Jbel Gourza in the Tinmel area,8 he later traveled extensively throughout Morocco, and finally settled in central Morocco, being buried at the famous shrine at Jbel Yiroujane in the Tafoudeït area on the Zaër/Zaïan marches.9 Moulay Ahmed El-Ouahed appears to have been a Marinid šurfa from the Tafilalt area who travelled through Jbel Fazaz till he reached Zaouiat Ifrane between Aïn Leuh and Mrirt, where, probably in the fifteenth century, he married a local woman and founded his zawiya among some caves on the edge of the Tisigdelt plateau. This became a perfectly integrated Arabic-speaking island in a Berber sea.10 Something of a mystic, Abu Mahalli (rather unkindly referred to as ‘Bum Hully’ by early English sources), a wayward Sufi from the Saoura region, studied at Dila’ in Jbel Fazaz under Abu Bakr ad-Dila’, only to embark on an Almohad-sytle, would-be mahdi venture that ended tragically outside the walls of Marrakesh (1615).11 Of considerably greater importance were the Dila’yin marabouts (circa 1560-1665) with two zawiya-s: one near present-day Ayt Ishaq; the other at Ma’ammar, some ten miles to the south-west from there, and visited by this writer on December 26, 1992. Sacked by the first ‘Alaouite sultan, Moulay Rachid, Dila’ was for long a famous seat of Koranic learning in Arabic, by and for Berber-speakers until, switching from the spiritual to the temporal, using as their power base the martial Amazigh tribes, its leaders developed dynastic ambitions, initially neutralizing their Tazeroualt competitors form south-west Morocco, but finally losing out to the ‘Alaouite šurfa from Tafilalt, in a dynastic contest vaguely echoing Britain’s eighteenth century Stewart-v-Hannover rivalry.12 Their principal spiritual successors were the Imhiouach marabouts (circa 1700 to the present day), who were chiefly famous for their Koranic-inspired

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


teaching, magic rites and Doomsday prophesies, specially Sidi ‘Ali Lhoussaïne and Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch. The great Sidi Boubker Amhaouch, who lived in the early nineteenth century, was also something of a military leader in his own right, having achieved fleeting unity of the north-west pushing Ayt Oumalou tribes and encompassing the defeat of sultan Moulay Slimane’s army at the battle of Lenda (1818). These events were responsible, at the time, for some measure of Arabo-Berber antagonism, especially when lowland Beer contingents serving in the sultan’s me alla were suspected of lukewarm loyalty to the ‘Alaouite cause.13 In April 2001, the present writer had tea with the present incumbent, Sidi Mohand Amhaouch, in his house at Lenda. A comparatively little-known saintly figure, Sidi Raho, possessed not inconsiderable wealth, including a kasbah at Sefrou, which the French burnt down. Famous for twice leading Moroccan resistance fighter contingents against Fez (1911 & 1912), he later held out grimly for another dozen years or so in the north-east corner of the Middle Atlas.14 Other saints were better known for their intellectual prowess. Chief among these was al-Yousi, a Berber-speaker from the Moulouya area, who, after studying Arabic in various seats of learning, including Dila’ and the Qarawiyine, ended up penning the famous muhadarrat, not to mention a bold letter in which he politely takes to task sultan Moulay Ismaïl for one of the latter’s more energetic campaigns against the tribes of Fazaz. Al-Yousi was also famous for his poetry, some of which, interestingly, was composed in bilingual Arabo-Berber form.15 A contemporary of his was Bou Salim al-‘Ayyachi, most famous of all the saints from Zaouia Sidi Hamza, a highly influential religious centre situated on the south side of Jbel al-‘Ayyachi. Proficient in Berber and Arabic, he wrote a rihla describing his travels to the east, also composing some poetry. A leading figure of Moroccan Sufism, Bou Salim enjoys a privileged niche in the local oral literature. The present author met his descendant at Sidi Hamza in 1969.

4. The ‘Alaouite Sultans and Jbel Fazaz The ‘Alaouites, with King Mohammed VI at present on the throne, represent Morocco’s longest-serving dynasty. Vis-à-vis Jbel Fazaz they have always felt compelled to keep lines of communication open across and around the area, as explained above, both with Tafilalt (incarnating links to spiritual home-land and shrine of ancestor Moulay ‘Ali Cherif) and Marrakesh, the other major imperial city. Hence a cordon of strategic border fortresses, garrisoned by İabid guards, to seal off and keep in check potentially unruly Berber tribes living “beyond the Pale.”


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Subsequent policy usually took one of two forms. When the makhzan was strong, the sultan would take the field at the head of his army for “showing the flag,” forcefully levying taxes, sometimes appointing qayd-s to exercise tribal surveillance. Conversely, whenever the makhzan was weak and divided, as in the mid-eighteenth century, diplomatic brinkmanship was the order of the day, complete with bet-hedging and “divide and rule,” making and breaking alliances with this or that tribe–whichever was perceived as posing the greatest threat to peace and quiet.16 By and large, however, the relationship between ‘Alaouite sultanate and the Fazaz tribes was a prickly one. Following the crushing of the Dila’yin marabouts by Moulay Rachid, first of the ‘Alaouite sultans, his successor Moulay Ismaïl launched a series of merciless campaigns to seek out and destroy the fighting element of the hill tribes. The resulting legacy of dislike has lasted practically down to the present day, has probably resulted in the area being “punished” by socio-economic neglect for fifty years after the end of the Protectorate, and remains the chief hurdle in any normalization of Middle Atlas/makhzan relations.

5. The Tribes of Jbel Fazaz Sometimes referred to as Sanhaja Berbers, though this term has lost its true significance since Almohad times. Basically, these are Tamazight-speaking, tent-dwelling warrior-shepherds. Tribal societies, they are often linked by brotherly, ta a-style pacts, combined with a very strong sense of hospitality (customary law, or izerf), and honor (lİezz). These people, who spent much of their time feuding and raiding (hence the warrior tradition) used to occupy a boundless, timeless country known prosaically as blad amaziƥ (‘Berber country’), or tamazirt n i a en (‘land of heroes’),17 as depicted in traditional oral poetry. Going from the north-west and working down to the south-east, we have on the map: The Zemmour, (ayt zuggwat), centered on Khemisset, are the ones who reached furthest in the above-mentioned north-westerly push of the Berbers. Famous horsemen, they maintain to this day the typically Moroccan Berber tradition of powder-play, known as fantasia in tourist-speak, tburida in Moroccan Arabic, tafrawt in Tamazight. They don colorful, broad-brimmed straw-hats during summer harvesting. Recently, one of their chief claims to fame is that they produced the famous singer Najat Aatabou. The Guerrouane (iyerwan), originally lived near Bou Denib, where you will find a kasbah named Toulal, similar to the Toulal near Meknes, the latter being associated with a famous vintage, much to the disgust of some Amazigh purists.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


At a later stage in their migration they occupied Asif Melloul, in the High Atlas, whence they were evicted by the Ayt Hadiddou, after which they settled near Midelt, where a ruined “Ksar Guerrouane” may be seen to this day. Their musicians are most commendably keeping alive the amdyaz heritage of the Berber bards on the northern fringe of the Middle Atlas, despite the proximity of big cities. The Beni Mtir (ayt n ir), one of the first Tamazight-speaking tribes exposed to the West, now occupy the plateaux and forests between El Hajeb and Ifrane (Tourtit). Great musicians, poets, and horsemen, they lived in the Ziz valley in the early-seventeenth century, at which time they developed strong ties with Zaouia Sidi Hamza and Bou Salim al-‘Ayyachi. Among their better-known clans are Ayt Ourtindi, Ayt Na’aman, Ayt Herzallah, Ayt Bourouzouine, Ayt Slimane, Iqeddar, etc. Also famous as former clients of Zaouia Sidi Hamza, the Ayt ‘Ayyach live in exile among the northern foothills of Jbel Kandar, close to Fez, separated from their southern cousins, the Ayt ‘Ayyach of Anzegmir, by the entire breadth of the Middle Atlas. A most civilized people, born poets half of them! A wellknown Ou-‘Ayyach was the wandering bard Hammou ou ‘Assou (circa 19001960), some of whose poems this writer collected in Midelt in 1989, but who used to come right up to Ougmès, near Azrou, during the fruit-picking season in the 1930s.18 The Ayt Sadden live east of Fez around Bir Tam-Tam. This tribal group has produced two important Amazigh militants: Dr. Abdelmalek Ou-Sadden, a previous Berber language informer who did field-work with André Basset,19 and Mohammed Chafik, a famous Berber scholar and first recteur of the Royal Institute for Research on Amazigh Culture (IRCAM in French). Originally, they were Arabic-speakers who moved north from the Sahara, and now speak a Tamazight dialect very similar to that of the Ayt Izdeg, their one-time neighbors, who have stayed on in the Ziz valley.20 The Ayt Yousi are a tribal group established around Sefrou and Tazouta, reaching down towards, and even beyond, Boulmane. Some even remain near Enjil on the Moulouya slope. They previously occupied land far to the south in the Ziz valley, but, as a pro-government jayš tribe, were moved north to watch over triq as-ssultan. Apart from al-Yousi the scholar, there was also a famous late-nineteenth century qayd al-Yousi, whose former town-house in Sefrou now hosts seminars and other cultural gatherings. A famous Ou-Yousi alive today is Fez-based geographer Lahsen Jennan, who recently completed an exhaustive thesis on the Middle Atlas.21 Now for a trio of tribes to the north-east who speak a different kind of Berber related to the znatiya vernacular:.


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The Ayt Seghrouchen are a very large tribe, some near Immouzzer-Kandar, some in and around Ifrane, with others living near Boulmane, on and about Jbel Tichoukt (al-Mers) which they defended most energetically against the French military (1915-1926). Meanwhile, yet others remain in the Talsinnt area, in the south-east. Their name derives from seƥr uššen (‘shrivel jackal’), the founder member of the tribe, something of a holy man with magical powers, having thus disposed of a jackal attempting to molest his flock. Many of them later served under the French with the irregular infantry or cavalry known as Goums. The Ayt Warayn are another very large tribe occupying most of the northeast corner of the Middle Atlas, their heartland a valley called Tanchraramt, tucked away in the mountains, dominated by the precipices of Ich Izdiane. Great warriors, but at the same time, very civilized people. They resisted the French for many years near Bab ou Idir, later around Bou Iblane, where one of their number, Mohand ou Hammou, earned a name for himself (1926).22 Today, 90% of the Moroccan Parachute Brigade are Waraynis. Although Berber poetry is currently undergoing a revival in this area, for some time the locals had been singing in Arabic, but to Berber rhythm, a habit apparently introduced by their Beni Yazgha neighbors from Elmenzel. They have as southerly neighbors the equally famous and previously warlike Marmoucha (imermušen), proud, sheep-rearing transhumants inhabiting one of the coldest regions in Morocco. They stoutly resisted the French army both during the Taza area campaigns (1920-1926) and, again, in 1955-1956 with the Moroccan Liberation Army. Moving south and centre, we find a foursome, the first three of which were historically referred to as the Ayt Oumalou (‘sons of the shady slope’), former enemies of the Ayt Idrassen, and incorporating various combinations of tribal groupings, depending on circumstances. The Beni Mguild (ayt myill) are hardy shepherds and wood-cutters occupying the main cedar forests and undulating plateaux extending south from Azrou and Aïn Leuh to Timhadit, overlapping into the upper Moulouya. They were most unrelenting in resistance, first against the makhzan (nineteenth century); later against the French, being involved in heroic battles around Bekrit (1916-1920). They were at one time allied with, later in competition with Zaïan neighbors. The Zaïan (i iyyan) are among the most famous of highland Berber tribes. Their territory extends from Mrirt to Tighessaline, west to Oulmès; where Berber political leader and former minister Mahjoubi Aherdane comes from. Chief town Khenifra, elevated to status of “capital” by great warlord and resistance fighter Moha ou Hammou Azayyi, to give him his Berber name. They are renowned horsemen and hunters using Moroccan greyhounds (uskayn). As for the classic Zaïan a idus it is justly famous. Vast pastoral gatherings take

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


place in the summer on the fertile, wood-girt Ajdir plateau, which epitomizes all the semi-nomadic Zaïan aspire to.23 On October 16, the present king made a speech to the tribes at Ajdir, announcing the opening of the Royal Institute for Research into Amazigh Culture (IRCAM).24 The Ichqern are centered round Lqbab on Oued Srou. Long-time associates and clients of the Imhiouach saints, they occupy a meat-in-sandwich situation between the Zaïan to the north and Ayt Sokhman to the south. Prominent in crippling inter-tribal battles with the Zaïan, in resistance against the makhzan and France.25 Many enrolled in the Goums under the French, served in Second World War, and eventually in the FAR as the Moroccan army is called. Finally, the Ayt Ihand, who are a small tribe occupying wooded, mountainous terrain between the Moulouya and Oued Srou; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they used to side with the Ayt Idrassen against the Ayt Oumalou.

6. Middle Atlas Place Names Many of the toponyms in this far from exhaustive list are referred to in Amhaouch apocalyptic prophesies and bardic poetry, constituting what we might term the “mythical dimension” of Jbel Fazaz seen as a sort of a orm, (‘protected sanctuary’).26 Tafoudeït: name given to village and surrounding hilly country shared by Zemmour and Guerrouane along Oued Beth, upstream from Khemisset. Oued Beth itself–site of a terrible battle in Barghawata times–is seen by some Imhiouach prophesies as the place of destiny, a fact clearly stated in the following lines of verse: tsul baht ad tarew yiwn ušnid igan abexxan, yili s wazzar ad ikka s tiqqar ddunit ! One fine day in Oued Beth shall be born a shaggy Black donkey whose kicks will shake this world!27

Adarouch: proverbially excellent grazing country (site of present-day “King Ranch”) between Boufeqrane and Mrirt; often a bone of contention in the past between Beni Mguild and Zaïan. Tabadout: village near paysage d’Itto between El Hajeb and Azrou. It was the scene of some severe fighting against a French column in 1913-1914. Tigrigra: a fertile plain extending south-west from Azrou along the foot of the Middle Atlas to Sidi ‘Addi, featuring villages, meadows and orchards; was also much coveted in the past for its grazing.


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Zaouia Si ‘Abdesslam: small zawiya situated on Asif Tizguit a few miles downstream from Ifrane; has retained links with marabouts situated far to the south, including those at Zaouia Sidi Hamza. Daïet Aoua: large shallow lake in a broad bowl in the hills between Ifrane and Immouzzer-Kandar; has sometimes dried up completely in recent years due to drought and abuse of aquifer by motor-pumps irrigating orchards. Jbel Hayyane: (2,407m; ‘cold mountain’), highest point in the tabular Middle Atlas and former tribal rallying-point, especially during early-twentiethcentury battles around Bekrit. It retains residual snow-patches quite late in season (May). Oued Guigou (asif n yiyu): a river belonging to the Oued Sebou watershed that drains a vast upland plateau between Timhadit and Taghzout, now in Beni Mguild territory. Sunday market (ssuq es-sebt) at Almis is local focal-point for trading. Trout fishing. Jbel Fazaz: refers to hills that overlook Oued Guigou to the south, whereas name formerly applied to central and western part of Middle Atlas area. Amekla: a fertile plateau near Annoceur, south of Sefrou, associated with the zawiya of Sidi Raho ‘Arfaoui, famous early-twentieth-century holy man and resistance leader. Jbel Tichoukt: (2,790m); rather arid, oak- and cedar-clad mountain situated between Boulmane and al-Mers; became an impregnable fortress to Sidi Mohand and his dissident Ayt Seghrouchen tribesmen (1923-1926). Sidi Mohand Azeroual: small sanctuary at foot of eastern spur of Tichoukt, dedicated to a saint and miracle-worker who played a considerable role in local tribal politics several hundred years ago. Tilmirat: small hamlet in Beni Aliham territory; supposed to harbor a sacred juniper to which is attributed a mahdi-style legend. Jbel Bou Iblane: (3,190m), vast mountain range, snow-clad 6-7 months a year in Taza region; Sidi Raho and last die-hard resistance fighters in Middle Atlas surrendered there in summer of 1926. Zaouiat Oued Ifrane: zawiya and village situated between Aïn Leuh and Mrirt at the source of one of the headstreams of Oued Beth, overlooked by Tisigdelt plateau (probable site of Qal’at al-Mahdi). Very wooded, fertile spot. Adekhsane: site of an Almoravid fortress on plain about 10 kilometers south of Khenifra; was often used as base by ‘Alaouite sultans (1665-1750) during their campaigns against unruly tribes. Aamira (Lgara): site of former hilltop-fort lying due east of Khenifra and overlooking Adekhsane; belonged to some unknown independent Amazigh chief before being reduced by the Almoravid army. El Herri (lehri): lies about 10 kilometers south of Khenifra on Oued Chbouka. Site of Pyrrhic victory won by Moha ou Hammou over French

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


detachment under Colonel Laverdure in October 1914. Though many Moroccans were killed in the battle, it made a great impression on the French, dictating greater caution during their subsequent campaigning in the Atlas. Lqbab: the Ichqern “capital,” this small town overlooking Oued Srou has undergone recent construction of several unsightly apartment blocks. A district of the town, called Taqedoust, has long been associated with the Imhiouach marabouts. In the twentieth century was the residence of two devoted Roman Catholic fathers who, far from attempting to Chrisitianize the locals, did all they could merely to help them, and are highly thought of to this very day. Lenda (Lemda): small village surrounded by vast wheat-fields on the left bank of Oued Srou, situated a few miles west of Lqbab. Also the site of Moulay Slimane’s defeat at hands of Fazaz tribes united under Boubker Amhaouch (1818). The place, often mentioned in oral poetry, has since acquired truly mythical proportions in the hearts and minds of some members of the local population, being visualized as the once and future spiritual capital of the area; it symbolizes hopes of better times. Jbel Toujjit: prominent mythical mountain at the heart of central Morocco between Aghbala and Tounfit on the Moulouya/Oued el ‘Abid watershed, strongly associated with the Imhiouach marabouts, especially Sidi ‘Ali, who used to come and meditate there. It is also an area of refuge towards which mužahidin retreated during period of resistance to the French (1918-1931). According to local tradition, on a fine day you can see the holy town of Boujaad from the summit, thus establishing a visual link between two strong markers on the spiritual landscape. There is a small wooden hut on the summit, presumably to allow pilgrims to spend the night. Tazizaout (‘green mountain’): a remote, steep-sloped, cedar-covered ridge, surrounded by bushy ravines, lying between Aghbala and Imilchil. Site of a famous, month-long battle against the French in August 1932, which brought to a close the Imhiouach epic, and scene of a small musem celebrated every year for three days commencing August 24 to commemorate mužahidin who fell there.28

7. Brief Overview of Colonial Period Putting it in a nutshell, protectorate authorities saw their subjugation of the area as imposing a timely check on rebellious tribes that had been pushing their way north-west for centuries and now threatened to engulf the plains of the Gharb, Lyautey’s Maroc utile, which, according to the logic of the time, he had to protect; bolstering up the weakened ‘Alaouite dynasty was very much part of his underwear.


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Suffice it to say that for Middle Atlas Imazighen it was the end of the previously mentioned “land of heroes” and the collapse of a centuries-old traditional lifestyle. Their gallant resistance, their patriotic participation in famous battles, from Bou Denib in 1908 to the crowning tragedy of Tazizaout (1932), has finally been acknowledged. Though both these spots are somewhat “out of area” as far as Jbel Fazaz proper is concerned, numerous fighters from the Middle Atlas contributed to these campaigns and thus deserve to be mentioned here. While many of the young men later enrolled in the colonial army as Goums or Tirailleurs, later in the FAR, nothing would ever be the same again. For better or for worse, the local population were brought into contact with the modern age: first through exposure to heavy artillery, machine-guns and airplanes; later, and in more kindly fashion, with medicine, soap, hospitals, schools, roads and the rule of law. Serious curtailments were imposed on their freedom, especially regarding pastoral movements, use of forestry resources and feuding. To a people used to settling disputes their own way, with cold steel or rifle-shot, however, this was possibly the hardest thing to accept, as attested by many contemporary poems, as in the following:ay iysan, iƥab lİezz assa mƥar iney ša y iİerrimn isafer d uzif mš ur ƥursen illa w ba i ymssus llibas ! O horses, gone is bravery today; should one of Our young men set off on his steed, he goes unarmed; Truthfully, the spice of life has departed! tunf lİedda y ay imaziƥn, qqa zziyun iƥab wawal w wuzzal, iy awn uše ab l leİqul all la nna wr diyun! Our guns have been confiscated, O Berbers, for all of you, The sound if steel is silent, and honor is gone, You now react to an alien form of logic!29

8. Present-Day Period The Middle Atlas has acquired a reasonably well maintained road network, with regular bus-services, while mobile phone towers have mushroomed across the rural landscape. Health and educational services are in place; in theory, at least. Ifrane, Azrou and Sefrou have benefited from tourism, both national and international, and contain most of the urban resources one can expect to find. Reflecting phenomena such as rural exodus and population, the switch from

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


boondocks to boom towns has chiefly affected conglomerations such as Mrirt, Midelt, Khenifra, Sefrou and Ifrane, the last three having greatly benefited from becoming provincial capitals. Meanwhile, winter sports and summer tourism are becoming increasingly popular with weekenders from Fez, Meknes and Rabat. Economically speaking, however, the area has yet to take off, and a fairly large proportion of the population are living in, at best, straitened circumstances, while illiteracy still survives in most areas. Some development projects, such as the bituminous schist workings near Timhadit have, if anything, been counterproductive. More capital investment is required from outside, and not only with absentee land-lords enlarging their flocks (hence over-grazing), or massproduced chicken farms, or newly developed apple-orchards with water-pumps adversely affecting the water-table, though these activities do employ plenty of local labor. Happily, some locally financed NGO’s have appeared, in recent years, for agricultural30 or tourist-related projects, chiefly in the Irane-Azrou area, with the setting-up of dedicated guest-houses.31 Ski installations at Michliffen and Jbel Hebri require up-dating, and though other aspects of tourism (hunting-shooting, fishing, etc.) are developing, plans to set up a national park in the area, which, riding on the crest of the present world eco-tourism boom would no doubt further protect the cedar forest, have yet to materialize.32 The area as a whole, however, still suffers from its historical legacy as a potential hot-bed of rebellion. This particular instance of slanted vision is one of the corner-stones of the post-Protectorate Moroccan Vulgate, the Middle Atlas being unfairly seen by the urban glitterati as a reservoir of military man-power, a land of potential heretics, saints, sorcerers, shepherds, wool-spinners, ladies of the night and vernacular poets. While jokes about the Tanjaoui, Fassi, Berbri, Soussi, Marrakchi and the country rustics (lİerubiyin) of the Middle Atlas will always circulate (just like funny stories about Irishmen, Scots, Belgians or Auvergnats) what is needed is a sea-change in the hearts and minds of most city-dwelling Moroccans for a better understanding of the country’s rural population. Especially that of the Middle Atlas, formerly Jbel Fazaz. In this context it should not be forgotten that the people of the Middle Atlas “did their bit” defending their country against colonialism in the twentieth century; they are also good, hard-working Muslims. They understandably aspire to better living conditions and there is no reason why should not achieve their goal. In this respect, the founding of Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane in 19951996 constituted a happy innovation regarding interaction between officialdom and the locals. Apart from the numerous jobs created on and off campus, some cultural, sociological and ecological ties have been developed with the Ifrane community, while development projects (such as the Hillary Clinton


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Empowerment for Women and a carpet-weaving operation set up at the nearby village of Tarmilat) have got under way, chiefly targeting Zaouia Si ‘Abdesslam and Ben Smim. Far more relevant to the topic in hand, some experiments in Tamazight teaching have been implemented and, since 2001, a student’s association called “Tamesmount n-Al-Akhawayn” has organized several conferences on historical and cultural problems, while a “History and Culture of the Berbers” class, has been taught by the author of the present article and a dedicated text-book published.33 Mohammed VI’s October 2001 declaration at Ajdir also contributed towards bringing the Middle Atlas out from the cold and into mainstream Morocco. The fact that Tamazight is officially declared as being part of the national heritage, of which every Moroccan can be proud. The first four years of the subsequently founded IRCAM, however, have produced balanced results: on the one hand, numerous highly productive conferences have been held and Amazigh-related books have been written, including language text-books for in-class teaching that has been effective since 2003. On the other hand, there has been some ambiguity surrounding the Institute’s real goals, together with accusations that some government department were stalling, especially regarding use of the Tifinagh alphabet, teacher training, and application of language-teaching programs, not to mention their extension to secondary and higher education (as yet unachieved). On the whole, however, IRCAM programs have been prosecuted with a reasonably high degree of professionalism and have allowed of an upsurge of scholarship and general interest in a language and a culture that had been sidelined for centuries. The Middle Atlas (Jbel Fazaz) as one of the chief Amazigh areas of Morocco surely stands to gain from this ongoing process.


While there are many contemporary painters in the Maghreb working in a variety of artistic styles, including orientalism, realism and abstraction, artists have also used painting as a medium to preserve their Amazigh heritage and/or to reject European and Arabic artistic, cultural, and political influence. Ironically, these mostly male contemporary painters draw inspiration from the textiles, pottery, painted house interiors, tattoos, and jewelry created and worn by Amazigh women–arts that have drastically changed since the nineteenth century. Nationalistic agendas, changing gender roles, state education, mass media such as television, and mass-produced goods have all profoundly influenced Amazigh women’s artistic production. For example, tattooing is seen as anti-Islamic and a symbol of provinciality and has disappeared in all but elderly women. Few women construct and paint clay pottery, and they opt for imported plastic and glass containers instead. While carpet weaving still flourishes in Morocco, it is increasingly influenced by the commercial market, causing the introduction of new carpet dimensions, colors, and motifs geared to the taste of tourists. In the last generation, most Amazigh women have sold the silver jewelry and the amber necklaces their mothers and grandmothers wore to European collectors and tourist shops, preferring to wear gold jewelry or jewelry imported from Europe. This essay is intended to be an examination and analysis of contemporary Moroccan and Algerian painters who draw on Amazigh arts to express their own particular artistic and political agendas. After independence from France, a generation of academically trained Maghrebi painters desired to create a painting style that reflected the history and culture of their newly independent nations. Many of these painters appropriated Amazigh artistic forms to reject European style painting. appreciating the visual aesthetics of Amazigh art, and


Chapter Fourteen

treating it as folkloric decoration. In the 1990s Amazigh arts began to influence many self-taught painters involved in the increasingly active Amazigh political movement in Morocco and Algeria. These painters and political activists feared the Arabization of Amazigh culture and viewed themselves as the contemporary custodians of Amazigh consciousness. They felt it was their responsibly to ensure the continuation of Amazigh arts into the future. Regardless, these painters drew inspiration from the artistic heritage of Amazigh women to create a new painting style that gave material form to their view of Amazigh history and identity. These painters, typically men, expressed their consciousness of the Imazighen in a gendered fashion, typically depicting art forms created, used, and/or worn by women, including jewelry, textiles, and tattoo motifs on their canvases.

1. Amazigh Art as a Response to Colonialism The appropriation of Amazigh art by contemporary painters in Morocco and Algeria began as a response to colonialism and a reflection of European painterly techniques. During the French colonial period of Algeria and Morocco, colonial governmental politics manipulated and controlled artistic production. For example, colonial governments established textile, embroidery, and ceramic workshops in order to regulate indigenous artistic activity and save it from its so-called decline (Benjamin 2003, Clancy-Smith 1999). The French colonial government also opened art academies where Algerians and Moroccans studied European painterly techniques and a European-based history of art (Irbouh 2005). After Algeria and Morocco gained their independence from France, a generation of Maghrebi painters desired to create a painting style free from European influence that would serve as a symbol of their national identity (Irbouh 1998: 50). These newly organized governments promoted an ArabIslamic national identity, attempting to subsume their large Amazigh populations. Since French colonial politics in the Maghreb tended to exaggerate Arab-Imazighen differences in order to facilitate their divide and rule policies, the Moroccan and Algerian governments viewed the public recognition of ArabImazighen differences as a colonial vestige and a subversion of national unity. Maghrebi painters, working in the 1950s and ‘60s, created designs based on Arabic calligraphy, Arab architecture, or used Amazigh geometric motifs in a very abstract fashion. Artists who appropriated Amazigh motifs, colors, and patterns typically reduced them to their basic geometric forms to effectively neutralize their potential political volatility. The intentional use of Amazigh arts for political purposes would have been viewed during this period as a political action against the Arab-Islamic national governments of Morocco and Algeria.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


However, artists, who used Amazigh motifs to create abstract two-dimensional patterns that only faintly resembled the textiles, tattoos, and ceramics from which the patterns were appropriated, achieved considerable fame both within their countries and beyond. One such artist was the Moroccan painter Ahmed Cherkaoui (b. 1934), who, after having learned calligraphy in Morocco, traveled to Paris and Warsaw to study painting in 1956. In 1962, Cherkaoui received a UNESCO grant to do research in Morocco on indigenous art, and after returning to Europe, began to paint with wide black brush strokes on textured jute. Cherkaoui’s art is often described as “authentically Moroccan,” since it was enriched by Islamic architecture, Sufism, Arabic calligraphy, and Amazigh arts (El Maleh 1997: 98). For example, one of the biggest influences on Cherkaoui was his memory of his mother’s tattoos, hence he referred to the designs on his canvases as “my mother’s signs” (El Maleh, 1996: 49). In Cherkaoui’s untitled work from 1965, his thick black paint strokes can also be compared to the dense black geometric lines painted by Amazigh women on their hand-coiled ceramics (Figures 1 and 2). However, Cherkaoui’s painting style differs in that his black lines are curvaceous, diffuse, and porous, allowing the surface of textured jute to emerge.

Figure 14-1 Ahmed Cherkaoui, Untitled (1965) gouache on jute, 25 cm x 32 cm. Collection of the Banque Commerciale du Maroc


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Figure 14-2 Kabyle women’s pottery in Algeria Photo by Cynthia Becker, 2006

El Maleh (1997: 97) poetically describes Cherkaoui’s brush strokes as “traces of memory” that recall the multiple influences from Cherkaoui’s birthplace and illustrate the central paradox present in Cherkaoui’s work: the dichotomy between craft and fine art. While Cherkaoui drew from motifs inspired by Amazigh textiles, ceramics, and jewelry engraved on his memory from his childhood in Morocco, he did more than recreate Amazigh artistic motifs. Cherkaoui broke designs and symbols down into their basic elements, such as the lozenge, triangle, curved line, and dot, to create his own language. In Figure 14-1, he painted a large oval in the center of his canvas that was not entirely closed, allowing for small circular designs to emerge and grow out of it. This composition can be interpreted as a metaphor for the birth of a new form of artistic expression. His painting style was anchored in tradition yet revivified and challenged by modernity (El Maleh 1997: 99).1 Although Cherkaoui passed away in 1967 when he was only 33 years old, his use of indigenous Moroccan art inspired other Maghrebi painters. For example, Farid Belkahia, one of the most prolific contemporary Moroccan painters, came to recognize that what makes Morocco distinct from other countries in North Africa is its large indigenous Amazigh population. Between 1954 and 1962, Belkahia (b. 1934) studied in Europe, returning to Morocco and becoming director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Belkahia rejected his European academic training, desiring to decolonize art to create an artistic style free from colonial influence. Rather than concentrate on teaching his students European artistic techniques based on threedimensional representations of the human body or still life painting, students studied indigenous Moroccan artistic forms, such as Amazigh carpets, Amazigh jewelry, calligraphy, and metalwork (Irbouh 1998). Belkahia himself began to work with Moroccan artistic techniques and materials such as copper and leather, with the goal of breaking down the dichotomies that existed in Morocco between artist and artisan. He even rid himself of the standard four-sided rectangular canvas preferring to create curvilinear wooden frames, stretching animal skins over them (Benchemsi 1995: 15). Belkahia painted and colored the skin with dyes made from natural plants, such as saffron and henna, to create irregularly shaped organic compositions as large as 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide.2 Belkahia’s amorphous leather canvases mimicked the techniques used by Morocco’s male artisans who worked in the tanneries of Fes and Marrakesh, constructing leather bags and stretching skins over drums. However, women’s artistic production influenced Belkahia the most. Henna and saffron, the plant materials he grinded and mixed with water to create the pigments necessary to paint his leather canvases, are materials intimately connected with women in Morocco. Saffron was used until the 1970s as makeup by Amazigh women and Amazigh brides in southern Morocco continue to paint their faces with saffron on the final day of the wedding. Women throughout the Maghreb commonly stain their hands and feet with henna during celebratory occasions (Figure 3) (Becker 2006; Kapchan 1993:8).

Figure 14-3 This Amazigh bride from southern Morocco had her hands painted with henna and a wool thread woven through her fingers. Her husband will untie the thread on their wedding night. Photo by Cynthia Becker 1997


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The influence of women’s artistic production on Belkahia’s art can best be seen in his series of leather canvases based on the form of a large hand. The hands were decorated with black, deep red, and orange geometric motifs reminiscent of Moroccan women's henna designs. In fact, Belkahia stated that some of his hand-shaped canvases so accurately and meticulously reproduced women’s henna designs that Moroccan women were typically shocked that a man, rather than a woman, produced these works.3 When he created his Main, “Hand,” featured in figure 4, he painted two oval shaped eyes, referring to the Moroccan use of the hand motif (called a khamsa in Arabic) as protection against the evil eye. The large hand itself symbolically protects against the evil eye by blocking and deflecting the energy of this negative gaze or glance.

Figure 14-4 Farid Belkahia, Main (“Hand,” 1980), henna on skin, 152 cm x 124.5 cm. Collection of the artist.

On the hand itself, Belkahia reproduced the symbols and signs woven by women into Amazigh textiles, tattooed on Amazigh women’s foreheads, and painted on Amazigh women’s ceramics. On the center of the hand’s palm, he expressly incorporated the Tifinagh script, using six Tifinagh letters to write a Moroccan Arab woman's name (Saâida). The Tifinagh script is an Amazigh writing form believed to be related to the ancient Punic script and was once commonly used throughout North Africa from Libya to the Canary Islands (Figure 5). The script was no longer used in the Maghreb after the third century A.D. but a form of this ancient script survives today among the Tuareg, an

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Amazigh population who live in the Saharan and Sahelean regions of Mali, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Tifinagh letters consist of circles and geometric symbols and are used today by women and blacksmiths to write short intimate messages on jewelry and other household items. Although the script has not been used for hundreds of years in the Maghreb, Amazigh activists in Morocco and Algeria adopted Tifinagh to write poetry, songs, and political slogans promoting their Amazigh heritage. In Morocco, the public display of Tifinagh was considered to be a politically charged act of aggression against the government. For example, in 1994 seven members of the Moroccan Amazigh cultural association of Goulmima called Tilelli, meaning “Freedom” in Tamazight, were arrested after publicly carrying banners with political slogans (some written in Tifinagh) that promoted the recognition of Morocco's Imazighen (Maddy-Weitzman 2002: 161).4 In Algeria, however, the Tifinagh script has more public visibility and is often used to label public buildings in predominantly Amazigh areas, such as Kabylia (Figure 5).

Figure 14-5 The signs adorning the Maison de la Culture Mouloud Mammeri in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria is written using both Latin and Tifinagh characaters. Photo by Cynthia Becker, 2006

Belkahia blended the Tifinagh letters with similar geometric and circular forms, such as repeating triangles, diamond shapes, spirals, arrows, and the eye motifs. He removed the script from its historical and cultural origins, distancing


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himself from politics of the Amazigh Movement within Morocco. He further distanced himself from the Amazigh Movement by using Tifinagh to write an Arab woman’s name, rather than an Amazigh one. Belkahia’s use of Tifinagh could have resonated strongly with the Amazigh Movement in the Maghreb, since one of its goals is the preservation and recognition of Amazigh languages. However, the Imazighen do not consider Belkahia an Amazigh artist or an artist sympathetic to the Amazigh Movement. Belkahia appropriated Amazigh motifs and writing with the goal of disengaging contemporary Moroccan art from European influence. According to Belkahia, Amazigh arts consist of universalist symbols common to many indigenous cultures.5 He sees Morocco as a multi-cultural pluralistic society and presents the Tifinagh script as non-threatening almost whimsical folkloric decoration. While artists, such as Cherkaoui and Belkahia, drew aesthetic inspiration from the Amazigh artistic vocabulary, the Algerian and Moroccan post-colonial governments frowned upon overt expressions of Amazigh identity as an attempt to divide and disrupt their nations. In both Algeria and Morocco, poets, writers, and teachers who published books in Tamazight (the Amazigh language) or publicly demanded the recognition of their country’s Amazigh heritage were often arrested or even assassinated. The Imazighen came to be associated with rebelliousness against the national government. Ironically, as these governments suppressed Amazigh activists, the Moroccan government began to feature photographs of Imazighen on travel brochures and Amazigh musicians performed at government-organized festivals geared to promote tourism. Amazigh political activists angrily complained that the Moroccan government was reducing Amazigh culture to a folkloric commodity for tourists and claimed that Arab domination of the economic resources and political discourse of the country marginalized the Imazighen (Almasude 1999: 119). In the 1980s and ‘90s Amazigh political activists became involved in more aggressive actions and public protests, insisting on Amazigh language instruction in schools and the incorporation of Amazigh languages in the media. The artist Hamid Kachmar, for example, recounted that Amazigh children in Morocco, his country of origin, were meant to feel inferior when they entered school and classes were held entirely in Arabic rather than Tamazight.6 Although this is beginning to change in Morocco with the gradual introduction of Tamazight in primary schools, other discrimination exists. Moroccan families are legally forbidden to give their children Amazigh names, contributing to the Arabization of the Amazigh culture. Amazigh artists feel the necessity to preserve, affirm, and promote their Amazigh identity and their paintings give material form to their Amazigh consciousness.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


2. Art and Amazigh Consciousness One of the most politically engaged Amazigh artists in Morocco is Mohamed Mallal, who is a painter, singer, poet, art teacher, and Amazigh activist living in the southern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate. Mallal fears that outsiders view the Amazigh culture as an ancient, primitive, and folkloric culture isolated in remote mountain villages without any usefulness in the modern world. However he feels that if the Amazigh language and culture has more public visibility it can become more readily integrated into contemporary Moroccan life.7 Mohamed Mallal's art suggests that the Imazighen across northern Africa must recognize their fraternity across national boundaries in order to strengthen the public recognition of the Imazighen. For example, he often paints images of the Tuareg, whom he refers to as his brothers in his poetry. In Untitled from 2004, he created a stereotypical and romanticized desert scene featuring a Tuareg man riding a camel (Figure 6). Many of Mallal's paintings reinforce the fellowship he feels with the Tuareg, who are a minority population within the countries they live and are struggling for cultural survival. For Mallal and others involved in the Amazigh Movement, the Tuareg represent a nostalgic and idealized image of the Imazighen living a noble existence unspoiled and uncorrupted by outside influence. He typically includes faint letters written in the Tifinagh script on the top right corners of his canvases. Although the Tifinagh letters chosen by Mallal do not spell out particular words, they symbolize his Amazigh identity (Becker 2006: 188).

Figure 14-6 Mohamed Mallal, Untitled (2004), acrylic on canvas, 92 cm x 80 cm


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Mohamed Mallal’s goal to strengthen and modernize the Amazigh culture led him to encourage his sister’s painting career. Mohamed’s sister, Fatima Mellal (b. 1968), is one of Mallal’s seven siblings. Unlike her five brothers, Fatima Mellal and her sister never attended school. Fatima Mellal only speaks Tamazight, and, like most women in her natal village of Tamellalt was a carpet weaver. She primarily wove blankets and floor coverings for her family, occasionally selling woven textiles to other families living in her remote village. Eight years ago at the age of thirty, she turned from textile weaving to painting on canvas because she felt that her paintings could reach a broader audience than her woven blankets and carpets.8 Indeed this was the case and the first time she left southern Morocco was in 2002 to travel to Switzerland, invited to exhibit her paintings in a Zurich art gallery.9 In her untitled painting from 2004, she depicted a window surrounded by a red wall (Figure 7). On the wall, Mellal painted stereotypical objects associated with Amazigh culture: the amber necklace at the bottom left surrounds a fortified mudbrick and stone farmhouse typical of southern Morocco, two ceramic jars are above that, and two fibulae float on the top left of the canvas.10 When one peers through the window, one sees a man sitting on a magnificent carpet and preparing tea. Behind him is another window featuring Mellal’s rural village of Tamellalt with a river flowing through its unique rock formations. Small stick figures appear to be flocking near the river.

Figure 14-7 Fatima Mellal, Untitled (2004), acrylic on canvas, 92 cm x 80 cm. Collection of the artist.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Fatima Mellal’s transition from a traditional artistic media, like weaving, to a more contemporary form, like painting, is unusual but may provide insight into the future of Amazigh women arts. Mellal continues to weave, and after her brother taught her the Tifinagh script, she began to weave Tifinagh letters into her carpets (Figure 8). For example, the carpet that she painted in figure 7 has a horizontal border adorned with the Tifinagh letter “Z.” “Z” is the central character in the word “Amazigh” and its stem MZG, meaning “free person.” This letter has been adopted by the Amazigh Movement to symbolize liberty and is also found on the Amazigh flag first presented at the Amazigh World Congress in the Canary Islands in 1997. The Amazigh flag, seen in Figure 9, features the colors green, yellow, and blue with a large red “Z” written in Tifinagh.

Figure 14-8 Fatima with her paintings and woven carpets. Photo courtesy of Fatima Mellal, 2002.

There are many artists in both Algeria and Morocco who utilize Tifinagh in their artwork. One of the most prolific calligraphers of Tifinagh is Fouad Lahbib (b. 1955), an artist, writer, and researcher at the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) in Morocco.11 In particular, Lahbib (who exhibits under the name Yeshou) creates abstract calligraphic signs that are based on both the Tifinagh script and what he refers to as “ancestral signs,” such as tattoos.12 He typically paints one central Tifinagh-inspired letter and accompanies it with smaller designs that are stylized letters from the Tifinagh script or abstract symbols inspired by Tifinagh (Figure 10). Lahbib, who first learned Tifinagh in


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the early 1990s, stated that his goal is to give aesthetic valor to the Tifinagh script.

Figure 14-9 A concert attendant at a Berber music festival in Paris wears the Amazigh flag draped over his shoulders. Photo by Cynthia Becker, 2003.

Figure 14-10 Fouad Lahbib. Ta beghest (Courage, 2001), gouache on canvas, 59 cm x 56 cm. Collection of Yazid Djerbib.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


His painting from 2001 entitled Ta beghest, meaning “Courage,” was done to commemorate a specific confrontation that occurred in Kabylia (Algeria) between the police and Amazigh activists in 2001 during which a young man named Massinissa Guermah was killed. This painting pays tribute to this young man’s courage and that of the Imazighen in general as they struggle to preserve their cultural heritage. In the center of the canvas, Lahbid painted his personalized and abstracted version of the Tifinah letters M and G, paying homage to the dead man. He chose to paint using the colors red and black to stimulate the violent conflicts that occurred in Kabylia during this time. Although the Tifinagh script has not been in use in Morocco for centuries, painters such as Lahbib Fouad recognize that its use is an important affirmation of Amazigh identity. The Moroccan artist, art teacher, and Amazigh political activist Mouhand Saidi also promotes the use of the Tifinah script, teaching illiterate women in his local Amazigh association in Errachidia how to crochet Tifinagh letters (Figure 11). Saidi chose crochet because he realized that most young Amazigh women preferred this to carpet weaving. He also hopes to persuade women to embroider Tifinagh letters on their bed coverings rather than the popular Arab styles of embroidery. Saidi firmly believes that Amazigh women must not forget the traditions of the past, but as a teacher, he recognizes that young Amazigh women's lives are rapidly changing.

Figure 14-11 Muhand Saidi’s crocheted bowl cover with a Tifinagh letter “Z” Photo by Cynthia Becker, 2004


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Saidi’s art and his activism honor the creative power of women and their role in the preservation of Amazigh identity. In his canvas entitled Tahruyt, he created a mixed media composition that features an acrylic painting placed over an embroidered head covering typical of his southern Moroccan homeland (Figure 12). In addition to the embroidered head covering, his completed artwork clearly uses feminine symbols, such as a hand decorated with a mélange of tattoo designs from different areas of the Maghreb. He also chooses to depict a tattooed woman with long brown hair to make the point that Amazigh women in the past did not cover their heads with scarves. Saidi feels that the use of head scarves by Amazigh women is a relatively recent Islamic influence introduced by Arabs and imposed on the Amazigh culture. The series of vertical bands directly under the woman's face represents the style of flatwoven carpet typically found in the region and pays tribute to the textiles woven by his mother.13

Figure 14-12 Mouhand Saidi, Tahruyt (2004), Mixed Media, 65 cm x 50 cm. Collection of the artist.

The artist Abdallah Aourik (b. 1946) from Agadir, Morocco also recognizes that the survival of the Amazigh culture and language has been largely due to women. Aourik feels that women passed the language on to their children and preserved the Tifinagh script, not through writing, but through the motifs incorporated into the carpets, tattoos, and pottery they created. Aourik pays tribute to women in his paintings through his depiction of argan oil production. The argan tree only grows in Aourik’s homeland of southwestern Morocco where Amazigh women grind the nut to produce oil. His painting entitled Azzad

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


or “Grinding” from 1994 is one of a series of six different canvases devoted to women’s argan production (Figure 13). Aourik’s goal was to draw attention to the decline of argan production due to climatic and environmental factors, to record this endangered Amazigh tradition, and to preserve it for future generations.14

Figure 14-13 Abdallah Aourik, Azzad (Grinding, 1994). Oil on canvas, 88 cm x 66 cm. Collection of the artist.

Mohamed Ziyani, a self-taught male artist living in Tinghrir in southern Morocco, also pays tribute to Amazigh women in his acrylic painted canvas from 2000 entitled Fertility (Figure 14). Both the title of this painting and the motifs he painted refer to the life giving powers of women. First he created an anthropomorphic form with a stylized circular head and a body made of two overlapping triangles with truncated bottoms. The vertical line that emerges from the center of the overlapping triangles suggest that this is meant to represent fibulae, silver pendants once commonly worn by Amazigh women. Inside the triangles he painted a ceramic vessel, referring to the idea of woman


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as container. He also painted two sets of broaches or fibulae at the base of each triangle, further indicating that the figure represents a woman. Ziyani divided this anthropomorphic figure into two halves. On the left side, Ziyani painted a blue rainy sky. On the right, he painted geometric shapes, commonly found in Amazigh women’s tattoos or textiles that seem in this painting to refer to wheat and barley growing under a bright sunny sky.

Figure 14-14 Mohamed Ziyani, Fertility (2004), Acrylic on canvas, 65 cm x 50 cm. Collection of the artist.

The wave-like triangular motifs at the bottom of the canvas also refered to rainfall and flowing rivers. His use of rain in this image of Amazigh womanhood was based on the telghonja ceremony once commonly performed in southern Morocco. In times of extended drought, Imazighen in the Maghreb once commonly held these ceremonies, also referred to as “bride of the rain” ceremonies, where women dressed a doll as a bride and sang songs asking for rain. The word telghonja derives from a large wooden ladle used as the base of the doll. The ladle dressed as a bride made clear references to fertility and abundance, celebrating female reproductive power. Hence, Ziyani, like most of the artists discussed, makes a connection between women, fertility, and the propagation of the Amazigh culture. Ziyani also referred to the “bride of the rain,” a ceremony often interpreted as representing the Imazighen’s pre-Islamic worship of a rain god and goddess, in order to recreate an imagined pre-Islamic

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


past and to counter national narratives based on an Arab identity and a connection to Islam.15

3. Memory, Exile, and Homeland Most of the Amazigh artists previously discussed created paintings that almost appear to be conventionalized and whimsical scenes of Amazigh daily life. However, their intention was to subvert and confront the status quo by depicting stereotypical objects, people, and scenes characteristic of their particular region of the Maghreb. In doing so they attempt to reconstruct a preIslamic Amazigh homeland that was closely connected with nature and untouched and influenced by outside influence. According to the Amazigh artist Hamid Kachmar, this is because Amazigh culture, especially its arts, is intimately linked to a specific sense of place due to the history and struggle of the Imazighen. The successive invasions that Imazighen have experienced through the centuries (Phoenician, Roman, Arab), forced them to inhabit harsh and extreme territories, such as deserts or mountains, that invaders could not reach. Consequently, the Imazighen borrowed patterns from their niche’s landscape and incorporated these into their woven carpets, tattoos, and painted ceramics. Triangles may refer to mountains peaks, and repetitive horizontal lines may imply the vastness of the desert and its horizons. By incorporating patterns, shapes, colors, and forms from his surrounding landscape. Kachmar recounts that he seeks the clemency of nature and “her” benediction.16 Kachmar represents the natural environment and gives visual expression to his idea of homeland by depicting the forms, shapes and patterns of the organic world on his canvases, such as the painting Akham, “Tent,” from 2001 (Figure 15). In order to create Akham, his color palette includes earth tones reminiscent of southeastern Morocco, his place of birth, to recreate the colors of this desert region’s soil (used to create its characteristic mud brick architecture), clay, and wood. Kachmar’s painting also emphasized the importance of texture in Amazigh art. For example, one cannot purchase an Amazigh carpet without touching it, feeling its wool and the tightness of its weave. Hence Kachmar placed a large rectangular piece of canvas over the center of the large canvas creating a complex and layered texture. He connected the two pieces of canvas with woven cords, reminiscent of a nomadic tent, so that the painting appears to have been stitched together over a long period of time. He intentionally tries to convey the sense of time, since for Kachmar, the texture of a surface conveys memories.


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Figure 14-15 Hamid Kachmar, Akham (Tent, 2001), mixed media on canvas, 25 cm x 31 cm

The smaller rectangular piece of canvas and its attached cords also refer to the subject of the painting, the nomadic tent. Nomads often live in remote areas isolated from others, and, for Kachmar, this is a metaphor for the struggle of the Imazighen, who often feel isolated socially and politically in their own countries. Kachmar’s work also pays tribute to women’s work since women made the tents, creating the symbols of Amazigh life. The Moroccan artist Mohamed Nabili (b. 1952) uses texture to depict memories of a mythical Saharan landscape on his sand-covered canvases. Nabili did not grow up in an Amazigh village and does not speak Tamazight. However, he considers himself to be a “true” Moroccan with both Arab and Amazigh ancestry. Nabili, who spent much of his life working and teaching art in France, explained to me that he was inspired to learn about the Imazighen, especially the Saharan dwelling of the Tuareg. While he often features Tifinagh letters on his sand covered canvases, Nabili also considers himself a universalist who borrows symbols common to many indigenous cultures.17 In his Untitled work from his series Memory of Sand from 1997, the coarse texture of Nabili’s sand-covered canvases and his use of tan and ochre hues evoke the desert (Figure 16). On the bottom right of the canvas, he used a deep blue indigo color to paint geometric symbols that resembles a talismanic chart or magic square based on the Tifinagh script and motifs from Amazigh women’s arts. Clearly Nabili feels that his Moroccan heritage grants him the license to appropriate Amazigh symbols and signs. Nabili’s color palette also refers to the Amazigh culture, in particular the indigo-dyed clothing of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Tuareg. Tuaregs are often referred to as the “blue people” due indigo-dyed clothing they wear that stains their skin blue.

Figure 14-16 Mohamed Nabili, Untitled (1997). Mixed Media (dimensions unknown)

The rough texture of the sand covered canvas along with the faint French script and vague Tifinagh-like letters create an abstract surface pattern that looks weathered and aged, associating the Amazigh culture with an ancient past. However, unlike Kachmar, who grew up in a southern Amazigh village (Goulmima) speaking Tamazight, Nabili did not and currently lives in the northern Moroccan town of Ben Slimane. Is Nabili’s art an attempt to romanticize and folklorize the Amazigh culture or does Nabili’s art serve to validate Amazigh culture? Who has the right to recreate Amazigh art in the contemporary artistic mode of easel painting? Does one have to be of Amazigh heritage in order to be a “true” Amazigh artist? Does one have to be fluent in Tamazight or grow up in a remote Amazigh village? Is it possible to develop an Amazigh consciousness? Denis Martinez, an Algerian artist of Spanish ancestry is clearly someone with an Amazigh consciousness. Martinez’s family has lived in Algeria for generations but Martinez was forced to flee to France when his life was threatened by religious extremists in 1993. A former art professor at the École des Beaux Arts in Algiers, Martinez has a history of making art clearly influenced by both Tuareg art and Kabyle women’s art (Saadi 2003). Martinez continues to be inspired by Tuareg and Kabyle arts because they allow him to express his anxiety over his exile in France and his desire to return to Algeria.


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In his installation/performance piece entitled La Fenêtre du Vent, (The Window of the Wind), Martinez created a large life-sized open window decorated with bright Amazigh colors and motifs reminiscent of Kabyle women’s embroidery and wall paintings. This work, first realized in 2002, was inspired by Martinez’s 1986 visit to the village of Koukou located on a steep mountaintop in Kabylia. In the cemetery of Koukou and near the tomb of a marabout, Martinez noticed a modest building with a small paneless window. When he asked about the building’s function, he was told that pilgrims visited the building, especially the married women and young children left behind in the village while their husbands worked in France. In the 1960s, the massive immigration of Kabyle men to France meant that women were often left behind in Algeria to manage their households alone. Until recently, there would be little daily communication between the Kabyle immigrant in France and the wife and family he left behind in Algeria. Phone calls were expensive, most people did not know how to read and write, so letters were rarely sent. Men only came back to Algeria once every year or two, hence women who wished to communicate with their husbands would visit this house in the cemetery. Women stood in front of the paneless window and chanted songs and poetry of longing to their husbands, brothers and fathers, believing that the winds of the Mediterranean would carry their words across the sea to their husband's ears in France. Martinez felt touched by how the absence of communication caused people to formulate creative ways to express their longing, sorrow, and pain. His memories from the village of Koukou resurfaced when he found himself in the position of exile. In 1993 Martinez left Algeria for France, a time when many Algerian artists and intellectuals feared assassination by religious radicals. Martinez intended for his exile to be temporary but it has continued until today. His contemporary situation of exile, however, is more economic than political since he lost his job as professor of fine arts in Algiers and is now teaching at the École des Beaux Arts in Aix-en-Provence. When Martinez first arrived in France, he anxiously listened to the radio for news of assassinations and imprisonments of his friends and family. A few months after he fled Algeria, he heard that the director of the École des Beaux Arts and his son (Ahmed and Rabah Asselah) were assassinated at the school. Hence, he considered issues of suffering, communication and exile on a daily basis as he recreated his life in a new place far from home. He felt it was safe to return to Algeria for the first time in the year 2000. While visiting a café he once frequented with his friends, one of Martinez’s former students gave him a small stone from the village of Koukou, inspiring Martinez to create his own version of the window at Koukou, calling it La Fenêtre du Vent, meaning The Window of the Wind, using it to explore his personal anxieties concerning communication, exile, and healing.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


He created The Window of the Wind in 2002 as a large portable canvas that could be easily moved from place to place (Figure 17). The Window of the Wind was part installation and part performance. Martinez would stand in front of the window and recite the names of his friends who were killed in Algeria. The Window of the Wind traveled from 2002 until 2004 to Timimoun in Algeria, to Grenoble, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence in France, and finally to Ait Yenni in Kabylia. Martinez’s The Window of the Wind was therapeutic: participants stood behind the window and recited poetry, discussed art, and sang songs. More importantly, The Window of the Wind allowed Algerian immigrants in France to express the pain of exile and those in Algeria to publicly recount the suffering and trauma they experienced during the violent conflicts of the 1990s.

Figure 14-17 Photo of Denis Martinez in La Fenêtre du Vent (The Window of the Wind, 2002-2004). 250 cm x 200 cm Photo courtesy of the artist

The designs Martinez used to decorate his window was also inspired by Kabyle and Tuareg art. He drew inspiration from Kabyle women’s painted interiors, Kabyle women’s embroidery, and Tuareg sand drawing.18 In an Algerian context, both the Kabyle and the Tuareg represent a spirit of resistance.


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In Algeria, the Kabyle represent a spirit of resistance evident in their historical struggles against the Phoenicians and Romans and later the Arabs and the French. For Martinez, a non-Muslim Algerian of Spanish decent, the Imazighen also represent rebelliousness against the oppressive post-colonial Algerian government as well as religious extremists. This examination of the art of both the Amazigh and non-Amazigh artists reflects the paradoxical situation of Amazigh arts today. Amazigh women’s art forms are rapidly changing due to economic, social, and political factors, often resulting in their transformation and disappearance, even as active political movements in Morocco and Algeria call for the recognition of Amazigh language and heritage and the official acknowledgement of the contribution of the Imazighen to Moroccan and Algerian history and culture. Contemporary painters, however, give a new life to Amazigh women’s visual vocabulary, appropriating it to give material form to their own conceptions of their nations’ multicultural identity. These artists consistently use Amazigh women’s arts to deal with issues of memory and identity. They ensure the survival of the artistic heritage of the Amazigh culture into the future and use art to give material form to their particular vision of Amazigh identity and Amazigh consciousness.

Part V: Amazigh Women: A Double “Minority” Status


Because there is no Originator, the nation’s biography can not be written evangelically, ‘down time,’ through a long procreative chain of begettings. The alternative is to fashion it ‘up time’…. This fashioning, however, is marked by deaths, which, in a curious inversion of conventional genealogy, start from an originary present. World War II begets World War I; out of Sedan comes Austerlitz; the ancestor of the Warsaw Uprising is the state of Israel. (Anderson 1991, 205) Some nations have certainly emerged without the blessings of their own state. (Gellner 1983, 6)

1. Introduction The Two Wars for Western Sahara In mid-October 1975, Morocco’s King Hassan II declared his intent to invade a territory now known as Western Sahara. The late monarch believed that Spain would not put up much of a fight for its Britain-sized colony in the desert. Spanish colonial administrators and diplomats were reticent to quit the territory because Generalissimo Franco had promised the indigenous population a referendum on independence; Madrid’s ‘ultranationalists’ were too eager to abandon it to Hassan; yet both wanted to avoid a messy ‘colonial’ war at all costs. Joined by Mauritania, King Hassan’s gambit worked, at least in part because elite policymakers, like then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, felt that supporting the Moroccan monarchy was in the West’s best Cold War interests. On 14 November 1975, Spain signed over Western Sahara to Rabat and Nouakchott.1

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


The Moroccan-Mauritanian invasion did trigger a war in Western Sahara, but not against Spain. Far from the attention of the world’s media focused on a massing contingent of 350,000 Moroccan civilians preparing to march into Spanish Sahara, small bands of Western Saharan guerillas were facing off against the Moroccan army. These Saharan fighters were members of the Polisario Front, an indigenous national liberation movement. For two years, they had been staging hit-and-run raids against Spanish positions in the hinterland. In the cities, the Front had organized native activists into dozens of autonomous clandestine cells (KhalƗyƗ) for political action and mobilization. When the Moroccan-Mauritanian take-over was made official, thousands of native Western Saharans rallied to the flag of the Polisario, which had set up its operations outside of Tindouf, Algeria. Although Algeria had shown little interest in Western Saharan nationalism beforehand, it suddenly threw its weight behind Polisario’s cause in late 1975. This support helped Polisario fight the Moroccan occupation for fifteen long years; it has also given them the wherewithal to shelter nearly half the indigenous population in exile to present. The war for the Western Sahara lasted until 1991, though Polisario had driven Mauritania out twelve years prior. By the late 1980s, Morocco and Polisario knew that they could not affect a military victory, so winning would have to be achieved by other means. In 1988, the UN Secretary-General hoped to settle the question by holding a referendum, which King Hassan had agreed to in principle. The United Nations would ask the Western Saharans, for the first time since being declared a colony in the mid-1960s, whether or not they wanted independence. When UN peacekeepers arrived in 1991, many observers thought that the conflict would be over in months. The refugees near Tindouf began preparing to return as Morocco flooded the territory with prospective referendum voters and their families. Few would have imagined that the United Nations would still be present fifteen years later without a single ballot cast. During the 1990s, the conflict in Western Sahara shifted from the battlefields in the open desert to the identification centers of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). Polisario and Morocco no longer fought to win land or inflict material damage. Rather, they both sought to convince MINURSO’s Identification Commission that certain people should be allowed to decide the territory’s future while certain others should not. Where Spanish colonial documentation failed to convince, the memories of elderly and respected Western Saharans (shuynjkh) became weapons. The issue was no longer a question of whose military or diplomacy would win but, to paraphrase a former head of the operation, it was a matter of whose “Sahrawis” would get to vote. During the six years it took to establish an electorate for the referendum, 1994 to 2000, identity was the central issue, the terrain of struggle in the Western Sahara conflict. In this second war for Western Sahara, identity was the


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battlefield. While the United Nations was eventually able to resolve who should and should not be allowed to vote, it was not able to clarify the still contested nature of identity in Western Sahara, especially the all important category Sahrawi.

The Sahrawi/Western Saharan Problematic In the literature on Western Sahara, the term Sahrawi (–aÝrƗwƯ in Arabic, normally Saharaoui in French and often Sahraui in Spanish) is used to mean indigenous Western Saharan, though this is not accurate. Indeed, it is sufficient on most accounts that an ethnic Sahrawi only has to successfully claim descent from one of the recognized Sahrawi social groupings (i.e., confederation, tribe or tribal sub-fraction). A member of the RgaybƗt al-GuwƗsim, the largest “Sahrawi” confederation associated with Spanish Sahara, could inhabit Morocco, Algeria or Mauritania without ever having set foot in Western Sahara. While she speaks the same language as a native Western Saharan, is a member of a confederation found in Western Sahara, and shares the same culture and history as native Western Saharans, she is not a Western Saharan in the political sense. Thus any definition of Sahrawi that limits the category to persons native to Western Sahara (i.e., only Western Saharans are Sahrawi, and not vice versa) is overly restrictive. Such a definition would, for example, exclude ethnic Sahrawi nationalist-activists native to southern Morocco. Take for example this definition provided by Tony Hodges and Anthony Pazzanita in their dictionary of the Western Sahara. Sahrawis are “the Ahel esSahel” [“people of the littoral”], the inhabitants of the Atlantic coastal belt of the desert roughly encompassed by the borders of what is now known as Western Sahara.” For these two scholars, defining Sahrawi is problematic in only two respects: The term has thus come to be synonymous with “Western Saharan,” though the tribes that composed the Ahel es-Sahel nomadized over a wide area, crossing the “frontiers” imposed by the colonial powers in the twentieth century. Moreover, during the process of sedentation in the second half of the twentieth century, many Sahrawis settled in the neighboring territories.2

The problem with Hodges’ and Pazzanita’s definition is that they seem to want to have it both ways. They recognize that the Sahrawis roamed a much large expanse than the area that would become the Spanish Sahara, yet there is a big difference between “crossing” and inhabiting. And while it is true that many Sahrawis “settled in neighboring territories,” this erroneously asserts that Sahrawis never permanently inhabited those lands before.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Those writing in solidarity with Western Saharan independence have committed some of the most obvious misuses of the term Sahrawi. Academic Anne Lippert, founder of the Saharan People’s Support Committee, a U.S.based solidarity group active in the 1980s, wrote in 1977, “The systematic and brutal destruction of a people is underway today in the former Spanish Sahara, the scene of a bitter struggle between foreign invaders and the Saharaoui people….”3 Over a decade later, Lippert published an article on “Women’s participation in the Sahrawi liberation struggle….”4 These two examples not only demonstrate a tendency to identify Sahrawis as native Western Saharans, they betray a belief that all Sahrawis are pro-Polisario nationalists. It would be careless to say that the Kurdish nationalists in Turkey speak for all Kurds or that Tuareg activists in Mali represent Tuaregs in Niger, Chad and Algeria, and the same surely goes for Sahrawis in Western Sahara. Even more careful scholars have been prone to equate the categories Sahrawi and Western Saharan. In an analysis of the Western Saharan refugees, French academic Claude Bontems almost gives the mistaken impression that all Sahrawis have been exiled to the camps. Indeed, even after acknowledging that the Sahrawis have been fragmented over four territories, and have developed some relations across borders, Bontems erroneously concludes, “These various observations suggest that the Sahrawis are one people in culture and tradition, and are engaged in the same struggle [i.e., independence for the Western Sahara].”5 The numerous Polisario defectors that Morocco parade in front their press, and in Washington and Paris, clearly contradict the idea that all Sahrawis, or just all native Western Saharans, favor independence. Professor of peace and justice studies Stephen Zunes has also found a convenient one-to-one correspondence between Sahrawis and the territory of Western Sahara. Rather than inhabiting neighboring lands, they simply “maintained ties” with them.6 One of the few observers to actually deploy a nuanced conception of Western Saharan identities is Ambassador Charles Dunbar, who served as the head of MINURSO from 1997 to 1999. Given his experience in dealing with the subtleties and contested meanings of Sahrawi-ness, it is not surprising that Dunbar goes as far as to coin the appellation “Western Sahrawi,” distinguishing them from Sahrawis of Moroccan, Mauritanian or Algerian territorial origin. This crucial distinction, between Sahrawis native to the territory and ethnic Sahrawis native to other countries, which was not always clear during MINURSO’s six-year voter identification process, was, according to Dunbar, “The heart of it all” (i.e., the reason it took MINURSO nine years to produce a voters list and, essentially, why the referendum was never held).7 A more recent book by journalist Toby Shelley is careful not to explicitly define Sahrawi, yet in commenting on the United Nations 2003 peace plan, he wrote, “Crucially, the plan threw out the hitherto sacred notion of a Sahrawi


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people who would determine their fate [i.e., by allowing Moroccan settlers to vote].” Yet as Dunbar noted, being a Sahrawi was only a necessary, not sufficient, condition to vote; one also had be native to the territory of Western Sahara, or a direct descendant. The right of self-determination belongs only to those native to the territory, not to those with ethnic ties. As an analogy, the right of return does not equally belong to Palestinians native to Haifa and Palestinian refugees from Jenin now residing in Lebanon. Clearly a distinction has to be made between the ethnic and the political, between Sahrawis native to Western Sahara and ethnic Sahrawis generally, because there are ethnic Sahrawis who have always lived in Morocco. One would think that Western Saharan nationalists would be the most careful but this is not the case. Early in the history of Polisario, the more radical elements of the movement tried to forge a new nationalist identity around the concept Sahrawi that would transcend and erase previous social identifications. But in order to have legitimacy as a people, Western Saharan nationalism would simultaneously have to write a history for itself. That history had to acknowledge previous social identifications but it would also re-conceptualize them as Sahrawi. As the late Polisario diplomat Mohammed-Fadel Ismail wrote in his book Le République Sahraoui, “The Sahrawis [since the twelfth-century] were composed of an ensemble of tribes and tribal confederations traditionally distributed over the territory of the Sahra.” They even had “national institutions.”8 Thus, the pre-colonial Sahrawi nation is imagined as being coterminous with the future colony of Spanish Sahara. Yet in the 1990s, Polisario implicitly recognized that Sahrawis and native Western Saharans were not one and the same. Rather than allowing all Sahrawis to vote in the proposed referendum, Polisario struggled throughout the 1990s to limit the electorate to persons counted in a 1974 Spanish census and their direct descendants. This not only excluded many non-native ethnic Sahrawis, but it would have excluded the thousands of Sahrawis native to Western Sahara who had fled Spanish Sahara to Morocco as political and economic refugees. Yet allowing all Sahrawis to vote, Polisario realized, would have allowed ethnic Sahrawis from southern Morocco to participate in the plebiscite. While confident that most native Western Saharans would choose independence, they were not as certain about the desires of ethnic Sahrawis from Morocco.

The Task at Hand A careful definition would assert that a Sahrawi is someone claiming descent from one of the mostly Øassaniyyah-speaking, consanguineous social groupings whose traditional environment included areas that became Spanish Sahara. Yet the term Sahrawi is still clearly problematic. As can be seen, much of the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


literature on Western Sahara has either accepted the term uncritically or confused it. On the one hand, Sahrawi is synonymous with Western Saharan yet it is used, and at the same time, as an apolitical term as well. There is the ‘ethnic’ sense of Sahrawi, a proto-national, discernible foko9 colonized by Spain; and then there is the political sense of Sahrawi, seen as an exotic, more culturally accurate and ethnographically sensitive synonym for Western Saharan. Among nationalists and spectators, however, the term Western Saharan is rarely used at all. All these observations and critiques warrant asking how the term Sahrawi came to mean something simultaneously ethnic and political. But in order to answer this question one has to answer a more basic question: How did the Sahrawis become Sahrawis? This study attempts to interrogate and then re-explicate the ethnogenesis of the Sahrawi; to disentangle the various conceptions of Western Saharan identities by re-framing them, re-historicizing them and then re-examining them. The first step in this process is to provide both a theoretical and methodological backdrop. This is accomplished through a post-colonial critique of ethnography and historiography in the Western Sahara, one that is deeply informed by recent cultural struggles in North Africa. Secondly, this study takes these sensibilities and applies them to a new description of the broad historical and social contexts upon which Spanish colonialism and Western Saharan nationalism were grounded. Finally, this study looks at the recent ethnogenesis of the Sahrawi people, concluding that the concept is the product of an interaction between two contending forces, colonialism and anti-colonialism (i.e., nationalism). Far from being an “academic” exercise with little practical import, this study aims to help observers of, and interveners in, the conflict better understand issues of identity in Western Sahara, which are, for the time being, still the “the heart of it all.”

2. Dislocating and Relocating (Western) Saharan Studies Since 1975, the analysis of Western Sahara, with a few notable exceptions, has been dominated by macro-level political analysis. Just as the conflict remains stalemated, the discourse on the subject remains fairly monolithic, preoccupied by one question: Who will win the Western Sahara? One of the goals of this paper is to re-locate the Western Saharan problem in a variety of disciplines and a number of analytical frames. The aim is to show how a multifocal approach can address the dominant political question in a new way, and also to raise equally important, and largely ignored, issues. One way in which this essay seeks to relocate this conflict is to apply a kind of post-colonial analysis to identity formation in the Western Sahara. “‘Postcolonialism,’” writes historian Robert Young, “commemorates not the colonial but the triumph over it … while, paradoxically, it also describes the


Chapter Fifteen

conditions of existence that have followed in which many basic power structures have yet to change in any substantive way.”10 A central tenant of postcolonial studies is that Western domination over the non-European world in the Modern era radically altered the ways in which the colonized and the colonizer imagined themselves, their lived environments, and, most importantly, the Other. As scholar Ania Loomba noted, “Specific ways of seeing and representing racial, social difference were essential to the setting up of colonial institutions of control, and they also transformed every aspect of European civil society.”11 Post-colonialism is a frame that reveals features of our contemporary reality otherwise obscured by alternative epistemologies. These blurred contours, they argue, must be brought into sharp relief if one is to fully understand current conditions in the post-colonies and the post-empires. This mode of critique will be applied in a reconsidered history and analysis of identity formation in the Western Sahara. Another way in which this essay aims to relocate Western Saharan studies is to contextualize it in the recent and ongoing broad re-imagining of Maghribi identities. That is, the breaking apart of Muslim-Arab cultural hegemony by the Amazigh (Berber) activists, intellectuals and allies. This itself is a kind of postcolonial critique in action, as it presents a challenge to the social categories that are the inheritance of colonial rule. (Its detractors, especially Islamists or Arab Nationalists, often charge that the Amazigh movement is a mal effect of colonialism, a foreign effort to balkanize Muslims/Arabs.) In response, Western academics have been forced to re-evaluate their own conceptions of North African societies. In 2000, David Hart, a renowned anthropologist of Morocco, reflected on his forty years of ethnography in North Africa and wrote, Although Arabs and Berbers have lived in juxtaposition in the Maghrib for well over a millennium, it is quite apparent that the Berber element is very much more than just a residue. It is, indeed, the base of the whole North African edifice, and it is still very strongly so today, so much that one can say: scratch a Moroccan, find a Berber.12

What Hart is describing is an inversion of the standard model of Maghribi societies. As the story goes, Arabs, since the Islamic invasion thirteen hundred years ago, have dominated North African society, driving the Berbers into isolated pockets. The post-colonial Amazigh critique argues that the Arabs added a semi-translucent cultural layer upon an Amazigh base, most profoundly the religious dimension of Islam. The Arab invasion did not erase the Berbers nor marginalize them to secluded cantons in the mountains; it hybridized the identity. The Amazigh Cultural Movement, as it is loosely called, is a political project to counter not only twentieth century Arab Nationalism, but also the social categories imposed by colonialism. Yet two years after Hart published his

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


article, and after over twenty years of aggressive Amazigh activism, David Crawford, another anthropologist of the Maghrib, argued that the Amazigh dimension is still mostly absent from scholarship on North Africa, which has a measurable effects on development and policy.13 The durability of the Arab-Amazigh opposition is one of the disturbing legacies of colonial historiography and ethnography. The social models of “traditional” societies, refined during European domination in the nineteenth and twentieth-century, often tell us much more about colonial interests than about the colonized. French anthropology in North Africa in particular sought to divide Maghribis into distinct categories, so as to either solidify existing power relations or to divide et impera, in both cases, to colonial interests. In Morocco, this meant weakening the Monarchy and eventually imposing a new political structure based on influential Amazigh leaders in the High Atlas. It also saw the 1930 promulgation of the “Berber Dahir,” which gave customary Amazigh law special status. According to historian C.R. Pennel, French colonial authorities hoped it “would help assimilate Berbers and divorce them from Islam.”14 In Algeria, it took the form of the “Kabyle Myth.” Imazighen, it was imagined, were a civilizable Mediterranean people lost in a sea of barbarian Arabs.15 The history of European domination in the modern era is replete with similar examples, under various colonial masters, with lasting and well-manifested consequences.16 Among many examples, John Bowen evidences the obvious after-effects in Rwanda.17 Indeed, Mahmood Mamdani argues that the Rwandan genocide of 1994 can only be understood within the settler/native logic imposed by colonialism. Hutus, who saw themselves as native, thrived off the idea that Tutsis, like Europeans, were essentially settlers.18 The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is also an extended debate between “natives” and “settlers,” with both sides claiming the former, and seeing the Other as the latter. Nor is the process of “Othering” limited to European intervention, as it seems part and parcel of domination. Scholar Ghislane Lydon recently noted that the division of Saharan peoples into “black” Africans (SnjdƗn) versus “white” Arabs/Berbers (BƯ•Ɨn) was first put forward and refined in early Islamic epistemology— geographers and conquerors.19 Likewise, Roman conquerors differentiated themselves from the Others of Northwest Africa by calling them Maurus, derived from the late Greek mauros (black), from which we have inherited the term Moor. A similar oppositional model (Amazigh/Arab=native/settler) was applied in the Western Sahara. Colonial anthropology divided Saharan “tribes” into “castes” and attributed to them Amazigh or Arab ancestry and qualities. At the top of the colonial model’s hierarchy was a warrior class (“guerriers”). These were the ØassƗn of Arabia, allegedly the direct descendants of the Bannj Ma’qil or AwlƗd ØassƗn; Bedouins who came, according to Ibn Khaldnjn, like “locusts”


Chapter Fifteen

to North Africa in the eleventh-century. Imazighen, on the other hand, comprised a sedentary and scholarly, albeit subjugated, class, ZawƗyƗ, the remnants of the ZenƗgah-speaking population overcome by the Bannj Ma’qil. In Western Sahara, as colonial anthropologists understood it, the ZawƗyƗ were the “true” natives, while the dominant ØassƗn constituted entrenched settlers. So entrenched is this picture that it continues to receive respect from serious observers and interveners. Erik Jensen, who headed the UN mission in Western Sahara from 1994 to 1997, recently wrote, “The Beni Hassan were a warrior people with a marked hierarchy within the tribe and between tribes… Within the tribe the social stratification descended from warrior through artisan, craftsman, and bard to slave.”20 As early as 1971, scholar Philip Curtain challenged the neatness of these categories. He noted that ØassƗn and ZawƗyƗ groups both maintained “military capability,” both “forced others to pay tribute” and both “contained inferior endogamous casts of minstrels and artisans as well as a class of slaves, ‘AbƯd or harƗtƯn.”21 Over twenty-five years later, academic Timothy Cleaveland noted that scholars continued to use this model despite its well-known shortcomings. Cleaveland, on the other hand, has insisted that the static colonial model should be abandoned in favor of a more dynamic conception of Saharan societies. Colonialism generally tended to view the “primitive” and “underdeveloped” societies it colonized as more rigid and fixed (i.e., “traditional”). Western nation-states, on the other hand, were places of change and rapid development (i.e. “modern”). The pervasiveness of this world-view, Cleaveland argues, has meant that many anthropologists and historians of the twentieth-century were almost totally blind to the dynamics within a variety of different societies, especially the ones under their domination. Beyond this general problem, Cleaveland specifically takes to task the “[colonial] politics of the model’s construction,” specifically in Mauritania. He highlights the fact that its use benefited not only the colonial occupiers but also the native elites who eagerly espoused its veracity. These elites, typically male, could also (ab)use “tradition” to buttress patriarchical social relationships, much to the detriment of the colonized women and youth.22 Cleaveland’s alternative is a constructivist approach, which he argues can accommodate an understanding of the ways in which Saharans perceived, accepted, and sometimes resisted the structures of social relations in their societies before, during and after colonialism.23 One can see similar patterns in Spanish Sahara, where the colonial administration frequently deployed ethnographic knowledge to its advantage. Spanish control over Western Sahara was asserted as early as 1884. Almost two decades later, the Sociedad de Geographia in Madrid conduced an exploration of the colony in 1913, after which the mission’s leader, Enrique d’Almonte, “made a series of recommendations regarding Spanish policy,” including “a

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


policy of indirect rule through influential local leaders.” However, it was only in 1962 that the Spanish authorities instituted an apparatus for indigenous consultation, which was based on a Spanish understanding of local social institutions. That year, the Spanish administration imposed a pseudo-traditional council, Al-Jama‘a (djemmaa or yemma), on the native population. “Tribal fractions” (fracciones nómadas), or AfkhƗdh, represented the basic division from which members would send representatives to the Jama‘a. The Spanish administration allowed the Jama‘a to handle the aspects of life left largely untouched by the negligible colonial presence, which was focused on the major cities, especially al-‘Uynjn (commonly spelled Laâyoune or Al/El-Ayoun/Aiun). Spanish administrators, however, regularly made sure that those selected to the Jama‘a were sympathetic to the colonial interest.24 One Western Saharan nationalist illustrated how this played out: Spain also used the tactics of division to create differences between tribes, to divide the tribes into different branches, the branches into families and the families into individuals. For example, the [Spanish] government would call the chief and say to him, “You are the only one faithful to Franco. You are the only one who works well in the interests of Spain. But the others came to tell us that you are not working for us, that you do not want to work for us. Why are your people talking against you?”25

Not that Spain apparently had trouble finding cooperative subjects in the Sahara. British author John Mercer, noting the irony, quoted one of the descendents of Shaykh MƗ’ al-‘Aynayn, a major anti-colonial leader of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century, as saying, “[Francisco Franco is] the cloud who brings us rain and good things, the shooting star that fills our world with light.”26 (The importance of clouds, as bearers of rain, to a nomadic population, dependent upon the growth of wild grasses to feed their herds, underscores the kind of praise being heaped upon the Generalissimo. Some Sahrawis even refer to themselves as sons of the clouds, as they are always chasing the rain.) Facing international pressure to offer some measure of selfdetermination, Madrid established a larger Jama‘a (Asamblea General del Sahara) in 1967, to give the appearance of native consultation in its desert “province.” The larger Jama‘a had thirty-nine handpicked Shaykhs and forty others elected by a Jama‘a of the AfkhƗdh, with a president and vice president selected by the colonially appointed members (the total number of seats later increased to 102). Scholars Hodges and Pazzanita characterized the larger Jama‘a as composed “overwhelmingly of Saharawis who were openly prepared to collaborate with the colonial authorities.”27 Indeed, one could possibly write volumes about ways in which Spanish colonial authorities put their ethno-historical knowledge of the Saharan


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communities under their domination. Given that of what we know about history and societies in Western Sahara comes from this background, from these unexplored plays of power between the colonizer and colonized, much needs to be reconsidered if we are to really understand the formation of the Sahrawi as a people. In doing this, this study will next look at the broad course of historical identity formation in Western Sahara, paying special attention to the relatively recent development of Western Saharan nationalism. In rewriting the history of the Sahrawis from ancient times to present, there is a tendency to think of nations as things that have evolutionary developments rather than as spasmodic, violent and sudden breaks with the past. Keeping this in mind, the aim of the following section is not to describe the history of the Sahrawis from past to present, but rather to describe the social grounds upon which Spanish colonialism and Western Saharan nationalism have carried out their projects.

3. Recasting the Historical Formation of the Sahrawi The Peopling of the Sahara Two claims made by the Amazigh Movement appear to be born out by recent findings in population genetics in North Africa: imagined ethno-linguistic frontiers do not indicate genetic borders in Arabs and Imazighen; and that the continuity of all North African populations in the region reaches into prehistory. For starters, in 2004, a joint Tunisian-European scientific effort wrote, “The consensus to date is that Berber and Arab populations do not constitute two genetically differentiated groups in North Africa and that both groups are genetically heterogeneous.”28 Two years earlier, a genetic study of Tamazight and Arabic speakers in Morocco found a “close similarity between the Berbers and other North African groups, mainly with Moroccan Arabic-speakers, which is in accord with the hypothesis that the current Moroccan population has a strong Berber background.”29 A 2001 study by Spanish and U.S. scientists likewise concluded, “The genetic homogeneity of NW African Y chromosomes points to a common origin, for all populations analyzed, independent of ethnicity or language (Arab or Berber).” They added, “These data support the interpretation of the Arabization and Islamization of NW Africa, starting during the seventh century A.D., as cultural phenomena without extensive genetic replacement.”30 Looking at a different aspect of the genome, a consortium of Spanish and Moroccan geneticists noted, “Although they represent different cultural and/or ethnic population groups, there is no clear pattern of genetic differentiation between cultural or ethnic groups.” Specifically, they wrote, “No significant genetic differences were found between Arabs and non-Arabs (i.e., Berbers and Saharawis),” therefore “it is a plausible argument that the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Arabization of NW Africa was only a cultural phenomenon with subsequent little genetic impact.”31 Measurable differences between otherwise genetically homogenous Maghribi populations apparently are often associated with geographical isolation. Nomadic and remotely located peoples, with small populations, like Tuaregs, Mozabite Imazighen and Mauritanians, according to one study, would allow genetic drift to have a greater effect.32 Another study found that –aÝrƗwƯs, more than any of the other “Moroccan” populations examined, registered the most common North African genetic marker in the survey group.33 A recent study has also revealed what could be a “regional continuity of more than 20,000 years”34 in North Africa, although anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, have probably inhabited the region for much longer. One archaeological site in Morocco, Dar al-Sultan, claims to hold 70,000 year old evidence of the earliest of such humans, which first appeared in southeast Africa, dating back more than 100,000 years ago.35 Homo erectus, however, inhabited the Maghrib 200,000 years ago, before being replaced by Homo sapiens, the predecessor of anatomically modern humans.36 Another study claims to have revealed the spread of a specific mitochondrial genetic marker to North Africa starting around 30,000 years ago, “represent[ing] a signature of regional continuity”37 since the Paleolithic. The first archaeologically well-known culture of modern humans in the Maghrib and the Sahara is the Aterian, beginning roughly 100,000 years into the past. The late-Paleolithic Iberomaurusian culture (a.k.a., Mechtoid, MechtaAfalou/el-Arbi) usurped the Aterians at least 22,000-20,000 years ago, corresponding with the apparent arrival of certain genetic markers (noted above) and the last glacial maximum. The culture largely believed to represent the direct ancestors of the Imazighen, the Capsians, overtook the Iberomaurusians roughly 10,000 years ago, although some anatomical evidence suggests continuity between the two.38 Further into the North African interior, the Sahara entered a humid phase starting 14,000 years ago, which followed a four thousand year “hyper-arid” phase of greater waterlessness than had ever been the case since 20,000 BCE. The “great Wet Phase” allowed humans to return to the Sahara 10,000 years ago, likely coming from the south, followed closely by the diffusion of Neolithic culture.39 The depiction of large mammals and human hunters on Saharan cave paintings starting 11,000 years ago suggests the lingering late Pleistocene culture; the depiction of cattle started around 5500 years ago, although domestication might have occurred some two thousand years before the Neolithic artists rendered them in paintings.40 The humans in these paintings are both “Caucasoid” and “Negroid,” yet the depiction of “elongated white men” in paintings, around the second millennium BCE, coincided with the arrival of the horse in the Sahara.41 The onset of the Sahara’s


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current arid phase between 6,000 to 5,000 years ago cut the ties that linked ancient Egyptian and Amazigh communities, including cultural and linguistic ones.42 As is the case today, the Sahara bounded a unique space whereby the peoples of North Africa pursued a different trajectory from their neighbors in Africa and along the Mediterranean. Some of the difficulties posed by the great desert were overcome with the arrival of the camel in the first century BCE.

Amazigh-Arab Hybridization in the Western Sahara Even in antiquity, the Sahara was a foreboding place. Phoenician (1100 BCE–146 BCE), Ionian (700 BCE-30 BCE) and Roman (146 BCE-429 CE) settlements only touched the coastal rim of the southern Mediterranean basin.43 Even among the Amazigh kingdoms in the first millennium BCE, Massyli, Masaesyli and Mauri, which all offered various levels of cooperation with Carthage, the desert was outside of their respective scopes. In the first-century CE, when Rome made Africa a province of the Empire, the nomadic Gaetulians of the northern pre-desert, distinguished themselves by the fact that they lived “outside the two great [Amazigh] kingdoms of Numidia and Mauritania, and resisted any attempts to tax or control them.”44 To the south, Saharans regularly interacted with Ghanaian empires from at least in the third-century CE.45 The Islamic invasion of North Africa, which reached the Atlantic under ‘Uqbah ibn NƗfi’ in 715 CE, failed to extend effective control beyond the areas once governed by the Romans.46 In the eighth century, recently converted Imazighen led revolts against Damascus all over North Africa, disrupting the Middle East’s grip on the Maghrib. When Islam reached the Sahara, it was not by sudden conquest, but a slow diffusion over several centuries, working its way through the networks of everyday life.47 Based on their alleged dialects of Tamazight, historiographers have divided the partially-Islamized Imazighen of millennial Northwest Africa into three large groupings. First were the nomadic pastoralists of the Western Sahara, the ZenƗgah (–anhƗjah in Arabic), often refered to as al-mulaththamnjn, the people of the veil. The ZenƗgah ranged all the way from southern Morocco, to the Aïr massif in Niger, to the southern Atlantic coast of Mauritania. The ZenƗgahs’ neighbors to the northeast were the ZenƗtah, who stretched from Libya to one of the most important Saharan trade centers, SijilmƗsah, near Rissani in presentday Morocco. Directly north of the ZenƗgah, the Ma†mnjdah lived primarily in the mountains of Morocco.48 The ZenƗgah, according to scholar H.T. Norris, consisted of three major branches. In the south, the GudƗlah lived along the Atlantic coast and the region of the SƗqiyah al-ØamrƗ’ (Western Sahara). Below the GudƗlah, the Lamtnjnah inhabited the AdrƗr region in modern Mauritania.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


The Massnjfah roamed in the east, in the Anti-Atlas, the Dara‘ah (Draa) river, alHawd (Hodh) and as far as areas in northern Mali and Niger.49 From these groups, one, the Lamtnjnah, would assume regional hegemony under the banner of a movement called al-MurƗbitnjn (Almoravids). The movement was led by ‘AbdullƗh Ibn YƗsƯn al-GaznjlƯ, who studied Islam at a ribƗt in the Snjs region of modern southern Morocco. Around 1040, Ibn YƗsƯn’s spiritual master dispatched him to the GudƗlah to correct their naïve understanding of Islam. The GudƗlah, however, quickly rejected Ibn YƗsƯn, apparently because of his harsh methods. Among the Lamtnjnah, he found a more receptive audience.50 Together, Ibn YƗsƯn and the Lamtnjnah would come to rule most of Northwest Africa in a very short time. Ibn YƗsƯn’s MurƗbinjn, by 1090, had taken SijilmƗsah; sacked the Ghanaian capital of Kumbi-Saleh, as well as its Saharan stronghold of Awdaghust; crossed the High Atlas and founded Marrakesh; and driven deep into Spain and Algeria. The empire, however, was short lived. A movement led by the Ma†mnjdah, al-MuwaÝÝidnjn (Almohads), surged out of the High Atlas in the middle of the twelfth-century, undercutting an empire already weakened by internal discord.51 In the coming centuries, an influx of Bedouins from Asia Minor into the Western Sahara would cause the ZenƗgah to re-conceptualize themselves in the most radical way since the arrival of Islam. The MuwaÝÝidnjn reached Tunis by 1200 CE, but lost their grip on Spain around 1250. Their empire soon fell to a ZenƗtah dynasty, the Bannj MarƯn (Merinids, 1258-1420). In some areas, Marinid control was made possible by strategic alliances with an encroaching group of Bedouins from Yemen. Known as AwlƗd/Bannj ØassƗn, Bannj HilƗl or Bannj Ma’qil52, they were a coalition of the six sons of ØassƗn Ibn ‘Aqil unleashed on the Maghrib by the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt in the eleventh-century, reaching the western Maghrib by 1200. One hundred years later, the Ma‘qil had taken SijilmƗsah, followed the southern slopes of the High Atlas along the Wadi Dara‘ah and spread down the Atlantic coast. The nomadic Ma‘qil easily took to the Sahara in the thirteenthand fourteenth-centuries, colonizing areas in present-day Western Sahara and Mauritania: Zammnjr, TƯris and AdrƗr. The last stand of the Lamtnjnah against the AwlƗd ØassƗn, the War of Shurbubba, took place late in the seventeenth century, ending with the defeat of the ZenƗgah at Tin Yif•Ɨ• around 1674.53 The broad Arabization of the Western Sahara included two major features: the re-construction of descent lineages and the ascendancy of ØassƗniyyah Arabic as the dominant language. Since the start of the Islamic conquest, it was common for Amazigh groups to revise their lineages so as to re-locate their ancestry to the Middle East, and sometimes to the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibn Khaldun even “reluctantly admitted” that the ZenƗgah, as early as the tenth-century, claimed ancient Yemeni ancestry for reasons of political


Chapter Fifteen

legitimacy.54 Norris noted that this claim of ultimate Arabian origin “merits an explanation, but material is so scattered and much so worthless, that many have dismissed it as an example of mythical genealogy concocted by non-Arab Muslims of Africa for social or ethnical prestige.”55 The incursion of actual Yemenis into the Maghrib, who assumed social dominance in the Western Sahara, triggered a process described by Norris in the following: [Between] 1400 and 1500 many of the Western Saharan peoples redesigned their lineages and genealogies. This may have taken place with a marked switch from semi-matrilineal kinship nomenclature to that of patrilineal eponyms, many of them alleged descendents of the Prophet himself or one of his Companions, or else family trees which illustrated later ties with eponyms of the Ma‘qil bedouin.56

Norris argues that these given dates might be too early, but the process, later “perfected,” was certainly underway before the AwlƗd ØassƗn completed their conquest of the Western Sahara.57 This wide refashioning of their past also coincided with “vast social changes in the region, both social and cultural,” facilitated by the establishment of “the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic as the lingua franca from the Wadi Draa to the Senegal and from the Atlantic to Timbuktu.”58 By the twentieth-century, the ZenƗgah dialect had been marginalized to a few areas in Mauritania. Just south of the Sahara, the Songhay kingdom arose out of the disintegration of the thirteenth- to fifteenth- century Malian empire, taking Timbuktu in 1486 and, later, securing uncontested control over the Saharan trade routes.59 The greatest challenge to Songhay hegemony over the Sahara came from the Sa‘dƯ dynasty, which succeeded the Bannj WaƗs (Wattasids, 1472-1549) as the rulers of northwestern Africa in 1554. With substantial material aid from European powers, the Sa‘dian’s charged down into the Sahara and drove the Songhay out of Timbuktu in 1591. The Sa‘dƯ proxies in Timbuktu and Gao declared independence around 1632, marking the denouement of “Moroccan” empire building as the Sahara slipped out of the Sultan’s grip.60 Saharan trade subsequently shifted to eastern routes leading to the Algerian coast, gravitating towards Ottoman power. The current dynasty of modern Morocco, the ‘AlawƯ, Bedouins originating from the Tafilalt, the region of SijilmƗsah, replaced the weakened and fragmented Sa‘dians in 1664, yet they have never been able to re-consolidate a similar empire in scope.61 The most successful ‘AlawƯ leader, MawlƗy IsmƗ‘Ưl (1672-1726), ventured as far as Mauritania, yet his interest was in black slaves for his personal army rather than extending his influence.62

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Colonial Incursions For Europeans governments, the Sahara had little intrinsic value, yet it stood between them and their economic interests from below the desert (e.g., slaves, gold and spices). The overland Saharan trade routes were well known before the Renaissance, yet improvements in seafaring techniques meant that Europeans could attempt to circumvent the middlemen, or alter the flow of goods to their advantage. Spain and Portugal showed some interest in the Saharan coast in the fifteenth century, but soon abandoned these interests to focus on the Americas. Although a variety of Europeans continually raided the Saharan shores from then onward, Spain’s decisive return to the Sahara coincided with Europe’s scrambling of Africa in the late 1800s. A renewed Spanish presence on the Saharan littoral began in 1884 when the Compañía Comercial Hispano-Africana landed at Dakhla.63 By the end of 1884, Spain had declared a protectorate called Río de Oro, christening their one settlement Villa Cisneros (present-day Dakhla). At the Congress of Berlin, 1884-1885, where European powers recognized Spain’s Saharan presence, minimal coastal occupation translated into rights to the interior, which Spain gladly claimed.64 Yet even with this international recognition in hand, the Spanish traders and soldiers remained confined to Villa Cisneros. Eventual expansion along the coast, which started to rub against French interests in Mauritania, led to the Franco-Spanish Convention of June 27, 1900, setting the southeastern boundary of Spanish Sahara. Four years later, Spain and France were able to set the northern limits, including Sidi Ifni. A final Franco-Spanish convention, signed in 1912, demarcated the final borders and clarified France and Spain’s powers in their respective spheres. Earlier that same year, France convinced MawlƗy ‘Abd alØafiµ to allow a French protectorate over Morocco.65 The last Franco-Spanish convention reduced Spain’s overall holdings, yet it recognized SƗqiyah alØamrƗ’ as a “Zona del libre ocupación” since it resided outside of recognized Moroccan control. However, in a small region directly north of SƗqiyah alØamrƗ’, now internationally recognized as a part of the Kingdom of Morocco, Spain administered the “Zona del Draa,” the Tarfaya or Tekna Zone, “on behalf of the [Moroccan] Sultan.”66 It took Madrid several decades to assert its authority over the entire territory following the final Franco-Spanish convention. For the most part, Spain limited its presence to the coast, setting up minimal garrisons at Tarfaya (1916) and La Guera (1920). In 1934, the French government pressured Spain to take action against anti-colonial forces taking refuge in areas under Spanish jurisdiction. For the first time, Spanish forces set up positions in the interior and at Ifni. That same year, Spain centralized control of its North African territories in Tetuan. In 1946, it created the independent entity of Africa Occidental Española for its non-protectorates (Ifni, SƗqiyah al-ØamrƗ’ and Río de Oro). The newly founded


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city of al-‘Uynjn became the regional administrative headquarters with the governor-general at Ifni; small garrisons were maintained further inland, including a large post at Smara.67 This arrangement lasted only twelve years. In 1958, following a period of intense insurgent activity, the Tarfaya/Tekna Zone was relinquished to Morocco, which had gained Spanish Northern Morocco soon after independence from France in 1956. However, Ifni and the Sahara were declared “provinces” of Spain, in a move to circumvent UN pressure to decolonize. Madrid held onto the Sahara as long as possible (Ifni was given to Morocco in 1969), increasing efforts to develop the territory and winning the hearts and minds of the colonized Saharans. Native settlement in the metropolitan centers, however, resulted from drought as much as from Spain’s material enticements (e.g., employment, housing, schools and hospitals). By 1974, a Spanish census found that well over half the population had become sedentary in or near the three major cities, Dakhla, Smara and al-‘Uynjn.68 Spain also took steps towards creating the appearance of local consultation, setting up a council, al-Jama‘a, of eighty-two indigenous elites in 1967. In the late 1960s, Spain made serious investments in phosphate extraction capabilities, mining the deposits at Bu Kraa and transporting them to the port of al-‘Uynjn via a conveyor belt. When the system came on-line in 1972, it soon seemed that Fosfatos de Bu-Craa (Fosbucraa) had the potential to become the world’s second largest exporter of high-grade phosphate rock, thus presenting a challenge to Morocco’s dominant market position.69 While some observers have overstated the role of phosphates in triggering the Western Sahara conflict, especially with regard to the Moroccan regime’s motivations, such a large investment clearly added a disincentive for Madrid to cede the territory. At least, not without first making sure that their interests would be respected by the successor regime, whatever form it should take. Yet Spanish colonialism further hastened the coming of nationalism by holding onto its territory later than its neighbors. As Tony Hodges observed, “Western Sahara’s status as the sole remaining European colony in the region” meant that by the late-1960s Western Saharans were “living a distinct and unique colonial experience.”70

Anti-Colonial Resistance Like all colonized peoples, the native communities met the Spanish intruders with alternating and conflicting degrees of resistance, indifference, cooperation and obedience. As in their historical relations with powerful neighbors to the north and south, they never acted homogeneously in either their acceptance of, or resistance to, “outside” subjugation, whether European or Maghribi. It is partially due to these ambiguities and ambivalences that King Hassan II was

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


able to justify an ethno-historical claim on Spanish Sahara. The International Court of Justice, in its 1975 opinion on Morocco’s irredentist case, recognized that the peoples of the colony had maintained disparate attitudes towards the Sultans on the other side of the Atlas Mountains. Yet evidence of Moroccan sovereignty often cut the other way. One key example is the relationship between the Moroccan monarchs and the Tiknah confederation bordering present day Morocco and Western Sahara. This grouping (in concert or as individual sub-groups) often acted as proxy for the ‘AlawƯ in the Sahara, yet they often rebelled. Though the Tiknah had worked with MawlƗy IsmƗ‘Ưl, in a 1767 Hispano-Moroccan treaty, the Sultan admitted that “his sovereignty does not extend as far to there” (i.e., to the Dara‘ah). Indeed, the Tiknah sub-group Ayt MnjssƗ wa ‘AlƯ soon established their own independent “principality” around Goulemine in the region of Nnjn, appearing on an official 1844 French map as “Etat de Sidi Hecham.”71 Another ambivalent example is the exploits of Shaykh MƗ’ al-‘Aynayn, an early anti-colonial hero from the Western Sahara who was religiously passionate, highly educated, and a prolific writer. Moroccan irredentists hold him up as an example of Saharan fealty to the Sultan, yet he once told fellow pilgrims in Mecca that his people knew neither rulers nor money.72 Just as the Spanish government was reasserting itself on the Saharan coast in the late nineteenth-century, the Moroccan sultan MawlƗy Øasan I made efforts to expand his authority over Saharan trade. He personally led expeditions to Snjs (1882), where he re-established relationships with some members of the Tiknah, and later to the Nnjn (1886). The following year, Øasan made Shaykh MƗ’ al‘Aynayn, then approximately 56 years old, his khalƯfah (deputy) in the Sahara. With substantial ‘AlawƯ aid, he started organizing attacks to halt French intrusions into the Mauritanian interior in the late 1890s. In 1904, MƗ’ al‘Aynayn founded the city of Smara as a center for learning and, of course, Saharan trade. He later moved to Tiznit where he launched an attempt to drive the French from Morocco. However, was this an act of fidelity to the sultan or one of sedition? It is believed that the Shaykh might have been planning on deposing the then colonially complicit ‘AlawƯs to place himself on the throne. Yet the French military easily massacred his forces; he died later that same year, 1910, back in Tiznit; France subsequently sacked Smara and burned the hundreds of books in its library.73 In the late nineteenth century, at the time of renewed Spanish interest in the Sahara, there were several major and minor social groupings in the region that would later become the colony. The two RgaybƗt confederations, based on geographical tendencies, al-SƗÝil (coastal) and al-Sharq/Sharg (eastern) or alGuwƗsim, were the largest. The RgaybƗt constructed their lineages around the figure Sidi Ahmad RgaybƯ, who arrived in the Dara‘ah early in the sixteenth-


Chapter Fifteen

century from the north. It is from him that almost all RgaybƗt, by default, gain status as shurafƗ’, descendents of the prophet.74 The AwlƗd Dulaym, taking their name from one of the original Ma‘qil groups, established themselves along the southwestern coast and into Mauritania. Directly north of the Dulaym, the AwlƗd TidrƗrƯn and the al-‘Arusiyyn maintained overlapping ranges near the coast. Straddling the northern border of Spanish Sahara, members of the Tiknah confederation, including the Ayt al-Øasan and Izarguyyn, could be found into the Snjs and the Anti-Atlas mountains. Other minor groupings included the AwlƗd Bnj Sba‘ in the southeast, the FƯlƗlah and the TanjbƗlt in the northeast, and the coastal Fnjykat, LimyƗr, MijƗ, Mina†Ưr and Imiraguyyn.75 Twenty-three years after the Spanish occupation and pacification of the interior, a group of anti-colonial militants from newly independent Morocco set out to organize resistance in still-occupied Mauritania, Algeria and Spanish Sahara. The fighters, some of them Imazighen, were from the informal Jaysh alTahrƯr (Army of Liberation), which had formed in 1955 to fight for an independent Morocco. In early 1956, Benhamou Mesfioui, who had led guerilla actions against the Spanish in the north of Morocco, began coordinating actions in the south, where King Mohammed V had yet to extend his royal army. Raids in Algeria commenced as early as 1956, followed by actions in northern Mauritania and Ifni in 1957, many of them staged from the ill-policed Spanish Sahara. The Moroccan government had never been too fond of the group’s radical streak; it had attempted to fold the irregulars of the Jaysh al-TahrƯr into its state army as quickly as possible. When pressed on the matter by France and Spain, the new Moroccan regime claimed that the insurgents were “uncontrolled and difficult to control,”76 even though they were often operating from well within Moroccan territory. In Spanish Sahara, colonial forces withdrew to the important coastal cities as the frequency and intensity of guerilla attacks grew. By the end of the year, French and Spanish commanders agreed to cooperate on a massive counterguerilla campaign. Fourteen thousand combined French and Spanish troops deployed for Operation Ouargan (Hurricane) in February 1958, quickly breaking the back of the insurgency in Spanish Sahara.77 Thereafter, the rebellion dissipated and a large flood of native Western Saharans fled to the south of Morocco, which was quickly coming under the control of the royal army. The refugee situation was aggravated by a severe multi-year drought, causing large numbers of nomads to seek shelter in the cities of the Moroccan south, Spanish Sahara, the Algerian southwest and the Mauritanian north. While there existed ambiguities and contradictions in the intent of the participants in the brief insurgency of 1957-58 regarding the post-colonial future of Spanish Sahara, the government of Morocco, by 1958, was very clear about its intentions.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Following independence, Moroccan ultra-nationalists let it be known that they intended to push for the integration of Spanish Sahara, Mauritania and parts of Algeria and Mali into the independent state of Morocco. Although this imagined community, ”Greater Morocco,” had not been fully realized since sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries, the Moroccan government quickly made its irredentism official diplomatic policy, despite its imperialistic overtones in an age of anti-colonial nationalism. Morocco initially withheld formal recognition of Mauritania and even planned an invasion of Nouakchott. Following its own independence in 1960, the Mauritanian regime of Mokhtar Ould Daddah raised a counter-claim on Spanish Sahara. In 1963, a fractured but free Algeria defended itself against a Moroccan invasion (aimed at Tindouf) by launching a counter-invasion. The result was status quo ante bellum for both. With the Spanish Sahara issue on the table at the United Nations in the mid-1960s, Morocco’s King Hassan II cut his losses elsewhere and focused on the one remaining piece of European-occupied “Greater Morocco” left. In addition to the Moroccan and Mauritanian claims, a third claim was launched in the late 1960s, this time from inside the colony itself.

Nationalist Independence Movements The sympathies of many of native Western Saharans in 1975 were markedly at odds with the interests of Spain, Mauritania and Morocco. That summer, as The Hague was deliberating the historical claims of Mauritania and Morocco on Spanish Sahara, a UN Visiting Mission visited the region to access the situation in the colony. According to its findings, “During its visit to the Territory, the Mission did not encounter any group supporting the territorial claims of neighboring countries and consequently has no way of estimating the extent of their support, which appeared to be submerged by the massive demonstrations in favor of independence.”78 Likewise, according to the mission’s report, the native Western Saharans overwhelmingly supported the Polisario as the best articulation of that desire. Thus, by the time of the Moroccan invasion in late October 1975, nationalism had taken to the grassroots in Western Sahara. The first major manifestation of nationalism in Western Sahara had occurred five years before that, when Spain brutally crushed the first open demonstration for independence. Mohammed Sidi Ibrahim Bassiri, considered by some the founder of Western Saharan nationalism, led the movement behind the protest.79 Bassiri, who attended primary and secondary school in Casablanca, studied journalism in Cairo and Damascus before he founded an anti-colonial organization in the late 1960s. The organization took on the name Øarakah alTahrƯr al-SƗqiyah al-ØamrƗ’ wa WƗdƯ al-Dhahab and seems to have taken on a radical nationalist bent, advocating for the dissolution of traditional social


Chapter Fifteen

structures as a step towards building national consciousness. The Øarakah alTahrƯr announced itself when it staged a sizable demonstration on June 17, 1970 in the Zemmla square in al-‘Uynjn. Spanish forces summarily killed between two and a dozen of the protestors on the spot; the organization was quickly suppressed; Bassiri was arrested and never seen again.80 Almost three years after the Zemmla “IntifƗ•ah,” a small band of native insurgents attacked a Spanish colonial outpost on May 20, 1973, catching the native troops off guard. Like Bassiri, refugees and veterans of the 1957-58 uprising formed the elite core of this group, some of whom met while pursuing higher studies on Moroccan scholarships. The group later named itself El Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO; in Arabic, Al-Jabhah al-Sha‘bƯyah li-TahrƯr SƗqiyah al-ØamrƗ’ wa WƗdƯ al-Dhahab). The head of the organization was El-Ouali Mustafa Sayed, a reportedly charismatic and tireless organizer born of impoverished nomads. At one point, he even backed a Moroccan take-over of Spanish Sahara, but late rbecame disgusted by the regime’s close relations with Franco and its suppression of Moroccan leftists and Sahrawis in the early 1970s.81 The founding leadership of Polisario also included El-Ouali’s brother, Bachir Mustafa Sayed, as well as Mohammed Lamine Ould Ahmed, Mohammed Salem Ould Salek and Mohammed Ould Sidati.82 As they approached neighboring states for assistance, this vanguard maintained a strategic ambiguity regarding its attitude towards independence. They received only a tepid response from Libya and Mauritania, and were rebuffed by Morocco and Algeria. FRELISARIO, as they first called themselves, before adding “popular” to their name, were able to mount a series of raids on Spanish forces and interests between 1973 and 1975, while also carrying out underground activism in the cities, as well as diplomatic activities abroad. The United Nations 1975 visiting mission noted Polisario’s strong organizational capacity, remaking, “The Frente POLISARIO, although considered a clandestine movement before the Mission’s arrival, appeared as a dominant political force in the Territory. The Mission witnessed mass demonstrations in support of the movement in all parts of the Territory.”83 When the United Nations General Assembly adopted this observation into the official record on November 7, 1975, the government of Morocco had already launched a two-pronged civilian-military invasion into Spanish Sahara. The United States kept the Security Council from interfering and worked behind the scenes to make sure King Hassan got the Sahara. However, Hassan and his Western allies made a great miscalculation. They did not fully appreciate the extent to which Western Sahara nationalism had taken hold.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Western Saharan Nationalism, a fait accompli The war for Western Sahara solidified the idea of nationalism in the mind of many Sahrawis, especially for the soldiers fighting for the country and the refugees “practicing” the country camps in Algeria. There, they have been able not only to preserve the idea of Western Saharan nationalism, but have tried to live it. From the camps, Polisario has run its international campaign to earn recognition as the legitimate government of Western Sahara. Meanwhile, camp management and the refugees’ participation in the democratic organs of Polisario are portrayed and articulated as an exercise in pre-figurative governance. Scholar Pablo San Martin recently examined the various ways in which the refugees “naturalize” the idea of nationalism through their everyday actions and interactions, making note of the refugees’ use of Algerian money as Sahrawi money.84 As a sign of how sedimented the idea of nationalism is in the camps, the only public reform movement in Polisario, Kha al-ShahƯd, feels that the long-time leadership has compromised too much in the peace process and favors the use of arms to achieve independence. While few, except Moroccan partisans, have doubted the level of patriotism in the camps, the level of nationalist sympathies under Moroccan occupation was unknown until recently. Throughout the war and into 1990s, these proindependence demonstrations were reported but difficult to confirm. Then, in September 1999, shortly after the death of King Hassan II, there were sizeable nationalist demonstrations in al-‘Uynjn (i.e., Zemmla, for obvious reasons). Proindependence activists called these a new Intifada.85 While these demonstrations started out as an expression of economic discontent by students and workers, they soon morphed into rallies for independence. British journalist Toby Shelley, who has probably spent more time in the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara than any other Anglophone writer, has likened the situation to the Israeli occupied territories shortly before the first Palestinian Intifada. The Palestinian leadership, exiled and marginalized, like Polisario, could do very little for those living under occupation. Taking matters into their own hands, the Palestinians rebelled against the Israeli military occupation in the late 1980s. Shelley argued that the same is happening in the occupied Western Sahara.86 Indeed, a year after Shelley’s book appeared, even larger demonstrations erupted in May 2005, continuing throughout the summer, settling into a daily pattern of confrontation between Moroccan security forces and Sahrawi youth brandishing Polisario flags. The most interesting aspect, however, is the fact that one of the epicenters of recent actions has been Assa, a city well within the internationally recognized borders of Morocco. Thus Sahrawis who have come of age during the Moroccan administration of Western Sahara, who have never had direct contact with Polisario, and who have never lived under Spanish colonialism, are now leading


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the nationalist movement.87 Not only does Western Saharan nationalism extend beyond the camps, it reaches into southern Morocco.

4. Re-Conceptualizing Western Saharan Identities Rise of the Sahrawis Observers of the conflict and Western Saharan nationalists have long believed that the Sahrawis have constituted a people since antiquity. Take this example. British researcher John Mercer, author of a major work on the Western Sahara88, described the February 27, 1976, proclamation of the “Democratic Arab Republic of the Sahara” by the Polisario as “simply a further stage in a cycle which can be traced back over about two millennia.” This cycle, according to Mercer, is a historical process of “Saharaoui unification.”89 According to Mercer, the Sahrawis constituted a distinct identifiable people long before Spanish colonization. Yet a careful reading of pre-conflict literature reveals that the idea of a Sahrawi people is indeed quite a recent invention. In 1960, anthropologist Lloyd Briggs never once used the term Sahrawi in his study of the AwlƗd TidrƗrƯn, a grouping whose range included northern Mauritania, Spanish Sahara and southern Morocco. He simply referred to them as Moors, “the basically white and mainly pastoral nomadic population of the Spanish Sahara and of the French Saharan territory which adjoins it [i.e., Mauritania].”90 Linguistic and cultural affinity with Mauritanians has led many observers to categorize the Sahrawis as a sub-group of the BƯ•Ɨn of the greater Western Sahara. The term BƯ•Ɨn, Norris explains, “is used by the Saharan Moors, both Arab and Berber speakers, to distinguish themselves from the negros [al-SnjdƗn]. The term [BƯ•Ɨn], meaning ‘the whites’ is found in quite early writings [i.e., 1685].”91 More recently, Spanish academic Pablo San Martin described the late Sahrawi identity as emerging out of “former collective identities (tribal and supra-tribal, i.e., the diffuse identity of the people of the Trab Al-Bidan.”92 (The term turƗb al-bƯ•Ɨn means land of al-bƯ•Ɨn.) As noted above, Hodges and Pazzanita defined Sahrawis as Ahl al-SaÝƯl, people of the Atlantic littoral. The problem with the former definition, not counting San Martin, is that it still presupposes colonially supplied criteria to discern the Sahrawis within al-BƯ•Ɨn. The problem with the latter definition is that it is circular. In 1962, anthropologist David Hart published an in-depth article on another specific social grouping in the Western Sahara, the RgaybƗt. In that article, Hart translated –aÝrƗwƗ (plural of –aÝrƗwƯ) as “Saharan Bedouins.”93 Thirty-six years later, Hart published a revised version of the same article. There he changed the definition of –aÝrƗwƗ to mean “the generic term for Western

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Saharan nomads.”94 Hart, however, does not explain why his later definition needed to be more geographically precise than his prior definition. This also begs the question if the Sahrawis were a people, how come they did not identify as such to non-colonial anthropologists like Hart and Briggs? Twenty years after Hart’s original paper, anthropologist Barbara HarrellBond, lamenting the unexplored origins of the appellation Sahrawi, noted, “Spanish colonial documents consistently used this term to refer to the ‘tribes’ that populated the region.” Harrell-Bond then makes the following observation: “Spain always emphasized the distinctiveness of these people from the populations of Morocco and, further south, Mauritania as part of their efforts to refute the claims these countries made over the Spanish colony.”95 Yet HarrellBond never tells us on what grounds the Spanish administration made these claims. The claim that Sahrawis constituted a distinct group prior to colonialism is asserted rather than argued. In order to make an argument for the category Sahrawi, one has to rely on premises provided by colonialism in the first place. In fact, Harrell-Bond’s observation suggests that the creation of the category Sahrawi has more to do with a colonial desire to justify boundaries than with the ways in which the ØassƗniyyah-speaking peoples of the region actually imagined themselves before colonialism. This is because before the twentiethcentury, the term Sahrawi, if used, though rarely, referred to all peoples living nomadic existences in the entire Sahara (i.e., the way Hart originally used the term in 1962). More often, though, the terms “Arab” or “Bedu” would be used. The term Sahrawi’s dominant meaning until recently was a type of Arabic script used in the Sahara.96 While the idea of a Sahrawi people is rooted in Spanish colonialism, the biggest proponents of the idea have of course been Western Saharan nationalists. From the very beginning, Polisario rested its legitimacy on the idea of a Sahrawi people. Their first manifesto, issued shortly after their founding congress on May 10, 1973, claimed that the Front is a “unique expression of the masses, opting for revolutionary violence and the armed struggle as the means by which the Saharawi Arab African people can recover total liberty and foil the maneuvers of Spanish colonialism.”97 Over two years later, the Polisario unveiled the Guelta Zemmour declaration on November 28, 1975, following Spain’s announcement that it would abandon its colony to Morocco and Mauritania. The declaration was signed by a vast majority of the native representatives from the colonially instituted bodies, as well as dozens of other indigenous leaders, shuynjkh and notables. The signed declaration named the “POLISARIO Front” as “the only legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people.” It also expressed the signatories’ “determination to pursue the struggle to safeguard our territorial integrity and to defend our country until we have gained complete independence.”98 Two months later, the Polisario declared the


Chapter Fifteen

Western Sahara an independent, albeit occupied, nation on February 27, 1976 at Bir Lahlou in the northeast of the territory. The name they gave their republic, al-Jumhnjriyah al-‘Arabiyah al–aÝrƗwiyah al-DƯmuqrƗiyah, reveals, at least in part, the source of the idea of a Sahrawi people and also some of the confusion among observers. In Arabic, –aÝrƗwƯ and –aÝrƗwiyah are adjectival forms (nisbah) of –aÝrƗ’ (Sahara). These nisbahs could modify a person or a place and make either Saharan (i.e., –aÝrƗwƯ). The sense in which the republic is Sahrawi is not ethnic but rather geographical. Western Saharan nationalists rarely ever refer to their country as Al-SaÝrƗ’ al-Gharbiyyah, but simply as al-SaÝrƗ’. The colonial subjects of Spanish Sahara (al-–aÝrƗ’ al-AsbƗniyyah), imbued with a sense of nationalism, were no longer Spanish Saharans (–aÝrƗwƯ AsbƗnƯ), but just Saharans (–aÝrƗwƯ). The term –aÝrƗwƯ, as the Polisario used it, and as observers adopted it, was born of an act of symbolic resistance: –aÝrƗwƯ AsbƗnƯ (i.e., Spanish Saharan). Their country was no longer al-–aÝrƗ’ al-AsbƗniyyah but simply al–aÝrƗ’. The recognition of this abandonment of “Spanish” as a kind of linguistic liberation, also reveals the colonial and nationalist dialectic discourse and counter-discourse, that has produced the Sahrawi as a people. Identity formation, which operates by creating oppositions, was obviously at work in the evolution of the Sahrawi.99 The outcome of which can now only be understood in this context of colonial and anti-colonial power dynamics.100 As much as Sahrawi nationalists harkened to an ancient past, the identity they fashioned to articulate their nationalist sentiments was a direct reaction to the geographic, social, economic and epistemic violence of colonialism. The great thrust of Western Saharan nationalism was to assert that the people of the Western Sahara were not colonial subjects of Spain (i.e., Spanish Saharans), but simply Saharans, free of oppressive qualifiers. Their land, likewise, was not El Sahara Español, but simply the Sahara. Though the terms have changed since 1975, the oppositional operation is still the same. Sahrawis are Sahrawis, not dƗrijahspeaking Maghribis (Moroccans or, broadly, North Africans). Their country is still al-–aÝrƗ’, not –aÝrƗ’ Maghribiyyah (Moroccan Sahara). This is how the Sahrawis became a people, and now maintain their identity. But in laying claim to the Spanish Sahara and its arbitrary borders, Western Saharan nationalists were also laying claim to the arbitrary social boundaries constructed by the Spanish to define their colonial subjects. And by claiming an ancient past for their people, nationalists were “grandfathering” other communities into their people. The peril in making such broad, indefinite claims were clear to Western Saharan nationalists by the 1990s. In 1975, Polisario activists told the UN Visiting Mission that true Sahrawi population was 750,000. Then, in 1991, Polisario claimed that the Sahrawis only numbered 75,000 in 1974, based on the Spanish census of that year. Considering ethnic

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


relations with Mauritanians and southern Moroccans, the former claim is not as unbelievable as it first seems. It however hints at a broad conception of a Sahrawi people that was later curtailed for political reasons.

Objections and Response In recognizing these aspects in Western Saharan nationalism, one runs the risk of suggesting that the nature of such a recent social phenomenon undermines its legitimacy. However, understanding identity formation in this way does not, for example, prescribe that Spanish Sahara should have been absorbed into Mauritania for reasons of ethnic congruence. Nor does it suggest that Morocco is a more legitimate nation because its regimes date back to the arrival of Islam. As this study has noted, most nations, Western Saharan nationalists included, assert a history older than the actual “birth” of the nation. Furthermore, all national identities, including Moroccan and Mauritanian, are the outcome of an interaction between dominant and subordinate social forces. Describing the growth of Western Saharan nationalism, political scientist George Joffé wrote, “It was, in short, a quite typical example of the growth of nationalist sentiment in a colonial situation: the same argument could be advanced for the development of almost any North African nationalist sentiment as a result of the colonial experience.”101 The aim is not to deprive Western Saharan nationalism of its dignity, but rather to understand it more fully. It is also wrong to assume that the pre-colonial self-conception is more authentic than the post-colonial identity. This tendency in thinking privileges a static conception of formerly colonized peoples as pre-modern. One finds this even among sympathetic writers. Pauline Lalutte, offering a Marxist analysis on the outbreak of war in the Sahara, wrote in 1976, “Primitive and poor, the territory had slumbered for centuries, recently under Spanish rule.”102 This is as if to say that the rise of the Almoravid movement from the Western Sahara, and its territorial expansion across Northwest Africa and Spain was an act of sleepwalking; or that the identity shift from ZenƗgah-speaking Imazighen to ØassƗniyyah-speaking Arabs happened without agency. Instead of embracing the dynamics of social interactions in all peoples, at all times, even “critical” observers have perpetuated the biases of colonialism. They have also drastically underestimated the epistemological effects of colonialism on the colonized and the colonizer. Indeed, the Sahrawi identity is very real to those who have lived and died for it, which is the sine qua non of nationalism under Benedict Anderson’s understanding.103 For better or worse, the Sahrawi identity is the outcome of the colonial experience and the settler/native dialectic. This, above all else, laid the foundation for an extraordinary nationalist independence movement in the late period of the Spanish occupation. Across the board,


Chapter Fifteen

European colonialism’s desire to fashion obedient subjects ended up inspiring an explosion of nationalism.

5. Conclusion: Implications for Mediators Western Saharan nationalism exists. The belief that it will disappear if Morocco somehow wins Western Sahara is as false today as it was in 1975, perhaps more so. The International Community has recognized that native Western Saharans have a right to self-determination. Yet the Security Council and the UN secretariat, which oversee peacemaking efforts in the contested Territory, have not yet come to grips with the fact that Western Saharan nationalism is as real as any other nationalism. Sahrawis are willing to die for their people. Are Moroccans still willing to die for a land of diminishing returns? Unless the United Nations can find some solution that respects Western Saharan nationalism, all efforts will be doomed to failure and will only engender future violence.

Part VI: A Double Minority Status


Rather than debate whether or not Berbers are a minority in North Africa,1 this chapter will focus on a socio-religious group recognized as being a minority in Morocco as well as within the wider Berber culture. This socio-religious group, called Igurramn,2 defines itself as being of a holy lineage. This group inspired me to explore the concept of double minority: the Igurramn are demographically a minority in Morocco, and the female members of the group are viewed as a minority even though the Igurramn community had flourished as a result of the active role of the Tigurramin women. The community of Igurramn I studied3 was indeed very dynamic due to the participation of its women as traditional healers and as religious scholars. This chapter will briefly describe how this community functions and the mode of transmission of both religious and therapeutic knowledge. Additionally, it will explore how in a patriarchal framework one woman succeeded in transmitting to her male and female descendants the status and role of Igurramn and Tigurramin through the mechanisms of kinship and alliances. It will also show how a small minority based on gender identity contributes in an intricate and complex effort to the survival of a larger minority, and how each circle of solidarity nourished reciprocally a larger or smaller group minority.

1. The Inception of the Community According to the testimony of the oldest member of the community, who died ten years ago, the community started when the founder, Aicha, who came from an Igurramn lineage at the end of the nineteenth century, married the ancestor of the community, whose ancestry was secular.4 Unexpectedly literate in a socio-cultural context where illiteracy was the norm, she started teaching reading and writing skills to her own daughters and had her sons attend a

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


religious school (madrasa atiqa), where they eventually became scholars. The very fact that a woman had access to reading and writing was unusual, albeit highly regarded by the local population who showed deep respect and admiration for the founder of the community. The way the founder was able to transmit her knowledge was through her children first, especially daughters, and then through her daughters in-law who lived with her by virtue of the rule of patrilocal5 residency. The practice of the founder as a medicine woman spread quickly. Amazingly, she was able to attract populations from villages as far as eighteen miles away, who traveled in search of her healing and wisdom. My research examining Aday’s Igurramn community focuses on the institution of the Tigurramin women. This institution is studied through: a) a form of organization (community), b) a mode of communication (oral) and, c) a system of meaning and practices (religion). The role of women in the inception of the community was crucial; their role in its durability was decisive. Yet the roles of men and women are complementary. This unique community is an illustration of the concept of double descent:6 the Igurramn and Tigurramin received their patronymic name from their male side and their socio-religious status from their female side. The Tigurramin were able to establish a reputation for their community as a source of healing for women and children, and indirectly for men. For example, women would describe the symptoms of their male family members and the Tigurramin would prescribe remedies based on the description given to them. The community of Igurramn and Tigurramin was also a source of religious education for women from neighboring villages. The males, on the other hand, built the community’s reputation as a center of religious knowledge. The Igurramn of Aday played an important role in the socio-religious sphere, but their political role was limited compared to the Igurramn of the High Atlas.7 They were politically neutral, were not armed and did not take part in wars. This last factor allowed them indeed to play the role of arbitrators in conflicts between villages. The female founder was considered a saint and a Sufi. Yet the community of Igurramn is not a formal zaouia/sanctuary, nor did it belong to a specific brotherhood. The Igurramn did, however, refer to their home/community as a zaouia/sanctuary because of the holiness of their religious activities (instruction, diffusion of Islamic values and celebration of the birth of the prophet Mohammed). The community did not disapprove of the cult of saints, arguing that everybody needed an intermediary/wasata between the believer and God. At the level of social stratification, their social position can be described, according to informants, as being in the middle between the Chorfas (direct descendents of the Prophet Mohammed through his companion and son in-law Ali) and the general people/I’amiyn. When asked to define themselves, they


Chapter Sixteen

responded by stating that they were descendents of the three other companions of the Prophet. This view can be seen as a historical justification for their position in society since using their Berber heritage does not guarantee them social prestige. In the new socio-religious context (the arrival of Islam and the islamization of Moroccan society), the Igurramn had to provide themselves with a religious/Arabic legitimization in order to continue to be credible. After the death of the female founder in 1942, an elegiac poem of seventy one verses was composed in Arabic by a Berber poet8 in her honor. In the poem, she was referred to as the daughter of the faqih/religious erudite and the best of women. Her death also gave birth to a legend, which claims that her corpse was supposedly elevated to heaven.

2. Marriage and Kinship What promoted the success of the community was the strong web of family relationships, which are often based on consanguinity and alliances. The community encouraged specifically its male members to marry with women from Igurramn lineages because the future of the community rested on the daughters-in-law who lived within the community by virtue of the principle of patrilocal post-marital residence. The Igurramn constituted a lineage internally segmented. This segmentation is based on a differentiation between maternal and paternal lineages. The maternal lineage transmits the role of medicine man/woman and, most importantly, the status of Agurram. The paternal lineage, on the other hand, transmits the patronymic name and material goods. In the late nineteenth century, the marriage of the founder and her establishment in the village of Aday constituted, as stated above, the beginning of the community. The oral tradition I collected during my field research revealed two important figures in the lineage of the founder: her greatgrandfather and her father- in-law. The first one was the hagiographic ancestor of the community, and the second one was the eponymous ancestor. Her father was a well-known scholar in his village, and her mother, who was literate, had started a tigurramin community in the village where she married. The founder of the community of Aday, who was of Igurramn ascendance, married a man who was her father's student and who was not from an Igurramn extraction. The prestige of his religious knowledge and status (he was a scholar in a religious school for young adults) compensated for his lower secular social status. The marriage of the founder was exogamic, for she married outside her family circle and village; she also contracted an alliance with a husband whose social status was inferior. Therefore, their children contracted both exogamic and endogamous9 marriages. The Tigurramin married young, just like secular

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


women did. The main difference between the Igurramn and regular villagers was in the rituals of marriage. The Igurramn’s marriage celebrations were rather austere, for music, dance and singing were banned. Instead, the Koran was read during these celebrations.

3. Therapeutic Practices The medicine that the Tigurramin of Aday/Ighir practiced was based on a deep knowledge of herbs, body manipulations and the use of scriptures. The founder initiated her two daughters into the practice as well. The oldest, who married her paternal cousin, stayed in the community and practiced her medicinal art until she died in late 1960's. The founder also instructed her daughters-in-law who practiced until they died. The Tigurramin practiced empirical medicine, using internal and external medications such as compresses, cataplasms, lotions, unguents, baths, infusions, suppositories, decoctions, and other liquid and solid preparations. They also used plants, mineral and animal substances. In terms of curative techniques, the Tigurramin made use of cauterization, amulets, fumigations, massages and Ismgriw/exorcism. Their pharmacopoeia used plants, spices, minerals, animals and regular foods. The common etiologies were bad eyes, possession by djin/devil, and attack by the devil/tashyyur. Among diseases healed were ophthalmic, head, articulations, bones, digestive and children’s diseases. The key difference between the medicine of the Tigurramin and the medicine of other women in the region and rural areas in general was the use of writing. The Tigurramin’s medicine was regarded as erudite. Before prescribing a remedy for an illness or condition, the founder and her followers searched in books and often wrote the Arabic text of amulets to be worn or used in fumigations or infusions. The use of books was evidently highly regarded in a context where the vast majority of the population was illiterate.

4. Socio-Religious Roles The Berber-speaking country, the Chleuh areas in Southwest Morocco- are among the rare regions that had developed written literature.10 The Chleuhs' written literature is almost exclusively religious, with the objective of Islamic instruction and edification of the believers. According to the historian Mukhtar al-Susi, there were two hundred and seventy religious schools (madrasa atiqa) in the Chleuh region in the forties. The Igurramn of the community of Aday studied and taught in these kinds of schools where the main topics of study were: Islamic law, Hadith, Koranic exegesis, inheritance, and religious


Chapter Sixteen

obligations. Most schools used mukhtasar/précis or short versions of original books. The Tigurramin women studied the basics of writing and reading, and they read the Koran and some basic religious books, mostly through family members, since the mode of religious schools were reserved for the males. In their socioreligious function, the Tigurramin taught villagers through majilis, formal meetings held in their home in late afternoons and during Ramadan. Because the teaching of the Tigurramin was very pious, they included in their teaching gestures, formulas and rules of conduct, rules of purification, and ritual prayers. They also focused on the importance of formulas such as the basmala/in the name of God. The fear of divine punishment was a leitmotiv in their discourse. In their view, women were the source of sins, and their objective was to reinforce Islamic conduct in order to further increase the submission of women. Because the Tigurramin were rather austere and rigorous, they viewed secular practices as being too licentious. One of the main religious roles of Aday’s Igurramn Community was to celebrate the birth of the prophet Muhammad during laylat al-madh, a night during which scholars chanted the Koran and sang praises to the prophet. This night was the main attraction in the area, for it attracted hundreds of people to the community. This important celebration alone, in conjunction with their teachings, the Igurramn and Tigurramin played a crucial role in islamizing villagers and combating innovation.11

5. Agurramism: A Berber Institution? Agurram/Igurramn are Berber appellations that designate a holy lineage. In his study, Saints of the Atlas, Gellner forged the word “agurramhood” to describe the phenomenon of maraboutism or cult of saints in the High Atlas. I adopt the word “agurramism” to define the fields of action and thought of the Igurramn, in other words, an example of a Berber substratum. The Igurramn are not marabouts in the sense that they do not have a ribat or a tomb where their ancestors would be buried and to which their followers would make regular pilgrimages. There are two kinds of Igurramn: honorific ones, those who do not make a living from their social status of Igurramn, and effective ones, those who make a living from their status and their role by practicing traditional medicine, providing religious instruction, playing the role of mediation and arbitration, proceeding to the division of inheritance, supervising the juridical tradition of collective oaths, among other activities. The Igurramn do not wage battle because they are not armed. It appears that they do not need to use arms because they already have a symbolic and efficient weapon that protects them from aggression: the power of malediction. The

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


Igurramn belong to that category of people who may be feared because they are respected or respected because they are feared. Their power resides in the efficiency of their words, and there are many testimonies of illnesses provoked by the Igurramn’s prayers of revenge. This dissuasive weapon generates both fear and veneration and, therefore, enables the Igurramn to exercise their role of social control: intermediary between God and men, and among men. This magic power of the Igurramn, called tagat, may evoke a Berber anthropolatry.12 Secular informants think that any Agurram or Tagurramt are capable of doing ismgriw, a term that covers a multitude of gestures, formulas, and prayers whose main target is deliverance. Even the honorific Igurramn are thought to be capable of expulsing evil by a simple incantation. Indeed, the Igurramn are sometimes described as people whose malediction/tagat is feared, and whose benediction/lbaraka is solicited regardless of their socio-economic status.

6. Conclusion The Igurramn constitute a minority within a minority because they represent a small proportion of the Berber population. But it is also a minority within a minority that claims its right to holiness and social prestige and disputes the field of holy lineage to the Chorfa. The situation of the Igurramn as a minority is being reinforced by the fact that Igurramn’s traditional roles are diminishing: religious schools where they previously taught are vanishing, and the role of the Tigurramin as medicine women is being aggressively challenged by modern medical practices. The Igurramn studied for this essay are aware of these trends and understand their predicament as a minority among the villagers. This very fact is actually a source of prestige since they use the word I’amiyn–sometimes perceived as being pejorative-to refer to all villagers and all other people, except the Chorfa, who do not descend from a holy lineage. Put in a national context, the Igurramn are also a minority in Morocco where Berbers in general are officially considered a minority. When examined closely, the Igurramn community of South-West Morocco proclaims its prestige from the socio-religious role played by men, while in fact the formation and the development of the community depend largely on the role of women within this community. By using the masculine term Igurramn to refer to both the men and women of the community, the villagers are reinforcing the minoritization of women within the community. The informants refer specifically to the female members of the community only when their healing role is the main focus of the conversation. This is rather astonishing given the fact that the only members of the community who continue to live according to the traditional ways of the founders are women. Men are nowadays assuming new identities by taking modern jobs, thus cutting their ties with the community.


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In conclusion, by reducing women to a minor role, the community of Igurramn is a stunning illustration of double minority.


This chapter examines the role of women in rural Amazigh social organization in Morocco. I will argue, first of all, that while scholars concerned with rural life have produced interesting work on social entities like tribes, villages, moieties (lfuf), notional “homelands” (or timizar), and religious brotherhoods (zawiyat), we have underemphasized the most vital, most fundamental social unit in Morocco: the household.1 Making sense of household dynamics is essential to comprehending all other social relations in the countryside –up to and including relations with the State—and household dynamics are likewise central to understanding the rural dimensions of the cultural, technological and economic transformations often lumped under the term “globalization.” Rural production is household production, women are central to this household production, and taking seriously the importance of women and households facilitates clearer understanding of the broader sociopolitical dynamics of the rural Moroccan world. I am emphatically not making the case that women exist in a domestic sphere that is separate and entirely insulated from male politics. On the contrary, I will assert that in many ways, and sometimes in quite striking ways, Amazigh women make free men, a production I mean in political economic rather than biological terms. Given the general invisibility of women in discussions of rural social organization, other than in the literature on marriage dynamics, or perhaps their structural position in arguments about habitus, I am aware that my argument here might be counterintuitive, or even controversial. After a discussion of some caveats and conditions of the research upon which the argument is based, and a summary of the general importance and dynamics of households, the core of the paper will consist of four ethnographic vignettes, expressions of some ways in which women consolidate the land and labor vital to independent tikatin, or households. I will not argue that women are


Chapter Seventeen

secretly in control of Amazigh society, or deny that women are subject to much more difficult and pervasive forms of physical labor than rural men, or indeed that patriarchal values are not in general quite strong in the High Atlas. Nor will I make the case that women are “resisting” male power in James Scott’s terms. What I will contend is that in the High Atlas women possess qualitatively distinct forms of power, and that this power can make or break the fortunes of some men in the community.

1. Caveats and Context The main base for my research, and the basis for this chapter, is a set of small villages in the Agoundis River Valley, a tributary of the Nfis River, in the mountains, 90 kilometers south of Marrakesh. I focus intensively on the village of Tadrar, a cluster of mud and stone houses etched into the hillside above the Agoundis River about 1,500 meters above sea level. 2 All two hundred and twelve residents speak Tashelhit, most of them exclusively, and they support themselves growing barley, maize, almonds and walnuts in more than a thousand small, steeply terraced plots. These small plots are irrigated by an elaborate canal system that draws water from far up the valley and distributes it via seven main canals with innumerable offshoots and ditches. During my initial research in 1998 the canals were constructed purely of rock, mud and a few logs; the engineering is impressive. Using nothing but hand tools and gravity villagers effectively transport a continuous supply of water across several kilometers of precipitous mountain while the river that sustains the operation surges from a trickle in the late summer to a torrent in the early spring. Villagers also herd goats and some sheep in the surrounding mountains, and sell these animals along with what nuts they can grow. Outside of migration, these few products represent the only significant means of monetary production, though in this context “significant” really means very insignificant. People here are terribly poor, even by Moroccan rural standards, some living on as little as US $50 per year. By 2004 much had changed, and much is still changing. From no toilets in 1998 we had half a dozen in 2004. In 2004 there were eleven electric panels providing solar power, as well as a solar water heater in the mosque and a diesel powered grain mill to replace the defunct watermill in the river. Five people had televisions, some with DVD players that they used for watching Tashelhit (Berber) music productions and some comedy shows, and the new dirt road carried almost daily truck traffic in and out of the valley. These trucks seemed to facilitate more people migrating more frequently, though as yet I have no hard data on this. In addition, the Peace Corps had donated funds to build a potable water system that was constructed in 1998, the same year a government school

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


was built, and by 2004 the villagers boasted two classrooms and two teachers and had altered the water system to bring at least sporadic plumbing into most private houses. (I say sporadic because the newer, cheap plastic pipes frequently rupture.) By 2004 the government had even provided a loan to one man to build a tourist gîte, so now the villagers of Tadrar are occasionally beset with small troops of European tourists trekking through the village, accompanied by Amazigh guides from outside the valley. In short, since my initial visit in 1994 – when there was no road, nor any of the other things I have mentioned, Tadrar has become an exemplar of “development” in Morocco, a village where change has been fairly dramatic and very rapid. This is the context from which I am speaking. It is worth pointing out that rural Morocco is tremendously diverse (Crawford 2005, Berque 1967:78), and so generalizations made from the context of the Agoundis ought to be made cautiously. I am not sure I always follow this advice. A final, important caveat is that I am writing about women from the perspective of someone who is not one. While in this area of the High Atlas male ethnographers can speak to women (and female ethnographers have access to men), the sex of the researcher does inflect her or his movement through the social world of a village, the type of questions that can be asked, and of whom, when, and where. Beyond the preeminent distinction of gender, it is also true that age, marital status, and race impact how one moves through a village and how villagers will interact with a researcher. As I grew older over the course of my research (from 1994 to 2004), and moved from the status of single white “European” male to the position of a married father, many things changed about how I did research in Tadrar.3 Knowledge is flavored by the way it is cooked. My views changed over my time working in the mountains; my understanding of what family meant, what children meant, and my own changing family status changed the way villagers, male and female, interacted with me. Still, as will be clear when I move on to the ethnographic examples, much of what I write about women came to me indirectly, through men, and this shapes what I have to say in particular ways. I have some terrific direct interviews with women, too, but I read much of their world as a palimpsest –beneath the lines of the male social world I came to know much better, and, in the later stages of the research, the married male world.

2. The Central Importance of Households I first traveled to Tadrar as a tourist and aspiring graduate student of anthropology in the summer of 1994; I returned for my Ph.D. research in 1998 with my head full of ideas gleaned from the rich tradition of ethnographic writing on Morocco. I was, at that time, intrigued by Gellner’s arguments about


Chapter Seventeen

segmentary tribes, fascinated by Robert Montagne’s work on moieties (lfuf), baffled by Jacque Berque’s compendium on social structures in the High Atlas, suspicious of David Hart’s five-fifths, astonished by Durkheim’s use of Kabyle material to make his arguments about organic and mechanical solidarity, bemused by Bourdieu on honor, habitus and spatial dynamics, and flummoxed by the Geertz-inspired, meaning-centered reaction to much of this work on social organization.4 I gravitated towards the work on social organization and away from the American culturalist riposte to it, and upon arrival in the mountains this inclination strengthened. There were two main reasons for this. First, there were methodological concerns. My Tashelhit was weak and while it was relatively easy to see who worked with whom, and relatively straightforward to ask why, it remained very difficult to write any thick or subtle description of the meanings involved. My second reason was also practical: little I had read prepared me for how village life was organized. It seemed apparent to me fairly early in my study that households were the main way daily labor was organized in villages; people did not live in tribes or villages, they lived in households. Households were the prime social units of production and consumption, and as such they underpinned other forms of social organization. Examining household relations thus seemed to offer a way to contribute to larger debates in anthropology and social theory that were founded on Moroccan data about society and culture. Households seemed absent from the literature, and addressing this gap seemed useful academic work. To give only a couple of examples, Robert Montagne’s classic monograph parses Amazigh society, at least “among sedentary Berbers (Anti-Atlas, Souss, western High Atlas, Rif, Jbala, Jurjura in Kabylia) [into] four levels: village, canton, tribe, confederation” (1973:29). Elsewhere, Montagne explores how lfuf, moieties or what were described to me as something like “political parties” operated across these levels. While disagreeing with Montagne about lfuf and the restricted number of “levels” involved in Amazigh society, Ernest Gellner argues that a nested, tribal organization is the only form of social organization in the mountains, that the different levels Montage discovers are refractions of a single, simple genealogical idea. He writes, “What defines a segmentary society is not that [segmentation] does occur, but that this is very nearly all that occurs” (Gellner 1969:42). While this is not the place to review the long, complicated history of the Moroccanist debates on society and culture, my point for now is that they ignore households. Important debates about social order have centered on Berbers from Ibn Khaldun through Durkheim, Bourdieu, Gellner, and Geertz (Goodman 2003, Pouillon 2005, Roberts 2002). While these conversations are sometimes subtle and often roam far beyond Berbers (much less Moroccan Berbers), they have never seriously attended to the household organization of labor, or to women’s role in households.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


In Tadrar at least, the twenty-nine households, or tikatin, are the foundation of village life, the central social units of both production and consumption.5 Most village labor is undertaken by, and organized through, the household, and household labor dynamics are central to all larger forms of social organization. In deliberately plain terms: the importance of households has been overlooked in academic work on rural Morocco, whether the topic is the local salience of the state, the organization of “tribes,” the difficulties of development, or the practicalities of migration. A Morocco-wide cultural valuation of “family” is more than matched in Tadrar by the central economic importance of family relations. It is this economic role that begs our attention. Villagers make this clear. Every one of the 212 villagers in Tadrar belongs to a takat (or household) and everybody knows who belongs to which. Tikatin (households) are comprised of people who usually live and often eat together, but more importantly tikatin are the primary means by which finite, individual, temporally overlapping human lives are organized into productive arrangements. Built mostly –but not entirely— around marriage and descent, households in Tadrar vary from two to seventeen people, from a husband and wife with their children to a group of brothers with their wives, sisters and mother, from a grandmother with her two married grandchildren to a widow and her niece. Households usually begin as a young, childless couple and sometimes extend to four full generations living together. A takat may consist only of an old couple living alone, either childless or whose children have moved away. Villagers articulate their changing internal household dynamics with larger social forms, from lineage based work groups to the village-wide decision making assembly, from the timzguida (or mosque) where the men spend their political time to the ad hoc, frequently reassembled associations of women who share the work of harvesting, washing, childcare, and giving and receiving hospitality. Households are not isomorphic and cannot be simply amalgamated.6 Whatever shape tikatin take at a given moment, they each have a life cycle. Tikatin hive off from the parent household at some stage, grow, change, wither and expire —like the humans who constitute them.7 Households are in constant flux, adjusting available labor with the very limited agricultural land available in the mountains, often seeking new ways to support themselves by means beyond farming, especially wage labor outside the village. All members of a household conceptually share an oven, a hearth. This is literally a takat and is what defines the constitution of a household. Men cannot constitute a household without women because men cannot in local ideological terms establish this hearth. Most household members live together under one roof, but not necessarily all of them. Some members may spend most of their time shepherding or working outside of the village or have houses in other villages. Some


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households are established across different houses in Tadrar. Household members may have seasonal jobs working on big farms in the plains or permanent work as nannies in the city. These working individuals can be, but are not necessarily, tied to a rural takat, which is to say they may or may not continue to devote labor and share resources with takat members in the village. If migrants do not share, do not eat, and are not embedded in the power structure of the household, they are not part of the takat. We cannot understand rural to urban migration without understanding households.8 Some fathers periodically travel to the city to collect the paychecks of their children working there, and these children are seen to remain in the household even though they may very rarely be physically present in the village. Other children have chosen to fend for themselves, to assume responsibility for their own finances in the atomized economy of the flatlands and cities. These people are no longer members of a village takat no matter how often they visit or how cordial their relations. The emotional resonance of “family” is not the same as an economic commitment to the household. Some older, dependent sons set up separate houses inside the village with their wives and children —what might appear to be tikatin in their own right— but such men must still work their father’s harvest, must turn to their fathers for seed, and must hand their crop over to him. The land is “owned” by the patriarch, or at least remains controlled by him. While ambiguous, the households of such older men are referred to as part of the parental takat since they are dependent on the land vested in the living paterfamilias. A few sons have managed to set themselves up in the village independently through commerce or periodic wage labor, but only a few. Below I will focus on the role women play in the establishment of this kind of independence. The fundamental aspect of a takat is that it is an economic association, an assemblage of people who work a certain set of resources and share its rewards. The terms in which this working and sharing is done are never equitable at a given time and part of the role of tikatin is to transfer labor, land, love, care, food and money across generations. This “cycle of domestic development” is common to households everywhere (Robertson 1991:11), but, as we shall see, this has particular relevance for our concern with women’s power. Tikatin are generally grounded in biological relationships propagated through the social institution of marriage, but there is a wide variety to both the forms households take and the meanings these forms hold for variously positioned household members. There is far more diversity of households than might be supposed, and household members have interestingly diverse opinions about their positions. Still, economically men dominate almost every takat. Women may have inherited property, and this is to varying degrees kept separate from the

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


husband’s property for the purposes of inheritance. In most cases —but not all— a woman’s property is far less economically significant than what her husband owns, i.e. there is less of it, and in any case is controlled by the husband as long as he is alive. In such a precarious environment, however, the marginal value of women’s property is very high. Women own relatively little property compared to men, but this property is nevertheless crucial in many instances. The disparity in property ownership emerges over time because of inheritance customs. Sons and daughters inherit their mothers’ property equally, but men’s property goes to sons over daughters by a ratio of two to one, a norm villagers justify using Quranic injunctions.9 This ensures that over the generations land tends to flow into the hands of the village men. Moreover, nearly 80% of women born in Tadrar marry out of the village and these women rarely seem able to claim their inheritance. It is one thing to have “rights” and another to exercise them. Women with many brothers and a small patrimony are particularly unlikely to receive their share, even if they marry within the village. Men explain that these women “didn’t ask for their land,” or slightly more forthrightly, “there was not enough.” There are several cases where people — usually women— receive token portions of the harvest, or just exaggerated hospitality, rather than their “rightful” share. Three generations ago approximately half of the property in Tadrar was consolidated in the hands of a single powerful man; today it is dispersed, and becoming more so with each passing generation.10 Few tikatin own very much more than they need for survival, and many seem to own somewhat less. In most cases, children will not come to own any significant property until the death of their father. Young women generally marry before their midtwenties, and will go live with their husband’s takat. If the new husband still lives with his father, the bride joins a new, extended household and her working life will probably not necessarily change significantly. That is, if she moves from one large household into another, she moves only from working in the service of her mother to working under her husband’s mother or sometimes grandmother. If the groom has his own property, however, the bride is set up as the female head of a household, a dramatic transformation from her position in her natal home. As a new matriarch of a household, a bride moulds her own oven by packing mud around a large pot (again, such an oven is called a takat) and the new matriarch can begin to raise the children who will provide the labor to sustain the household as the older generation ages into infirmity. Brides typically move from one village to another so that marriage for women usually means not only learning a new set of fields, trees and other property to which she has rights and obligations, but a new social world in which such property is embedded.


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As for sons, the father may allow them to marry before his own death, but not necessarily. If the father allows marriage he may choose the bride, though however selected, the new wife will come to live in the father’s takat. Sons cannot marry their way out of their natal households in the same way as daughters can. Sons typically serve their father until his death and this economic dependency is supported by an ideology of intense deference, the “master and disciple” paradigm discussed by Hammoudi (1997). My casual question to one man about when he would begin to relinquish some control of his land to his grown, married sons was met with incredulity. He froze on the trail in front of me then wheeled sharply around. “When I’m dead,” he said stonily. We continued on in silence. As mentioned above, some men do manage to establish households inside the village while their fathers are alive and without the father’s assistance, usually by working for an extended time in a distant city and then returning to the village capable of supporting themselves. Even here, however, filial duty seems to reign over economic independence and such men tend to end up irrigating their father’s property and working his land, especially during peak planting and harvesting seasons. I know of no case where a migrant returned and bought enough land to support himself. Given the exigencies of the irrigation system, buying scattered available plots of land would severely complicate irrigation rights. Rarely in any case do sons go off to the city of their own volition. Typically, they are sent and only when their labor is not required in the village. It is generally fathers who decide whether to dispose of their son’s labor directly in the fields or to transform it into income through migration. A son has to be confident indeed in his own ability to support himself to choose to abandon paternal resources, including, perhaps, a chance to inherit land. A son who breaks away from his father’s household risks economic isolation no matter how emotionally warm his relationship with his family. So, as I will show, other than the death of a patriarch, women are one of the few sources of free land in the village, and thus one of the few avenues to freedom. Materially, each takat relies on a combination of resources, but none is as essential as fields. Almonds, walnuts, sheep, goats, and wage labor provide ways of making cash, at least for some households, but fields provide the barley that forms the staple of everyone’s diet. It is very difficult to make enough money to buy food. Money will be needed for shoes, clothes, scythes, hoes and other tools, medicine, tea, sugar, oil, soap and, in the winter, vegetables, dry beans and occasionally meat. Money is almost always necessary for these things. Barley, on the other hand, keeps people alive when there is no money, and fields are necessary to grow this staple. There are over 1,100 fields in Tadrar irrigated by the seven main irrigation canals. The heads of the twentynine tikatin organize the nine- and ten-day irrigation cycles for the different

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


canals such that fields get enough water to render them productive. This does not mean, of course, that each field is equally productive, or anything close to it. The fields are studded with trees -over 4,000 walnut and almond trees, in addition to many others, ranging from white poplar for wood to pomegranates for fruit and olives for oil. Thus, not only are there differences in field characteristics like size, soil quality, or orientation to the sun, but some fields are entirely shaded by trees planted near them and are thus unsuitable for growing anything but a small amount of animal fodder, or tooga. The fields are not divided equally amongst the tikatin, either. Villagers, especially those on the poorer end of the continuum, have a keen sense of who owns more than whom and are only too happy to expound on the unjustness of it all. Still, rich or poor (or poor and poorer) all households owe their lives to the fields and the canals that support them. I have written extensively about the male labor involved in maintaining and operating these canals (Crawford 2003). Here I want to discuss women’s vital contributions to the household political economy.

3. Women and the Political Economic Dynamics of Households I. Abdurrahman is about 55 years-old, a grandfather, one of the wealthiest men in the village and certainly one of the most powerful. He is the youngest son of the youngest son of the man who at one time owned half of all village property. Thus, Abdurrahman is part of the most powerful lineage in Tadrar and he is keen to consolidate this power by working with agents of the Moroccan state, development specialists, and me. Nearly anyone who does business in Tadrar will, sooner or later, eat in Abdurrahman’s guest room, and those of us outsiders who have spent considerable time in the village have necessarily spent much of it at Abdurrahman’s house. Abdurrahman’s heritage does not explain how Abdurrahman gained power, however. In fact, there is no simple, single explanation. Abdurrahman is ambitious, smart, energetic, politically savvy, and sometimes forceful –he possesses many of the qualities shared by successful people in many contemporary societies. But we should not overlook the influence of Abdurrahman’s wife Khadija, and Khadija would be easy to overlook. She is quiet, shy, and stays away from the guest areas of the house as much as she can, sending her daughters-in-law and sons as emissaries back and forth from the core production zone in the kitchen to the outside transaction center of the guest room. Abdurrahman’s ability to talk politics depends upon his ability to host, and this ability to host depends on the kitchen, the anwal, and most specifically the oven, or takat. Tanoort, bread, and by extension life, comes from this oven.


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Khadija runs the kitchen, she took over the takat from Abdurrahman’s mother upon the old matriarch’s death, and in this straightforward sense Khadija can lay claim to the very heart of the household and its political potential. But that is hardly all. When Abdurrahman and I worked to map the fields of the village it became clear that a large number of his fields were inherited from his mother, who died after Abdurrahman’s father, and thus had inherited a portion of her husband’s land which, upon her own death, passed to her only full son, Abdurrahman. Thus Abdurrahman received more land than his half brothers from other mothers. More significantly, much other land was actually his wife’s. Because Khadija’s only full brother is developmentally disabled, and Khadija cares for him, all of the property owned by Khadija’s father has come under her control, and thus, under Abdurrahman’s purview. In Tadrar, land is the basis of prosperity. The fact that Abdurrahman and Khadija have so much land is fortunate, and they have been further blessed with five sons and two daughters. These sons, along with Khadija’s brother, do all of the malegendered agricultural labor for the household, even while two sons (and sometimes three) work in the city and return wages to the household; the two daughters-in-law married into the household, help Khadija with all of the feminine labor (from harvesting fields and hauling wood, to milking the cow and baking bread). Thus, Abdurrahman is allowed the most vital tool necessary to the politically ambitious: time. Khadija’s land, Abdurrahman’s mother’s land, and the abundance of household labor means that Abdurrahman can spend his own time doing what he loves: trafficking in information, kibitzing, planning, plotting, thinking, and traveling. One place Abdurrahman travels is to the home of the amghar, or local liaison to the central government, who lives three villages down the valley towards the main road. The amghar is Khadija’s half brother, and when making his own rounds of the valley he visits Abdurrahman’s house nearly every time he passes — partly as a matter of “family values” and partly to hear Abdurrahman’s version of whatever is happening politically. Moreover, once a week, when Abdurrahman travels to market at the regional political center in Talat n Yaqoub, he generally buys supplies for the household, but he always stays much longer than is necessary to shop. Sometimes he stays overnight. The purpose of these visits is quite clearly about shopping for information as much as shopping for material goods. When he stays at market, Abdurrahman looks for hospitality from relatives of his mother (his father’s fourth and youngest wife), who live very near suq. Of course, Abdurrahman’s patrilineal relatives all live in Tadrar. Only his matrilineal and matrilateral relatives marry outside the valley. In sum, women’s land (Abdurrahman’s mother’s and his wife’s) has been crucial to the material reproduction of this household, including the production

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


of children. Sons in particular are fundamental to allowing Abdurrahman the time to engage in politics. Furthermore, Khadija’s labor in the kitchen and fields (and the labor of Abdurrahman’s sons’ wives) ensures that visitors are always received with tea, food, and time to talk; Abdurrahman’s mother’s relatives give him a base of operation at the regional political center. Abdurrahman’s success is predicated on connections made through women; the land and labor of women provide his livelihood and political potential.

II. My second example also relates to land and its importance in constituting independent households. It focuses on Hussein, one of the many grandchildren of Abdurrahman’s oldest half brother, Mohammed Ali. Mohammed Ali died in the winter of 2003, which was very sad as he was a kind and humorous old man. For his sons, however, one of whom was already himself a grandfather, Mohammed Ali’s death meant that they would finally inherit land and, thus, would finally be wholly independent. All men are formally equal in the village council or in the mosque, but as I noted earlier, only men with land can control their own labor and to some degree their own fate. I will suggest at the conclusion of this paper that this might prompt us to think more about what constitutes “freedom,” whether in Gellner’s terms (when he says that in the High Atlas “liberty and equality go together”)11 or in terms of President Bush’s assertions that “freedom is on the march” in places like Iraq. In any case, I was not surprised to see that Mohammed Ali’s two sons had finally taken their places as independent household heads when I returned to the Agoundis Valley in the summer of 2004. What I did not expect was that Hussein, who was a grandson, not a son of Mohammed Ali, also had become an independent household head while his brothers and cousins did not. How had Hussein gained the resources necessary for independence while his father was still alive? Simply, Hussein is lucky (or smart or both) in that his wife Aisha is also his cousin. Aisha’s mother is a daughter of Mohammed Ali and is presently unmarried. This woman decided to live with her daughter Aisha, and thus brings her share of Hussein’s grandmother’s land and his paternal aunt’s land under Hussein’s control. This is not much, but it is enough so that Hussein can operate as an independent man in a household with his wife, her mother, and grandmother. He also sharecrops land from other female relatives. Hussein’s entire patrimony is, at present, facilitated by women. These women have liberated Hussein from living under his father’s roof and doing his father’s labor. Hussein has been made a free man by his wife, her mother, and his grandmother.


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III. While my third example of how women constitute property is also about the relationship between land and independence, it is somewhat more complicated. Hassan was an older man when I did my research in 1999, married to his second wife Zaina. His first wife was Khadija, daughter of one of the four apical ancestors within the most powerful lineage in the village, and one of the few sisters in her generation to receive her Islamically just portion of her inheritance. Hassan was Khadija’s second husband; she originally married a patrilateral parallel cousin –one of her father’s brothers’ sons— named Hejmi and Khadija was thus a link between two of the most wealthy sublineages in the village. Khadija and her first husband had a daughter who married to the new center of power in the Agoundis, the village of Tijrisht where the amghar, the main local representative to the central government, lives. When Hejmi died, Khadija married Hassan, establishing her new household with the portion of land she inherited from her father, as well as the lands of her late husband Hejmi. These lands thus came from the same larger lineage, but from two different sublineages –that of Khadija’s father and that of her husband. Hassan, Khadija’s new, young husband, was himself in the same sublineage as Hejmi, but at the point he married Hassan had inherited no land as his father was still alive. In fact, Hassan’s father is Khadija’s late husband Hejmi’s brother; young Hassan married his aunt. While not seen as specifically forbidden (or haram) in local understandings of Islamic propriety, this evidently did not please Hassan’s father, and the boy was disinherited from what would have been his patrimony, his household property and his part in his lineage dynamics. If this hurt his relations with his nearest lineal kin, it still seems to have benefited Hassan economically, especially as when Khadija died she left her second husband the lands of Hassan’s dead patrilateral uncle in addition to Khadija’s own (more significant) land from her father’s lineage. Thus, Hassan got his share of his own sublineage’s land, but through his uncle rather than his father, and he picked up a significant portion of another sublineage’s land. In interviews, some villagers considered him to be “really” a member of this other lineage because that’s where the bulk of his property originated. Affiliation was as much about property as it was about biology. Most of Hassan’s irrigation cooperation was undertaken with his late wife’s nearest relatives rather than his own natal lineage. It does not seem like this cooperation has gone very well, however, though I could get little specific information. What I know is that by 1999 Hassan had remarried Zaina, a woman from a neighboring valley, and they had had two small sons together. Zaina brought with her a daughter from a previous marriage and by 2002 they added another daughter to the family. With one younger girl

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


and three very young children, by 2004 Zaina and Hassan chose to move to the city, sharecropping their mountain land with the one remaining household of Hassan’s late wife Khadija. Hassan’s story illustrates several things, not least the mutability of households in time, and the relationship between kinship and political economy. Through Khadija’s patronage Hassan seems to have made himself a better position than some of his other lineage members, or even his own father. However, if non-statements and avoiding the topic are evidence, Hassan also seems to have isolated himself and his household, first from his father and then from his extended lineage. In Tadrar, there are limited means of exercising one’s ambition, limits that are material (lack of productive property) but also social (lack of cooperation). Khadija helped Hassan secure the property to be an independent man, but she could not help him with the delicate task of assembling the social cooperation necessary to render the land productive. It takes both luck and political skill to prosper in Tadrar in ways that are acceptable to village mores.

IV. As final illustration of the dynamics of women’s importance to the political economy of the Agoundis I want to discuss two extraordinary women, Fatima o Haj and Fatima Id Baj. Fatima o Haj lost her husband in 2003, about the same time as Mohammed Ali, who I discussed above. Fatima’s husband was the last of his lineage, the Ohomo; the couple had no sons or daughters. Fatima had originally provided much of the land that she and Ohomo relied upon (she was another woman of her generation to successfully claim her inheritance), and now as a widow Fatima controlled all of her land, and the remaining Ohomo land, free and clear. I had expected that she would go to join the household of one of her many brothers and place her land under one of their control. On the contrary, Fatima contacted her sister who had married several villages away and asked for help. Her sister found a granddaughter in that village who was unmarried and whose labor was not needed in her own household. This granddaughter came to live with Fatima in Tadrar and now does all the “feminine” labor in Fatima’s household, the food preparation, cleaning, and gathering wood. For the male labor required to render her land productive Fatima hires one of this young woman’s relatives. Fatima pays this man cash, a daily wage, to come from his village to Tadrar in season to plow and plant, and then relies on her patrilineal nephews (who live in Tadrar) for the more frequently required irrigation. Thus not only does Fatima o Haj run her own household independently, but she does so by employing male and female relatives within her own lineage, as well as connections her sister has made


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marrying into another lineage in another village. Fatima and her sister’s granddaughter constitute a takat entirely comprised of women; they hire what male labor they need. While Fatima o Haj’s situation is hardly typical, the importance of the sorts of women’s connections she uses is profound and largely unstudied in the literature on rural Morocco. Because women usually marry outside of their lineages and, frequently outside of the village too, it is women who provide the connections between the involuted patrilineages of villages like Tadrar and weave them into a broader rural social fabric. This is why Abdurrahman relies upon his mother’s relatives when he travels; Abdurrahman’s male relatives all live within easy walking distance of one another. But it is not always men using these far flung, feminine connections. My neighbor Fatima Id Baj chose to divorce her first husband, who was also her patrilateral parallel cousin. It was a difficult decision as the husband had moved the family 17 kilometers away to the regional center and demanded that he keep Fatima’s two children there. Nonetheless, Fatima left him, returning first to her father’s house in Tadrar, but then moving again to spend time in the capital of Rabat with her sister who had married there. In Rabat, Fatima learned a bit of Arabic (and she remains one of the few women in Tadrar who can speak Arabic) and she strengthened her ties with her sister’s new, urban family. Much later, when Fatima had returned to Tadrar, remarried, and had several more children she sent one of her boys to live in Rabat with the same sister who had taken her in years before. Her logic was plainly economic. In Rabat Fatima’s son Brahim would go to school, learn Arabic, and might some day come to work in the city and earn money. As it turned out, Fatima’s plan did not work. Brahim is very shy, he was homesick, and he is not a very good student, but Fatima still has hope that one of her younger children may yet be able to take advantage of the urban contacts established by Fatima’s sisters who have moved out of the valley. This is useful not only for boys, but for the increasing numbers of girls who are sent to the city to work as maids and nannies.12 This transfer of children does not just occur between the village and city. In my second summer of fieldwork in 1999 I reviewed some of the photos I had taken when I had first begun studying the village in 1998. I was distressed at the number of people I could not identify, particularly children. I took the photos to various neighbors in the village and asked what families the children belonged to. I then discovered how many of them were “visiting,” sometimes for months at a time. Because nearly all of a child’s relatives on her or his father’s side live in the child’s natal village, the only way to see the wider world, to move between villages, is to visit relatives from the maternal side (typically the mother’s home village), or to visit female relatives on the paternal side who have married out. This is exactly what happens. Women of the High Atlas

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


provide much of the social circuitry that allows men and children to move across the landscape. Such circuits allow for the integration of localized social modalities into variegated rural and urban space. Women in the Agoundis quietly and almost invisibly establish the means by which rural Imazighen (or Berbers) gain access to the important resources available in the flatlands and cities. Women provide the land that renders some households independent, the labor that makes all household viable, and the social connections to integrate them into a wider political economic context.

4. Conclusions–Households, Women and Free Men There are many other examples of this kind, men, women and children who gain access to productive property and other resources through their wives, sisters and mothers. These resources sometimes serve to transform men from dependent household members to “free” and independent household heads, and other times allow men the means to increase their manual labor force (through offspring or by hire) so as to free themselves for other political, social and intellectual labor. It is in this sense that I argue that women “produce” free men, both free in the sense of controlling the labor of others, and free in the sense of using this appropriated labor to pursue desired political and social projects. Moreover, and more broadly, this “bilaterality” of property transfers would seem to support Goody’s argument about the commonalities among circumMediterranean (including European) kinship systems (1983:12, 27). As he writes, “for though descent groups are always unilineal, kinship is everywhere bilateral” (ibid. 16), a point that seems underappreciated in much of the work on rural Moroccan Berbers.13 The “transmission of property to heirs of both sexes,” or what Goody terms “diversifying devolution” (1983: 21), is evident in highland Morocco and demonstrates the important, and in “tribal” societies often ignored, connections between property relations and politics.14 Martha Mundy has convincingly demonstrated the importance of household analysis to understanding larger social forms in Yemen, and in particular the links between household dynamics, broader kinship networks of various sorts, and the state level political economy (1995:199); our understanding of rural Morocco would benefit from a similar approach.15 These household social dynamics also point to the centrality of women to Amazigh social organization, and the failure of ethnographers to see beyond cultural constructions provided by male informants, especially relatively elite male informants. I am no exception to this general rule, as most of my previous work and most of the examples in the chapter have come from my contacts with men. This is to say that our typically masculine “situated knowledge” of the countryside has led to a kind of ethnographic blindness –and to fatal lacunae in


Chapter Seventeen

the work of some of our best theoreticians (as discussed in Goodman 2003). Important work has been done on rural women in Morocco.16 The task now is to connect it to what are often thought to be the masculine domains of politics and economy. My argument is that attention to households allows us to treat the integrated nature of male and female social realms in rural Morocco as a whole, and helps us to grasp the connections between gender roles, kinship dynamics, and the rural political economy. Ultimately, we cannot understand the integration of rural Amazigh society into the larger Moroccan and world economy without understanding households. Apprehending rural Amazigh society requires attention to the production of material life; the Moroccan mountains are very poor and in my experience villagers understand their world in relation to this central fact. In Agoundis, all people maintain themselves through households, and “it is through their commitment to the concept of the family that people are recruited into the material relations of households” (Rapp and Ross in Lem 1999). As elsewhere in Morocco the broad concept of “family,” and the much more specific, economic constitution of “households,” significantly depend upon women’s physical, social and political labor. Failure to appreciate women’s labor has allowed us to ignore households, and this has skewed our most basic understandings of rural society and its articulation with the larger economy. It has also cost us a chance to explore how “Imazighen,” Berbers, or literally “free men,” come to be free, and thus the question of women’s lives in the Moroccan mountains leads us to questions of considerable contemporary importance, like: what exactly does “freedom” mean? To conclude, I believe we have been so blind to women’s role in rural social dynamics. This comes down to what I would call the temporality of knowledge. Localized male forms of social organization in the High Atlas follow, or at least begin, from the idea of lineages. This is not to deny the salience of the state, but to assert that the power of the state does not generally penetrate the quotidian lives of farmers, and here older, or at least more ethnographically famous, sorts of power dynamics retain their vitality (Ilahiane 2005, Kraus 1998, Venema 2002). I have written on this elsewhere, but would reiterate that ideas of the importance of patrilineal relations do not translate directly into empirical “lineages” acting in the social world, but all the same these ideas are put to work and do have some relevance. To pick up another line of this argument, relations amongst men are not simply negotiated by atomized and independent actors (Rosen 1984), but are contested in a historical, social, economic and cultural context that bears significantly upon the direction and depth such negotiations can accomplish. Women’s daily labor, unlike men’s labor, does not rely on lineal relatedness. It cannot, in fact, because 80% of the women in Tadrar are unrelated to one another. Instead, women form ad hoc groups for harvesting or

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


cooking, weaving or watering cattle and these ad hoc groups are difficult to track. They are based on a diversity of cultural logics that ethnographers, including myself, seem to have found difficult to penetrate. Moreover, women’s associative activities rarely occur in a predictable place (like the mosque or a formal meeting of the village council, or tajmaat) and this too renders them hard to study. Women’s political arguments are every bit as vicious as men’s, and are usually beyond my ability to untangle even when I observe them, but I do not think we have tried hard enough to understand what women are up to in political economic terms. With communal labor that is hard to track and inelegant to theorize women’s contribution to the social organization of rural life has gone relatively unexamined. Women have been rendered invisible in the ethnographic record, or, at best, inert because the spatial context of their activities and style of interaction confounds our methods. A third and final issue is that the work women do constituting households happens in temporal frameworks that are inconvenient to study –either in-themoment (like groups formed for agricultural work) or very infrequently –during land transfers at the death of a patriarch, for instance. Women’s modalities are not generally manifest in a temporally bounded “event” that can be easily ethnographically framed, except perhaps for weddings, which may explain why weddings garner so much attention. Even the relations I have discussed in this chapter were not so much observed and recorded as induced from disconnected smatterings of social behavior. I used maps of social relations, questions about how those maps were thought to change over time, and reflective interviews based on these changes, as well as the sheer good luck to sit around doing nothing for long enough to be present when something happened. It is hard to write granting agencies for funds to sit around hoping something happens, but some kinds of knowledge are amenable to just that. The timeframes of my original research meant that I only glimpsed the importance of women’s relations dimly, if at all. Women’s labor happens both too fast and too slow to be readily apparent. Only by watching village social relations unfold over more time, and stitching short-term events into longer term patterns, has women’s labor started to come into view, at least for me. There is something ironic in all this since Amazigh women have been portrayed as timeless exemplars of traditional culture locked in a domestic sphere, isolated from the historical world in which men act. This is wrong. I want to assert that Amazigh women are timeful actors busily working to secure their welfare and that of their households and families, against sometimes daunting odds, using resources that if not distinctly feminine in themselves, are at least handled in women’s own terms. High Atlas women have types of power, and a type of freedom, that ought to be appraised ethnographically rather than


Chapter Seventeen

written off as insignificant or subsidiary to the types of power and freedom available to men.


INTRODUCTION 1. This position is the foundation of Lamchichi’s book, Femme et Islam. 2. Konrád, The Melancholy of Rebirth, 100. 3. Loomba has written a remarkably concise book on this question, Colonialism and Postcolonialism. CHAPTER 1 1. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 14. 2. Salhi, “Rethinking Francophone Culture,” 11. 3. This complex issue is further discussed in this book by Paul A. Silverstein in his chapter, “Islam, Laïcité, and Amazigh Activism in France and North Africa.” 4. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 14. 5. Tylor, Primitive Culture, 6. Thompson, Ideology and Modern Culture, 128. 7. Harris, Culture, People, Nature, 1875. 8. Salhi, “Critical Imperatives.” 9. Salhi, “Critical Imperatives.” 10. “Copts (Christians of Egypt) are not asking for special treatment to compensate for centuries of discrimination and persecution. They are only asking for equality. They don’t want anything more, and they will not settle for anything less. It is hard to believe that, at the turn of the 21st century, equality to Copts remains a luxury they still dream of. This at a time when the rest of the civilized world considers equality a birth right to be taken for granted.” For further information on Coptic demands see 11. For example, through the establishment of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture in Morocco and the High Council for Amazighity in Algeria. 12. Arendt, On Violence, 65. 13. Michael Meunier, “Promoting a Coptic Identity,” in The Copts: Christians of Egypt, 23, 3, July-Sept, 1996, p.11, quoted in Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 155. 14. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 16. 15. The assassination of Matoub Lounes on 25 June 1998, allegedly by “Islamic extremists” fueled anger amongst Kabyles who staged fierce demonstration in the Kabyle capital Tizi Ouzou. 16. Steiner, Reading Against Shakespeare. 17. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 60-61. 18. For further information on the Mouvement pour l’Autonomie de la Kabylia, see:


Notes and 19. Examples include La Colline oubliée by Abderahman Bouguermouh, Machaho by Belkacem Hadjadj and La Montagne de Baya by Azeddine Meddour, although the first film in Kabyle to have addressed concerns of this nature, Pour la liberté, was made in 1982 by Kamal Salhi and Tahar Yami. 20. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 30. 21. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 204-5. 22. He figures in Scribe’s Le Soldat Laboreur, Cogniard’s La Cocarde Tricolore, Bayard and Dumanoir’s Les Aides de Camp and Charet’s Conscrit Chauvin. 23. Erikson, “Identity, psychosocial, 61-62. 24. Points discussed in this paragraph also raised in my article on “Religion” A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures. 25. Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East, 15. 26. Arendt, On Violence, 65. 27. William Kymlicka has published numerous books among which the following have direct relevance here: Contemporary Political Philosophy; Liberalism, Community and Culture; Multicultural Citizenship; The Rights of Minority Cultures. CHAPTER 2 1. Ben Youssef Zayzafoon, The Production of the Muslim Women. 2. Clancy-Smith, “Berber History,” 498-499. 3. Schroeter, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 541. 4. Ibid, 540-541. 5. Ben Youssef Zayzafoon, The Production of the Muslim Women. 6. Valensi, “Multicultural Visions,” 202-203. 7. Ibid., Sitbon, Gagou (Paris, 1980). 8. Clancy-Smith, “Berber History.” 9. Laroui, L’Histoire du Maghreb: un essai de synthèse, 48. 10. The Byzantines chose to pay an annual stipend to the chief of the Antalas in return for peace and order. 11. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghreb, 66. 12. The process of pacification took approximately 50 years. 13. The French colonial regime instituted two major reforms in the Maghreb. In 1846, the French abolished slavery and, in the 1880s, they introduced a European educational system. 14. The Tijanis entered into an alliance with the French in 1839. In 1841, with a group of Muslim dignitaries, their leaders called for the acceptance of French rule. See AbunNasr, A History of the Maghrib, 244. 15. Vermeren, Le Maghreb: la démocratie impossible? 48. 16. Iberians and North Africans have 98% of common genetic pool; which means that Arabs and Turks brought minor changes to the genetic composition of North Africa. See Antonio Arnalz-Villena and Jorge Martinez-Laso, Pre-Historic Iberia Genetics, 2000. 17. The French who lost 2,686 men in this uprising wanted their severe repression to kill any rebellious scheme in Kabylia. The tribes that had participated in the rebellion had to

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


pay 10 million francs in gold and cede all of their lands (1,102,090 acres) to the French. See Vermerin, Le Maghreb, 74. 18. Lemsine, “Berberism,” 31, 89-90. 19. Chouraqui, Between East and West, 143. 20. Vermeren, Le Maghreb, 77. 21. Chouraqui, Between East and West, 150. 22. Schroeter, Merchants of Essaouira. See Lewis, The Jews of Islam and Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands. 23. Taïeb-Carlen, Les Juifs d’Afrique du Nord, 165. 24. Chalom, Les Israélites de Tunisie, 131. 25. Taïeb-Carlen, Les Juifs d’Afrique du Nord, 159. 26. Ibid., 191. 27. Ibid. 28. Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, 105. 29. We have certainly to qualify this statement. The percentage of Muslim Algerian children who attended school remained negligible moving up from 1.9% in 1890 to 6% in 1929. In 84 years of colonization only 34 Muslim Algerians were able to graduate from the University of Algiers. This figure is to be compared with 1300 Tunisians who graduated in 74 years of “protectorate.” See Vermeren, Le Maghreb, 76. 30. Quandt, “The Berbers in the Algerian Political Elite,” 303. 31. Brett and Fentress, The Berbers, 273-274. 32. Ait Ahmed, “La braise,” 153-8. 33. See Roberts, “The Unforeseen Development,” 313-334. 34. Chaker, “La voie étroite: la revendication berbère entre culture et politique,” 294. 35. The events, sometimes referred to as the Black Spring, resulted in the death of more than a hundred Berbers. See Vermeren, Le Maghreb, 352. 36. Brett and Fentress, The Berbers, 280. 37. See “L’Algérie ferme des écoles francophones,” 3. 38. Recently, Algeria has passed a law prohibiting any attempt to convert Muslims to another religion. Mohammad Aissa, director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, told the state radio that the law passed on March 20, 2006 aimed at insuring the stability and cohesion of the country. He noted: “Ten [Christian] sects are active in Algeria. They do not respect our laws. And some of these sects called for revolt in the Kabylie region.” See, “Algeria Forbids Efforts to Convert its Muslims,” The New York Times [on line], April 6, 2006. CHAPTER 3 1. This strike was ultimately unsuccessful. See Duvignaud 1970 and Bertucelli 1970. 2. Ben initially wrote these remarks as part of a course paper. Later, Ben used this paper as part of a text responding to the 1976 referendum on the creation of a new Algerian constitution; the text was published anonymously in France (N.A. 1976); Ben’s section was subtitled “Constitutive Cultural Elements of the New Algerian Man” and drew explicitly on the writings of Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Joseph Ki-Zerbo.



3. Unless otherwise indicated, remarks by Idir are from interviews I conducted with him in Paris on February 10, 1994 and November 4, 1996. 4. Oasis Disques no. 11,001; the flip side of the recording contains the song “TamacahuĠ n tsekkurt.” CHAPTER 4 1. For discussions of the mission civilisatrice in relation to the construction of ethnoracial and religious divides in colonial North Africa and other French colonies, see Bullard 2000; Guilhaume 1992; Lorcin 1995; Rosenblum 1988; Silverstein 2004: chap. 2. 2. Kabyle migrant workers whose land had been largely expropriated during late nineteenth century colonial incursions were the first Algerians recruited to work in metropolitan fields, mines, and factories. They remained a majority of the Algerian immigrant population until after the Algerian war of national liberation. The history of immigration from Morocco follows a similar pattern, with Berberophones from the southern Sous valley privileged by employers. To this day, at least forty percent of French North Africans can trace their origins to Berber-speaking areas. For histories of North African migration to France, see Dirèche-Slimani 1992; Liauzu 1996; Macmaster 1997; Noiriel 1988; Silverstein 2004: chap. 3. 3. Pamphlet entitled “20 avril 1995: 15 ans de lutte ininterrompue” by the RCDImmigration. The ‘eternal Jugurtha’ refers to an epic poem by Jean Amrouche published in 1943 in which the Numidian chieftain who fought the Roman Empire was presented as a Berber ‘emblem of absolute liberty’ for later generations of militants. See Yacine 1995: 102. 4. Activists in the southeast Moroccan oasis town of Goulmima refer to the entire community as a mellah, as a marginal Jewish quarter under submission to the sovereign. Several of the local walled, multi-family habitations, or ighremen (Ar. ksour), contain sections that still bear the name of mellah, though the last Jewish family left in 1969. 5. I do not have the space here to engage in a full ethnographic description and analysis of Udayen Achour. For colonial accounts of Berber festivals of inversion, most of which involve some portrayal of Jewish characters, see Doutté 1908 and Laoust 1921. For a brilliant ethnographic essay on the High Atlas Bilmawn masquerade that follows the ‘id sacrifice, see Hammoudi 1993. 6. The particular costuming of the Jewish characters either with store-bought animal masks or homemade cardboard and wool disguises replete with long beards seems consistent throughout Morocco (see Hammoudi 1993: 58-68). 7. While most Goulmima Berber activists do slaughter a ram for the ‘id festival, they invoke cultural tradition rather than religion in justifying their actions. Associating the holiday with state terror, they actively recall the 1981 ‘id when sixteen local youth were detained and tortured for supposedly slitting the throats of three puppies and hanging their carcasses on the entrance to the ighrem in apparent opposition to King Hassan II’s ban on the ritual sacrifice in light of the country-wide drought conditions. 8. On the propitious quality of Jews for Moroccan Muslims, particularly in terms of the latter’s mastery of the “occult sciences,” see Hammoudi 1993: 153, Kosansky 2001.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


9. In 2004, André Azoulay, the Jewish economic advisor to King Mohammed VI, attended the festival in an official capacity. CHAPTER 5 For a complete list of his publications, the reader should consult the list provided at the end of The Suffering of the Immigrant (2004). 1. I would like to thank the editors Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause as well as participants at the international conference: ‘The Berbers and other minorities in North Africa: a cultural reappraisal,’ May 13-14, 2005, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, where an earlier version of this paper was presented. I would also like to extend thanks Jonathan Katz, Rabah Seffal and Kamal Salhi. 2. ARDES or L’Association pour la Recherche Démographique, Economique et Sociale was set up during the post 1958 push by de Gaulle to see something ploughed back into the Algerian enterprise (Arfaoui, 1996). After independence an ‘A’ was added and it became the Association Algérienne pour la Recherche Démographique, Economique et Sociale (AARDES). In Sayad’s view, it did invaluable work, even after independence and its attachment to the Planning secretariat but that once it was removed to the control of the Prime Minister’s office it became a corrupt cipher of political power. 3. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales founded in 1975, is one of the organs of the European Sociological Centre (Centre de Sociologie Européenne) which is part of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. The Centre was founded by Bourdieu in 1968 and lays great stress on the working methods to be used in the production of sociological writing, the most important of which is that of collective working mediated by seminars and/or workshops. 4. For a discussion of the place and role of the Teacher Training College at Bouzaréah in colonial Algeria, see Colonna’s Instituteurs algériens 1883-1939. This study was itself undertaken under the supervision of Pierre Bourdieu. 5. Named after Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, Duke of Isly who was responsible for the defeat of the Emir Abd el-Qader in 1843 and who was Governor-General of Algeria from 1841-47, it began life in 1868 (on Bugeaud, see Adamson, 2002; for a feel of what schools such as the Lycée Bugeaud were like, see Tselikas–Hayoun, 2004). 6. The Provisional government had provided opportunities for students to study either in France or in Eastern Europe, and Sayad argued that it was unfair to maintain a total strike at home that had the result of excluding those like him who were unable to study abroad. As he points out, it was another example of the tensions between those who were on the inside of the struggle and those whose struggle was taking place abroad. 7. The ambivalence that Sayad is expressing here about the consequences of the sanctioning of violence/terrorism lies at the core of the debate going on in Northern Ireland since the murder of the Catholic Robert McCartney in 2004 and the responsibility for it of the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin. See also Woodworth Dirty War, Clean Hands. 8. Filmed in 1965, it has achieved an iconic status for a number of different reasons. These include the fact that although it won the Golden Lion at the 1966 Venice Film Festival it was banned in France and not screened until August 1970, and it was October



1971 before it was shown in Paris (see Stora, 1998: 250). Furthermore, the film score was composed by Ennio Morriconi. Although the film is not a documentary, its principal actor was Yacef Saadi who is also one of the leading characters in the film. Its realism is such that it has been used as a teaching tool by the Royal College of Defence Studies, UK (text presented at a conference, University of Salford 11-13 October 1996), and scenes from the film have been used to depict the war as if they were actual newsreel film. Apart from a brief discussion in Stora, see also Roberts (1997). 9. Fédération de France represented the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens in France. It had a hostile relationship with the FLN. 10. In some ways, that there was a possibility that Sayad’s father committed suicide, can be read in terms of Sayad’s use of the concept of stigma. 11. This sense of the ‘temporary’ that Sayad expresses here, seems to be his personal expression of what he calls the contradiction or paradox of the provisoire in the status of the emigrant-immigrant (Sayad, 1980). 12. The title of the original article that appeared in the Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord XX (1981: 365-406) is ‘Le Phénomène migratoire, une relation de domination.’ 13. The effects of presence are neatly summed in Georg Simmel’s 1908 “The Stranger” as ‘the man who comes today and stays tomorrow–the potential wanderer, so to speak, who, although he has gone no further, has not quite got over the freedom of coming and going’ (Simmel in Levine, 1971: 143). There is no obvious indication that Sayad was familiar with Simmel and this piece by Simmel is short but it does seem that conceptually they are very close. 14. It should be noted that Sayad had struggled to gain entry to CNRS, in part because of the ill-health he experienced after Algerian independence and which had brought him to France in the first place. 15. Vol. 15 (June), 1977: 59-79; and is reprinted in Sayad (2004). 16. The discussion in these different articles seem to be illustrating once more, the ambivalence that was apparent in Sayad’s direct responses to Arfaoui’s questions about his feelings and experiences during the Algerian War. 17. Sayad’s discussion of emigration-immigration is one of men, there is surprisingly little direct discussion of women, and yet in his conceptualisation of ‘absence’, there is the implied ‘presence’ of women. Given that Sayad argued that a science of emigration was required because it would view the issues that arise from emigration-immigration from a different standpoint, then this question of the simultaneous ‘absence’ of men but the continuing ‘presence’ of women must have consequences. 18. The word for stigma in French is stigmate which gives it an ambiguous meaning because its plural form stigmates refers to the marks of the cross on Christ’s body, thus its use evokes the pain of Christ and at the same time the pain that the emigrantimmigrant experiences. In his 1979 article “Qu’est-ce qu’un immigré?” Sayad refers to the idea of stigmates (Sayad: 1979: 11). 19. This idea of a lingering suspicion about your motives and therefore your loyalty underpinned the rationale of the Holocaust, as a number of authors have pointed out. This is very similar to the concept of ‘double consciousness’ used by African-American sociologist WEB du Bois and which Paul Gilroy uses as the motif of The Black Atlantic (1993).

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


20. Given that the English translation of the word fonction in Durkheim as ‘function’ has come to have a meaning independent of the original, it seems to me that it is better here to retain the French spelling. The reinterpretation of the meaning of fonction is discussed in Susan Stedman Jones (2001). Durkheim’s place in French sociology is very different from that it came to occupy in Anglo-Saxon sociology of the 1970s, with its legacy of misinterpretation and misunderstanding that colours how his sociology has been read. The result is that it is difficult to appreciate just how influential the Durkheimian framework is in the language of French sociology. 21. Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) was a French philosopher of science but who also worked on the nature of the imaginary which is one of Sayad’s own concerns. 22. The 2005 UK General Election has illustrated how the act of knowing the ‘numbers’ of, in this case, state defined ‘illegal immigrants/asylum seekers’ can dominate discussion even though in global terms even the wildest estimates are insignificant statistically. There was a similar reprise occurring in France as the candidates for the 2007 presidential election jostled for position. 23. Emile Benveniste (1902-1976) is known for his work both on general linguistics but also Iranian languages. Sayad makes a specific reference to Benveniste’s Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes in “Immigration and ‘State-Thought.’” 24. The University of Chicago was one of the first universities to have its own school of sociology, established in the 1890s by Albion Small. Its many sociologists included Robert E. Park, Ernest W Burgess, Everett Carrington Hughes as well as Erving Goffman and a number of African-American sociologists. It produced pioneering work on both urban sociology and race. 25. The word ‘repatriates’ is used here as a euphemism for that group of Algerian Muslim victims of the independence war that one finds more usually designated by the word harki. They remain a stigmatized group within the wider Algerian ‘colony.’ See Jordi, Les harkis, une mémoire enfouie. 26. This is the title of a collection of essays first published in 1957. 27. John Gilissen (1912-1988) was a Belgian legal historian, perhaps best known as the editor of a bibliographical introduction to legal history and ethnology although he also published on a wide range of other legal issues. 28. Gershom G Scholem (1897-1982) wrote extensively about Jewish mysticism, and is credited with the foundation of the modern study of the Kabbalah. Although born in Berlin, he emigrated to Palestine in 1923, unlike his friend, Walter Benjamin (18921940). Walter Benjamin is best known for his study of mid-nineteenth-century Paris (Paris, capitale du XIXè siècle–le livre des passages, Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2002) in which he focuses on the building of the Paris arcades. CHAPTER 6 1. Camps, “Les Berbères, mythe ou realité?” 35-64 in Roque, Les cultures du Maghreb, 197. 2. The notion of “amazigh” means “a Free Man” and it is used by Berber-speakers to value their own identity instead of using the term “Berber” (see old greek term “barbar”),



which has a negative connotation. The North African territory is referred as “Tamazgha” and the Berber language is called “Tamazight.” 3. The first tamazigh-speaking movie was produced in 1997. It is called La Colline oubliée, and is based on the novel by the famous Amazigh writer Mouloud Mammeri. (See: Francoise Germain-Robin : “Le premier film berbère” in l’Humanité, 22 February 1997). 4. The internet is more used by Amazigh people of the diaspora since in North Africa the majority of Berber populations are out of reach of these postmodern communications. However, the structure of communications is being transformed by the recent explosion of modern communications in major Moroccan cities and the setting up of internet websites for the Amazigh Cultural Movement. CHAPTER 7 1. This work has been accomplished within the project “History of the Maghreb and alAndalus. History of the Berbers” (“Ramón y Cajal” Research Program), and “Geographical and Social Mobility of Muslim Populations in the Iberian Peninsula” (HUM2006-08644/FILO), both from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. 2. For the transcription of Arabic terms a simplified system has been used in order to avoid diacritical points. 3. Gozalbes Cravioto, ‘Notas sobre las invasiones bereberes en la Bética en época de Marco Aurelio’, 217-248. 4. Courtois, Les Vandales et l’Afrique; Modéran, Les Maures et l’Afrique romaine (IVVII siècle). 5. As is well-known, Berbers call themselves amazigh (pl. imazighen) in their own language. Here we will use the word barbar (or Berber, in English), as this is what can be found in the Arabic sources on which this work is based. 6. On Berbers in al-Andalus, see Bosch, ‘Establecimientos de grupos’, 147-161; Guichard, Structures sociales; Dhanun, The Muslim Conquest; de Felipe, Identidad; Haqqî, Al-Barbar fi l-Andalus; Manzano, Conquistadores, 166-186. 7. Ibn Hazm, Jamharat Ansâb al-‘Arab. 8. On this period, see Chalmeta, Invasión e islamización. 9. The Banû `Abd al-Wahhâb’ in Ibn Hazm, Jamharat, 502; Ya`la ed. Kitâb Mafâjir albarbar, 206, 246; Ibn Bashkuwâl, Kitâb al-Sila, 814. 10. Meouak, Pouvoir souverain, 165-172; de Felipe, Identidad, 137-145. 11. al-`Udhrî, Tarsî` al-akhbâr, 113; Ibn Sa`îd, Al-Mugrib fi hulâ l-Magrib, I, 313; Yâqût, Mu`jam al-buldân, II, 7, s.v. Tâkurunnâ. 12. Marín, ‘Una familia de ulemas cordobeses’, 291-230. 13. Fierro, ‘El alfaquí beréber’, 269-344. 14. de Felipe, Identidad, 157-161. 15. On this group, see Ibid., 114-118; 95-100; 94-95; Ibn Khaldûn, Kitâb al-`Ibar, VI, 185; de Slane, Histoire des Berbères, I, 276. 16. `Abd al-Rahmân was not the only Andalusi ruler whose mother was a Berber. `Abd al-Rahmân’s successors, `Abd al-Rahmân b. al-Hakam and al-Mundhir also had mothers

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


of the same origin, called Halâwa and Athl respectively. The adoptive mother of Emir Muhammad I, Tahtazz, was also Berber. With the exception of Râh, all these women were brought up in al-Andalus. As for Râh, she was captured in North Africa, and was sold in the Islamic East, where she became the mother of the first Umayyad prince of alAndalus. On these figures, see Marín, Mujeres en al-Andalus, 123, 387. 17. On this episode see, Fierro ‘Tkfat al-barbariyya y el destino de los omeyas en alAndalus’, 345-48. 18. Ibn al-Qûtiyya, Ta´rikh iftitâh al-Andalus, 24; Akhbâr Majmû`a, 100. 19. Corriente, Diccionario de Arabismos, 171-172. 20. Barceló, Sobre Mayûrqa; Barcelo, El agua que no duerme. 21. On Berber settlements, see de Felipe, ‘Berbers in the Maghreb and al-Andalus’, 5762. 22. Ibn Hayyân, Al-Muqtabis, 190; García Gómez, Anales Palatinos, 228. 23. On this issue, see also Ibn Hazm’s opinion, Manzano, Conquistadores, 175-176. 24. Ibn Hayyân, Al-Muqtabis, 190; García Gómez, Anales Palatinos, 229. 25. Abd Allâh b. Buluqqîn, Mudhakkirât al-amîr, 16-17; Tibi, The Tibyan, 44. 26. On the military changes introduced by al-Mansûr, see de la Puente, ‘La caracterización’, 381, n.54. The Arab terms quoted here belong to a text found in the Nafh al-tîb by al-Maqqarî, who is referring to the different tribal factions as they are found in the traditional genealogical Arab system. 27. Ibn `Idhârî, Al-Bayân, 48; Maillo, La caída, 52. On this episode see, Marín, ‘Signos visuales’, 148-149. 28. On the party kingdoms, see Viguera, Los reinos; Wasserstein, The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings. 29. Bosch, Los Almorávides. 30. Al-Shaqundî, Risâla fi l-difâ` 3, 191; Gómez, Andalucía contra Berbería, 81-82. 31. Kitâb al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya, 45-46. 32. On Almoravid settlements in al-Andalus, see Rubiera, ‘La tribu beréber’, 11-16. 33. On the Almohads see Cressier, Los Almohades. 34. On the Almohads in al-Andalus, see Viguera, ‘Las reacciones’, 705-735. 35. Rodríguez, La intervención. 36. See Akhbâr Majmû`a, 62, 66; Ibn Hayyân, Al-sifr al-thânî min Kitâb al-Muqtabas; Makki, Crónica de los emires, 88r, 101v. 37. Ibn Hayyân, Al-sifr al-thânî min Kitâb al-Muqtabas; Makki, Crónica de los emires, 89v. 38. Ibid. 104r, 107r, 109v. 39. Manzano, Conquistadores, 175. 40. On this topic, see the texts compiled by García Gómez, Andalucía contra Berbería. CHAPTER 8 1. Memmi, The Pillar of Salt, 95. 2. A written text of the Haggadah from Tinghir was published by Galand-Pernet, Une version berbère. Joseph Chetrit has revealed that this was a transcribed text,



commissioned by an affluent Jew from Casablanca, since there was really no tradition for writing texts in Judeo-Berber. See Chetrit, “Les rapports entre Juifs,” 82-86. 3. “Pourquoi la langue première des Juifs berbères n’est pas amazighe?” The question posed by Abderrahmane Lakhsassi in a a forthcoming article, based on our joint research, together with Joseph Chetrit, conducted among Muslims in southern Morocco. 4. The Tifnout valley, however, may have been exceptional, and Jewish informants claimed that Berber was spoken as the mother tongue. Goldberg, “The Mellahs,” 62-63. 5. Lakhsassi, “Pourquoi;” Goldberg, “The Mellahs,” 62. 6. On the many uses of the Kahina in the Maghrib in the modern period, see Hannoum, “Historiograhy, Mythology and Memory,” 85-130, and Hannoum, Colonial Histories. 7. See especially the chapter, “The Dance,” in Memmi, Pillar of Salt. 8. Hirschberg, “The Problem of the Judaized Berbers,” 313-339. 9. On various traditions and legends regarding the antiquity of Jews in southern Morocco, see Jacques-Meunié, Le Maroc Saharien, 175-188; Goulven, “Notes sur les origines,” 317-336. 10. Udovitch, The Last Arab Jews, 8. 11. Jacques-Meunié, Le Maroc saharien, 176; Monteil, “Les Juifs d’Ifran,” 151-162. 12. Jacques-Meunié, Le Maroc saharien, 176-188. Again there is no evidence from antiquity and medieval times to corroborate these documents. These traditions are preserved in a couple of texts, including one published by Toledano, Ner ha-Ma’arav. The text may date from the fifteenth century. See Levy, “Légende et tradition,” 55-67. Portions of French translated versions were published in Gattefossé, “Juifs et Chrétiens,” 40-41; and Flamand, L’esprit populaire, 34-37. The second manuscript was discovered in Rabat of Tinzulin in about 1900 by Rabbi Abraham Cohen of Tiylit in the Dades, supposedly a copy from a manuscript dating from 1180, referring to events in the Zagora region of the Dra’ between the fourth and the twelfth centuries. Portions in French translation are also found in Gattefossé, “Juifs et Chrétiens,” 41-43; and Flamand, L’esprit populaire, 37-39. Flamand during his extensive research on the Moroccan communities in southern Morocco failed to find Rabbi Cohen’s manuscript. 13. Jacques-Meunié, Le Maroc saharien, 176-185. 14. While questioning the reliability of the documentation and admitting that Muslim sources do not exist, Jacques-Meunié is impressed by the extent of the traditions concerning Jews in the Dra’ to accept the historicity of the Jewish kingdoms. Le Maroc saharien, 176-178; 194-195. 15. Archives of Ittihad-Maroc, Casablanca (some of these archives have been moved to the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris), “Les Juifs dans les territoires du Sud: Ktawa et Mhamid,” Lieutenant Vizioz, 20 February 1951. 16. Simon, Recherches d’Histoire, 31-33. 17. Levy, “Légende et tradition,” 61. 18. Gattefosé, “Juifs et Chrétiens,” 41-42, 45; Gutelius, “Between God and Men,” 50. 19. Levy, “Légende et tradition,” 58. 20. Khaldun, Histoire, 1: 21. Khaldun, Histoire, 1: 213-214, 340-342; 3: 191. 22. Jacques-Meunié, Le Maroc saharien, 1: 174-175; Shatzmiller, The Berbers and the Islamic State, 18-23

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


23. This is explored in Schroeter, “La décourverte,” 169-187. For an assessment of travel narratives that refer to Jews in Morocco, and the use of these sources by historians, see Boum, “Muslims Remember Jews,” 140-151. 24. Davidson, Notes Taken, 188. 25. Ibid., 58. 26. de Foucauld, Reconnaissance au Maroc. 27. “Les Daggatoun.” Aby Serour left a number of writings, and has been the subject of two biographies: Bederman, God’s will; Oliel, De Jérusalem. On the relationship between Aby Serour and de Foucauld, and the larger context of their accounts and influence on shaping ideas about Jews, see Boum, “Muslims Remember Jews,” 96ff. On For a discussion of Abisrur in the broader context of Saharan history, see Lydon, “On Trans-Saharan Trails ,” 288-291 (based on Haïdara, Les juifs a Tombouctou). See also Beaumier, “Premier Établissement,” 345-70; and Semach, “Un rabbin voyageur marocain,” 7-11. 28. The transformation of the Jews of Algeria under the French has been the object of a number of studies. See especially Schwarfuchs, Les Juifs d’Algérie et la France; Ayoun, Les Juifs d’Algérie, 119-129; Birnbaum, “French Jews,” 88-95; Abitbol, Le Passé, 152166. 29. Goutalier, “La nation,” 131-134. 30. Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 167ff ; Ageron, Les Algériens musulmans, 1: 583-608 31. On these shifts in French colonial thinking, see Conklin, A Mission to Civilize, 6-7, 187ff. 32. Burke, III, “The Image of the Moroccan State,” 188-199; Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 227-232. 33. Gsell, Histoire ancienne, 1: 281. 34. Slouschz, “Hébræo-Phéniciens,” 334-335. 35. Ibid., 450-452 36. Slouschz, Travels in North Africa, 467 37. On French colonial Berber policy during the first years of the Moroccan protectorate, see Montagne, “La politique berbère,” 338-352; Lafuente, La politique berbère. 38. On the development of French thinking about the Berbers in Morocco, see Burke, “The Image of the Moroccan State;” Burke, “The Creation of the Moroccan Colonial Archive.” 39. Lafuente, La politique berbère, 141ff; Brown, “The Impact,” 201-215. 40. For a detailed account on the activities of Slouschz and the French reforms of the Jewish communities of Morocco, see Schroeter, “Emancipation and its Discontents;” see also Schroeter, From Dhimmis, 113-116. 41. Ibid. 42. Flamand, Diaspora en terre d’Islam, 215-216; For an analysis of Flamand in the French colonial ethnographic context and the ideological presuppositions of his work, see Kosansky, “All Dear unto God,” 54-60. 43. On this idea of the division of Morocco into these different zones, see Burke, “The Image of the Moroccan State.” 44. Laskier, The Alliance Israélite, 226-232, 266-268; Laskier, “Aspects of Change,” 329-364; Goldenberg, “Les Juifs du Maroc et l’Alliance,” 23-24.



45. The term used by one of the key players in organizing the emigration of the Atlas Jews to Israel. See Grinker, Aliyatam shel Yehude ha-Atlas, 126. On the ethnic politics of quotas as it pertained to North African Jews in the early State of Israel, see Tsur, “Carnival Fears,” 73-103; and on Morocco specifically, see Tsur, Kehilah keru’ah, 320ff. On emigration of government policies generally, see Laskier, “Jewish Emigration,” 323330. 46. On these developments, see Tsur, “Ha-historiografyah;” Barnai, “Yehude artsot haIslam;” Stillman, “Me-heker.” 47. Hirschberg, Toldot ha-Yehudim; Hirschberg’s travel account on the Jews of Morocco was published shortly before the emmigration of many of the communities he visited, Me-erets mevo ha-shemesh; ‘im yehude Afrikah ha-tsefonit be-artsotehem. (Jerusalem, 1957). 48. Hirschberg, “The Problem of the Judaized Berbers.” 49. Paul Wexler argues for the Berber origin of much of Sephardi Jewry in Wexler, The Non-Jewish Origins. 50. The Ashkenazic Jews. 51. I am indebted to Aomar Boum for pointing out this recent development. See also his “Muslims Remember Jews,” 524-525. 52. For a methodological discussion on Muslims attitudes towards and memory of Jews, based on fieldwork in Akka and adjoining regions, see Boum, “Muslims Remember Jews.” Boum observed great differences between generations of Muslims in their attitudes towards Jews. CHAPTER 9 1. Acknowledgments: My research in Morocco was made possible by grants from Fulbright/IEE and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). I gratefully acknowledge my generous and welcoming advisors, hosts, informants, interpreters, especially: Rutie Adler, Mohamed Alami, Nouredine Ammar, Brahim Aqdim, Mohamed u-Larbi Aqdim, Moustapha Astaoui, Joseph Ben Chetrit, Layla Chaouni, Elias Harrus, Oren Kosansky, Abderrahmane Lakhsassi, Addi Lihi, Daniel Schroeter and Fatima Taki. Many thanks also to Emily Gottreich, Annette Herskovits, Kirin Narayan, and Lynette Ubois for their careful reading of this paper, insightful comments and superb editorial suggestions. My apologies for not following all of them, nor catching all errors. 2. This was due to intense efforts by Israeli emissaries, who particularly targeted these rural communities for emigration. 3. Tamazight also refers to the dialect spoken in the northern and eastern High Atlas, while Tashelhit refers to the dialect of the southern High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas. The Rif mountain region where the Tarifit dialect is spoken, is not included in this paper. Moroccan Arabic is also only a spoken dialect, though Jews did in fact write it using the Hebrew alphabet, and occasionally also wrote Judeo-Berber using Hebrew letters. However, I do not know of any such written cases of folklore in Morocco. Whereas in Tunisia there was a rich tradition of writing folktales in Judeo-Arabic. 4. Leguil, Contes berbères, 19, my translation. 5. Ibid., 258.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


6. The stereotype of gullible applied to “Berbers” rather than “Muslims.” Stories centered on wiles and stereotypes abound in which the rivalries are between Muslim and Muslim, Jew and Jew, and Arab and Berber (of either religion). There has been a lot of discussion and theorizing whether Jews were Berbers, which is not the subject of this paper. What is clear is that both Jews and Berbers shared a common geographic heritage for centuries, even millenia, which naturally included customs and language. As discussed elsewhere in this volume, the question of Jewish identity as Berber is complicated and nuanced. Individual Jews from these regions now living in Casablanca rarely identify themselves as Berbers. “Berber Jews” to them are, “Those Other Jews living in That Other Village up on the mountain.” 7. The stories and poems presented here were recorded during research conducted in Morocco and Israel from 1995 to 2000 by either Oren Kosansky (in Goulmima, Morocco) or myself. The interviews were conducted in French, Moroccan Arabic, Berber (both Tamazight and Tashelhit dialects) or Hebrew. For interviews conducted in Moroccan Arabic or Berber, I used native speakers to translate the informant’s words into French. All translations into English are mine. I also quote a few excerpts of stories from printed sources to illustrate a particular point or noteworthy similarity. 8. André Azoulay, who is Jewish, had a very influential role as financial advisor to the late King Hassan II, and continues to advise Muhammad VI. 9. ‘Attar literally means spice seller, but as cosmetics and perfumes were made of spices and herbs, it has a broader context. 10. Alaoui, Contes du Maroc, 29-42. 11. A contemporary Moroccan film (1999), “Keïd Nsaa” (The Cunning of Women) is based on a classical fairytale told by mothers (Jewish and Muslim) to their children. It is the story again of a Prince who falls in love with “a common” young woman, and the tricks they play on each other. In one scene, he disguises himself as a Jewish peddler (on a donkey of course) and goes to her door, taking advantage of the fact that even sequestered women could open the door to Jewish men. She kisses him affectionately on the cheek which is accepted as a non-threatening, even humorous element, that his disguise as a Jew allowed him to trick her into a kiss. 12. Leguil, Contes berbères grivois, and, the earlier mentioned Leguil, Contes berbères. 13. Rush, “Lanjeh,” 116. 14. Alaoui, Contes du Maroc, 61. 15. Recorded by Oren Kosansky, 1995. Translated from Tamazight to French by Addi Lihi, and from French to English by Sarah Levin. 16. Recorded by Oren Kosansky, 1995. Translated from Tamazight to French by Addi Lihi, and from French to English by Sarah Levin. 17. As noted earlier, Jews spoke both Berber and Arabic, but with a slightly different vocabulary and differences in pronunciation. They also had a “secret” language, to use for making deals in the market, and which the informant may be referring to here. And indeed, interviews with Muslims today reveal that they were familiar with, and even often understood the “secret” language. 18. The translator says embrasser [kiss, in French], and indeed, greetings consist of kissing the air one side then the other, back and forth throughout the entire exchange of greetings which can easily last ten minutes. 19. The blacksmith was most likely a Jewish man in the mellah.



20. Tashelhit text: Uday: - Agullu-ns a ittuzan, yan iran lxir - Ad ur ittjurju, gh tirac n wiyyâd Amuslem: - Allah inàl mad agh kullu turu-t, a ccitân - Ula ttayf n lihud, attn inàl rbbi, amin Uday - Ur agh nkkerz, ur agh nqqay aman - Ituwwel angh ukan rbbi, gh lâwin ula layyam 21. Hoffman, “Generational Change,” 510. 22. The skullcap is worn by all observant Jewish men, and the Jews of these regions were for the most part strict observers of Judaism. 23. Tashelhit text Uday: - Cahdat a ma ghid ihâdêrn, is kullu nga yan - Ccicit-ad ka nmyagal, hann rxan-t nit Amuselm: - Cahdat a ma ghid ihâdêrn, izz nttan d idân (af isawl) 24. Yaqub, Drinking from the Well of Poetry, 12, 16, and 165. 25. Going to the fqih for advice is a standard element in Berber tales. However, the [Muslim] religious authority is not always respected, and in fact frequently satirized in the tales. 26. The keys for the old doors are made of long pieces of wood, and have wooden pegs sticking out of them, like “teeth.” 27. Recorded by Oren Kosansky, 1995. Translated from Tamazight to French by Addi Lihi, and from French to English by Sarah Levin. 28. Noy, “The Bakalawa Story.” 29. For Shi’a Muslims, ‘Ashura is a significant and serious holiday, mourning the death of Husayn, son of ‘Ali, and grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in 680 C.E. However, serveral hadith (orally reported traditions) report that ‘Ashura began under Muhammad as a minor fast day, perhaps influenced by the Jewish Yom Kippur fast, which takes place on the tenth day of the Jewish New Year. Morocco’s Muslims are entirely Sunna. 30. To name a few: Flamand, Diaspora en Terre d’Islam, 100-101. Hammoudi, The Victim and Its Masks, 1993. Hammoudi’s excellent study is of the carnival that took place in conjunction with the holiday of Ayd al-Kebir (or Feast of the Sacrifice) in a couple of villages of the Atlas in the early 1980s. Lakhsassi, “Réflexion sur la mascarade de Achoura,” 1989, 31-39. Laoust, Mots et Choses Berbères, 1983. And “Noms et cérémonies des feux de joie chez les Berbères du Haut et de l’Anti-Atlas,” 1921, 253-316. There are many overlapping customs between the two carnivals, which Laoust uses to link them to similar origins. Westermarck, Ritual and Belief in Morocco, 1968.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


31. Note how this was the name used in Goulmima in the stories of Moosh and Hammu. 32. I thank Bruce Maddy-Weitzman for pointing this out after my presentation of this paper at the conference “Berbers and Other Minorities in North Africa” in Portland, Oregon, 2005. 33. Davies, Ethnic Humor Around the World, 311. CHAPTER 10 1. Senior William, Conversations and Journals in Egypt and Malta, 74. 2. Ibid., 76. 3. Benjamin Braude has scrutinized the historiography of the Greek, Jewish, and Armenian communities under Ottoman rule, and concluded that millet structures, as understood by Western scholars, emerged only in the nineteenth century—that historians of the Greek, Jewish, and Armenian communities retrospectively projected millet concepts to the time of Mehmed the Conqueror. Refer to his “Foundation Myths of the Millet System,” in Braude and Lewis, eds. Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire. His conclusion, at page 74 of volume I, that prior to the nineteenth century, the Ottomans possessed “no overall administrative system, structure, or set of institutions for dealing with non-Muslims,” stands in stark contrast to the received wisdom of Hamilton Gibb and Harold Bowen, that Mehmed consolidated the Christian and Jewish communities under the leadership of patriarchs and a chief rabbi respectively. Refer to their Islamic Society and the West, 215-217. For the most recent scholarship on this question, refer to Masters, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World. 4. For comparative purposes, consider Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Difference—Deferral of a Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal,” in Cooper and Stoler, eds. Tensions of Empire. 5. Y’aqnjb Nakhla RnjfƯla, TƗrƯkh al-Umma al-Qibtiyya (Cairo, 1897). The text was reissued in 2000 by Metropole Publishing in Cairo with a new preface by Gawdat Gabra, the Director of the Coptic Museum. All translations from this text are my own. 6. Ibid., 303. 7. Ibid., 318-319. 8. Ibid., 320. 9. Ibid., 320-321. 10. Ibid., 324-326. 11. al-Masri, Qissat al-KanƯsa al-Qibtiyya. All translations from this text are my own. 12. Ibid., 318. 13. Ibid., 319. 14. Ibid., 335. 15. SnjryƗl, Al-Mujtama al-Qibti fƯ Misr fƯ al-Qarn 19, 115. 16. For details of the ‘legend,’ refer to Butcher, The Story of the Church in Egypt, 396398; Heyworth-Dunne, “Education in Egypt and the Copts,” 102; Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 248; and Mounir Shoucri, “Cyril IV,” in Atiya, ed. The Coptic Encyclopedia, 677-678. 17. Heyworth-Dunne, “Education in Egypt and the Copts,” 102. 18. Butcher, Story of the Church, vol. II, 397.



19. Journal of a Deputation Sent to the East by the Committee of the Malta Protestant College, in 1849: Containing an Account of the Present State of the Oriental Nations, Including Their Religion, Learning, Education, Customs, and Occupations: With Outlines of Their Ecclesiastical and Political History; of the Rise and Decay of Knowledge Among Them; and of the Doctrines and Discipline of the Ancient Christian Churches, Part I (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1854), 23. 20. Jowett, Christian Researches in the Mediterranean, 161. 21. al-Masri, Qissat al-KanƯsa, vol. IV, 314-315. Cyril reportedly complained that ‘foreigners’ had developed a greater grasp of Coptic than had most Copts. He entrusted the ‘revival’ of the Coptic language to Abuna Takla, a priest Lieder had employed at the mission for Coptic instruction. 22. Ibid., 320. 23. “A Speech by Miss IrƯs HabƯb al-Masri.” 24. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 249. 25. Shoucri, “Cyril IV,” 678. 26. “A Speech by Mr. ‘Abd al-HalƯm Ilyas Nussair,” 65-83. 27. al-Masri, Qissat al-KanƯsa, 318-319. 28. Heyworth-Dunne, “Education in Egypt and the Copts,” 103. 29. RnjfƯla, TƗrƯkh al-Umma al-Qibtiyya, 312. 30. There is a striking parallel between the maneuvering of the Coptic elite that I will describe here, and that of the Dutch elite as described by Peter van Rooden in his “History, the Nation, and Religion: The Transformations of the Dutch Religious Past,” in van der Veer and Lehmann, eds. Nation and Religion. At page 102, van Rooden describes how Dutch historians of the nineteenth century propagated the notion, “All citizens are potentially equal, because they can be morally educated. Only a minority, however, is truly educated and civilized. This is the basis for a discursive distinction between the civilized elite and the rude common people.” 31. Simaika, “Awakening,” 738. 32. Misr, 28 and 29 February 1908. 33. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 266. 34. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 269, recounts that Gaston Maspero, in an interview, “stated positively that the Copts, more than any other people, had retained their racial purity, and that the present Copts were themselves the descendants of the Pharaohs.” Flinders Petrie ventured to claim “that the Copts, inheriting the characteristics of their ancestors, were the only ones capable of leading Egypt on the path of advancement.” 35. Heyworth-Dunne, “Education in Egypt and the Copts,” 104-105. 36. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 267-268. 37. Ibid., 268. 38. Ibid., 269. 39. Fanous, “The Relations Between Copts and Mohamedans,” 11. 40. RnjfƯla, TƗrƯkh al-Ummah, 329. 41. Ibid. 42. Seikaly, “Copts Under British Rule,” 151. For British perceptions of the Copts at the time, refer to Sheldon Amos, “The Copts as a Political Factor,” Contemporary Review

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


XLIV (1883); Dean Butcher, “Copts and Al-Islam,” Quarterly Review CLVII (1884); and G. B. Howard, England’s Religious Duty Towards Egypt (London, 1884). 43. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 253. 44. Edith L. Butcher, The Story of the Church in Egypt, volume II (London: Smith and Elder, 1897), 405. 45. RnjfƯla, TƗrƯkh al-Ummah, 340. 46. Ibid., 344. 47. Ibid., 347. 48. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 256. 49. Butcher, Story of the Church, 408. 50. Ibid., 415. 51. Behrens-Abouseif, “The Political Situation of the Copts,” 195. 52. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 259. 53. Fanous, “A Method by Which Coptic Government,” 15-16. 54. Fanous had received his education from the Presbyterian missionaries at Asynjt, and subsequently, at the American University in Beirut, from which he earned his Bachelor’s degree. He returned to Upper Egypt and, in 1878, founded a benevolent society in Asynjt to support the poor. Elected to parliament from Abnub in 1883, he went on to practice law in the civil courts. After serving on the committee which founded the American University in Cairo in 1906, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by that institution. Fanous passed away in 1918. 55. Shalabi, The Copts and Social Reform, 4. 56. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 254. 57. Shalabi, The Copts and Social Reform, 59. 58. Seikaly, “Coptic Communal Reform,” 267. Such figures contrast markedly with the figures Heyworth-Dunne, “Education in Egypt and the Copts,” 106, offers. According to Heyworth-Dunne, there had existed twelve ‘modern’ Coptic schools in 1863, eighteen in 1875, and twenty-five in 1878. 59. Starrett, Putting Islam to Work, 91. 60. el Khawaga, “The Political Dynamics of the Copts,” 187. 61. Starrett, Putting Islam to Work, 142. 62. For the history of the Coptic Church and community in the twentieth century, refer to Ibrahim, Tadros, el-Fiqi, and Shafiq, The Copts of Egypt; Tamura, “Ethnic Consciousness and its Transformation in the Course of Nation-Building;” and Wakin, A Lonely Minority. CHAPTER 11 1. I make a categorical distinction between the concept of Morocco as state and nation. Nation is a representation of individuals as an organic collective group with a real or imagined history, ancestry and culture. State is represented by the judicial agencies that formulate, control, and manipulate national identification. For more discussion on the relationship between the interlinked concepts of nation and state, see Benedict, Imagined Communities; Ackermann, Heterogeneities; Berlant, The Anatomy; Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments; and Powers, History as Propaganda.



2. Al-Fassi, The Independence Movements; Al-Fassi, ra’y muwâtin. 3. For a discussion of the cultural policies of the Moroccan state authorities since independence, see Touzani, La culture; Ben Bachir, La politique; Boukous, Société; Laroui, Les origines sociales; and Waterbury, The Commander of the Faithful. 4. Rachik, Symboliser la nation. 5. Hammoudi, Master and Disciple; also, see Tozy, Islam politique. 6. Boum, Folk dance. 7. Herzfeld, Cultural intimacy, 90. 8. For more discussion about nationalism, ethnicities and the politics of culture, see Handler, Nationalism and the Politics; Jupp, Ethnic Politics; and Del Giudice, Imagined States. 9. Available online at: (last viewed September 22, 2006). 10. Butler, Gender trouble. 11. Friedland, “Folk Dance History,” 32. 12. The Berber perspective is generally voiced through rising numbers of Berber publications such Twiza (monthly newspaper published in Nador) and Tamazight (weekly newspaper published in Rabat). As for the Islamist’s point of view it is transmitted through its daily newspaper attajdid (Available online at: 13. Park, Historical Dictionary. 14. Louma, ba’da arba’ina. 15. Pennell, Morocco Since 1830, 319. Also see, Benhlal, Le college d’Azrou. 16. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory. 17. Le Journal Hebdomadaire, Que Veulent les Berbères, October 30-November 4, 2004. 18. Available online at: 19. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, 358. 20. Leitch, The Norton anthology, 2377. 21. See Gamio, Forjando patria,. 22. For more discussion on Gamio’s ideas on racial mixing, see Brading, “Manuel Gamio,” 75-89; and Dawson, “From Models for the Nation,” 279-308. 23. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks. 24. Assahifa, ba’d arba’I sanawat ‘ala ihdat lirkam: hal najaha al-qasr fi imtilak milaf alamazighiyya? July 29, 2006. Also see, Crawford, “Royal Interest.” 25. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 195. 26. Le Matin du Maghreb et du Sahara, 17 September 2004. 27. King Mohammed VI speech, Parliament’s Fall Session (October 11, 2002). 28. Available online at: 29. Gutiérrez, Nationalist, 164. 30. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 57. 31. For a discussion on Ahwash, see al-Gansani, ahwash. 32. Paris, “Haouach à Telouet,” 209. 33. El Glaoui, Le ralliement le, 121. 34. Paris, “Haouach à Telouet,” 216. 35. Ibid., 216. 36. Montagne, Villages; Montagne, Un Magasin Collectif; and Montagne, La vie sociale.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


37. For other studies that tried to look at fold dances and folklore as a performance of the nation, see Kaschl, Dance and Authenticity; Vaughan, “The Construction,” 213-245; and Mackerras, “Folkdances and Dances,” 187-226. 38. Aherdane, “Les arts populaires,” 152. 39. Daniel, “Tourism Dance Performances,” 781. 40. Silver, “Marketing Authenticity,” 308. 41. Official website of the Office national du Tourisme. culture/fetes1.htm 42. Savigliano, Tango, 2. 43. Reysoo, Pélérinages, 178. 44. Boum, Folk dance. 45. Gutiérrez, National Myths, 165; Also see, Gellner, Nations and Nationalism. 46. The Berber (Amazigh) Manifesto. Translated from the original Arabic by Jilali Said. See The Amazigh Manifesto which was written by Amazigh activists and intellectuals under the leadership of Mohammad Chafik was adopted on March 1, 2002. 47. Available online at: 48. Available online at: (last viewed April 5, 2005). 49. Connerton, How Societies Remember. CHAPTER 12 1. IRCAM–Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh–is a research institution established by the king of Morocco following his recognition of the Amazigh language and culture in his speech of 17 October 2001. IRCAM is responsible for research in the area of corpus planning of the Amazigh language. It is made up of six centers, each in charge of one aspect of revitalizing the Amazigh language. For more information on IRCAM, see

2. Tamazgha is the term that many Amazigh activists like to use to refer to the North African region that used to be the land of the Amazigh people before the arrival of the Arabs from the east. 3. At the end of the 2005-2006 academic year. 4. For an account on the problems and prospects of teaching Tamazight in Moroccan schools, see Mohammed Errihani’s article in the Journal of North African Studies, vol 11, # 2, June 2006 issue. 5. Most teachers of Tamazight have to teach other subjects in addition to the three-hourper-week load of Tamazight. 6. One of my IRCAM subjects clearly voiced his opposition to the mandatory nature of this project and predicts that making the learning of Tamazight mandatory is precisely what is going to lead to its failure. 7. For an account on rural literacy, see Daniel Wagner’s 1993 Literacy, Culture, and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco. 8. One of the former members of IRCAM actually condemned the Tifinagh script and went as far as calling the Amazigh Movement a separatist movement. In his view, An



Amazigh flag can only be a symbol of separatist tendencies, which goes counter to the claims of IRCAM and the Amazigh Movement as a whole. 9. Arabization has been completed at the primary and secondary level where all subjects that were previously taught in French (mathematics, science, history, and even physical education) are now being taught in Arabic. However, this process has failed at the level of higher education. The subjects that have been Arabized in the primary and secondary levels are still taught in French at the university level, which means that the same students who studied those subjects in Arabic have to study them in French once they graduate from high school, except that their French is not up to the task. The paradox of this policy is that everyone who goes through the Arabized public school system is required to be competent in French to be able to cope at university level. The end result is the high level of students who drop out after failing their subjects several times. 10. Modern Standard Arabic is a modern version of Classical Arabic, which is more closely associated with the Qur’an. 11. Ahmed Assid is one of the most prolific Amazigh writers on the Amazigh question. See his book: Amazigh in the Islamist Discourse as well as several articles in “Le Monde Amazigh.” 12. Classical Arabic dominates Islam: the Qur’an can only be read and recited in Arabic, and prayers are supposed to be done in Arabic even among those Muslims who do not speak or read the Arabic language. CHAPTER 13 1. This article is based on a lecture given at Al-Akhawayn University-in-Ifrane on Novemebr 1st, 2001. 2. Ibn Khaldoun, Histoire des Berbères. 3. Known as ‘coupeurs de route’ in French; iqe aİn in Tamazight. 4. Roux, Poésies berbères, 68. This poem dramatically portrays the emphasis that BeniMguild tribesmen placed on raiding as an institution during times of siba. 5. A. Naciri, Kitab al-Istiqça, XXX, p.158, refers to Jewish Berbers among the Banu Fazaz of the area; Banu Fazaz, of course, is an Arabicised rendering of Ayt Fazaz. 6. Colin, Encyclopædia of Islam, 874. 7. Fonds berbère Arsène Roux, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence, file 79.1 ‘Fazaz;’ also Peyron “Qal’at al-Mahdi,” 115-123. 8. Cf. texte 57: Iâzza, “le gardien du Gourza,” 147. 9. Cf. text “Al chaykh Abu I’azza Yilanur Ibn Maymun,” 158-164. 10. One of the likeliest sites of Qal’at al-Mahdi and visited by the author on several occasions (2001-2005). 11. Barbour, Morocco, 115; Julien, Histoire de l’Afrique du Nord, 558. 12. Drague, Esquisse d’histoire. 13. M. El Mansour, Morocco under the reign of Mawlay Sulayman, p.102 ; also article on rebellions in Morocco by J.F. Clément in al-Asas, N°13/1979, p.23; also A. de Prémaré, RMMM, 51/1989, pp.1124-1125. Cf. D.M. Hart, “History on the hoof,” JSMS, 3/1993, p.17, for north-west push of Sanhaja Berbers. 14. Le Glay, Badda fille berbère, 179-198.

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


15. Berque, al-Yousi. 16. Barbour, Morocco, 122; Terrasse, Histoire du Maroc, 140, both probably drawing on Istiqça chronicle. Cf. also Azaykou, Histoire du Maroc, 61-63. 17. From poem in Peyron, Isaffen Ghbanin, 196-197. 18. Cf. Peyron, Isaffen Ghbanin, 196-197; Roux &, Poésies berbères, 39-46. 19. Cf. Basset, Textes berbères, with introduction by P. Galand-Pernet. 20. Many of the above-mentioned Tamazight-speakers used to belong to a loose tribal alliance known historically as the Ayt Idrasen, but which broke up early in the nineteenth century. 21. Jennan, Le Moyen Atlas. 22. Cf. Saulay, Histoire des Goums, 209. 23. A fad nneš ay uždir! (=‘How I long for you, O plateau of Ajdir!’); thus, in winter, does the Zaïan shepherd long to return the heights of Ajdir the following spring. 24. Of special significance to the Zaïan is the fact that Mohammed VI is great-grandson of their famous former chief Moha ou Hammou. 25. Cf. Guennoun, La Montagne Berbère, 253-264; also Guennoun, La Voix des Monts. 26. Some of the subsequent place-names figure in Roux, Poésies berbères, 183-193. 27. Apparently linked to old legends which claim that the appearance of a sort of AntiChrist (dužžal), riding a black donkey, will herald the coming of the mahdi; Roux, Poésies berbères, 191. 28. Ibid., 194-200. 29. Peyron, “Amazigh Poetry,” 115. 30. Chief among these is the Oued Srou project for agricultural and social development, affecting the area immediately south-east of Khenifra. 31. While guest-houses ideally target the down market eco-tourism niche, it is difficult to see how some of the new construction at Ifrane (in particular the revamped de luxe “Michliffen hotel”) are expected to fit into this category! 32. Cf. present author’s article on Middle Atlas in Montagnes Méditerranéennes, IGA, Grenoble, 2000/n°12, pp.49-51. Also his follow-up paper on “Rural tourism in the Atlas mountains” at Sustainable Tourisme workshop during “British Days” at Al-Akhawayn University, Ifrane, March 6, 2002. 33. Peyron, The Amazigh Studies Reader. CHAPTER 14 An earlier version benefited from a thorough reading from a valued friend, Vik Bahl. 1. See Alaoui, Ahmed Cherkaoui for more information about Ahmed Cherkaoui’s work. 2. See Irbouh, “Farid Belkanhia: A Moroccan” for more information about Belkahia’s artistic process. 3. Farid Belkahia, interview by author, Marrakesh, Morocco, June 6, 2004. 4. Three of the seven men, all of them teachers, were sentenced to prison for terms of one to two years. Widespread publicity and public outrage led to a reduction of their sentences by the Moroccan king and the three were released two months after their arrest. 5. Farid Belkahia, interview by author, Marrakesh, June 6, 2004. 6. Hamid Kachmar, interview by author, Washington, D.C., November 21, 2005.



7. Mohamed Mallal, interview by author, Ouarzazate, Morcco, June 10, 2004. 8. Fatima Mellel, interview by author, Ouarzazate, Morocco, June 10, 2004. 9. For more information about Fatima Mellal, see Mernissi, Les Sinbads marocains. 10. Fibulae are silver pendants worn by an Amazigh woman to fasten her wrap-around garment at her shoulders. For more information about fibulae, see Becker 2006. 11. The Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) was created in 2001 by King Muhammad VI of Morocco. The creation of this institute is both supported and criticized by Imazighen within Morocco, but it did result in the first official recognition of Morocco’s Amazigh population and played an important role in enhancing public visibility of Amazigh issues within Morocco. 12. Fouad Lahbib, interview by author, Rabat, Morocco, June 20, 2006. 13. Mouhand Saidi, interview by author, Errachidia, Morocco, June 25, 2004. 14. Abullah Aourik, interview by author, Agadir, Morocco, June 30, 2004. 15. See Westermarck ([1926], 1968, 2: 266-270) for more information about the “bride of the rain” and its connection to pre-Islamic beliefs. 16. Hamid Kachmar, interview by author, Washington, D.C., November 21, 2005. 17. Mohamed Nabili, telephone interview, January 25, 2005. 18. Denis Martinez, interview by author, Marseille, May 30, 2006. CHAPTER 15 An earlier version benefited from a thorough reading from a valued friend, Vik Bahl. 1. The most thorough book on the origins of the Western Sahara conflict is Hodges, Western Sahara. Equally insightful but more condensed is Damis, Conflict in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Dispute. The books Shelley, Endgame and Jensen, Western Sahara, update the conflict to the near present. The U.S. role in the 1975 HispanoMoroccan crisis is given new perspective in Mundy, “Neutrality or Complicity?” 2. Hodges, Historical Dictionary, 395, emphasis added. In this context, the Arabic word al-sƗhil (sahel), which generally means coast, littoral or shore, refers to the Atlantic coast, though it has come to also mean the southern “shore” of the Sahara desert, stretching from Mauritania, through Mali and Niger, to Chad and Sudan. 3. Lippert, “Emergence or Submergence,” 41. 4. Lippert, “Sahrawi Women,” 636-651. The articles of Teresa K. Smith de Cherif, pro-independence activist and co-founder of the U.S. -based Western Saharan Foundation, have shown a similar predisposition. In a 1991 article she opined that if first George Bush administration was about to allow Western Sahara to “be delivered to a tired and spent monarch in Morocco, without any regard for the wishes of the Sahrawi people.” Again, to be Sarhawi is to be Western Saharan—and not only that, but pro-Polisario. 5. Bontems, “The Government,” 168-169, 184. 6. Zunes, “Indigestible Lands?” 295-296. 7. Despite Polisario’s claims to represent all Sahrawis, Dunbar notes, “Polisario sought to limit the electorate to those who could prove residence in Western Sahara during the Spanish colonial period.” The Moroccan government, on the other hand, sought to

North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities


enfranchise as many of its citizens—Sahrawi or not—in a Western Saharan vote as possible, so as to swing the outcome in its favor. See Dunbar, “Saharan Stasis,” 527-529. Dunbar’s predecessor, Erik Jensen, was a little less careful. Not only does he use the terms Sahrawi and Saharan “interchangeably without political or other connotation” (18, note 1), he posits, “The wanderings of the Sahrawi tribes took them throughout Western Sahara and into what are now the countries of Mauritania, Algeria, and Morocco.” This suggests that Sahrawis went “into” the neighboring areas, rather than inhabiting them. See Jensen, Western Sahara, 22, emphasis added. 8. For reference, he directs his reader to the major product of colonially supported anthropology in the Spanish Sahara: Baroja, Estudios saharianos. See Mohamed-Fadel ould Ismail Ould Es-Sweih, Le République Sahraoui, 10, manuscript on file with author. Ismail, like many other Sahrawis, calls Western Sahara simply “Sahra.” 9. “What especially interests me here is the principle of ‘ethnogenesis,’ as it is called nowadays. The Tsimihety [of Madagascar] are now considered a foko—a people or ethnic group—but their identity emerged as a political project.” Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, 55. 10. Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism, 60. 11. Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism, 97. 12. Hart, Tribe and Society, 26. 13. Crawford, “Morocco’s Invisible Imazighen,” 53-70. 14. Pennell, Morocco since 1830, 212. 15. Patricia Lorcin offers a much more nuanced definition of the Kabyle Myth in her study Imperial Identities, 2-3. 16. John Bodley summarizes the intersection of colonial interests with colonial anthropology, and its effects, in his essay “Anthropology and the Politics of Genocide,” 37-51. 17. Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” 336-337. 18. Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers, 9-10. 19. Lydon, “Writing Trans-Saharan History,” 295-296. 20. Jensen, Western Sahara, 22 21. Curtin, “Jihad in West Africa,” 13, cited in Cleaveland, “Islam and the Construction,” 369-370. 22. Ranger, “The Invention of Tradition,” 254-259. 23. Cleaveland, “Islam and the Construction o,” 370-371. Cleaveland’s ideas are further developed in his more recent Becoming WalƗta. See chapter one, which is an expanded version of his 1998 article. 24. Hodges, Historical Dictionary, 38-39, 151-152. 25. Harrell-Bond, Barbara. The Struggle, 8. 26. Mercer, Spanish Sahara, 248. 27. Hodge, Historical Dictionary, 117. 28. Fadhlaoui-Zid, “Genetic Diversity,” 564. 29. Harich, “Classical Polymorphisms,” 473-487. 30. Bosch, “High-Resolution Analysis,” 1023. As a kind of rejoinder, several Israeli scientists claimed that their own findings showed “recent gene flow [in NW Africa] caused by the migration of Arabian tribes in the first millennium of the Common Era.” However, they caveat that the specific genetic marker that they used to make this



conclusion, which is common in Palestinians and Yemenis, is also observed in Imazighen, “the only non-Arabs in whom this haplotype has been observed to date.” See Nebel, “Genetic Evidence,” 1594-1596. 31. Bosch, “Genetic Structure,” 363, 365. 32. Bosch, “Population History,” 309. 33. Bosch, “High-Resolution Analysis,” 1023. 34. Rando, “Mitochondrial DNA Analysis,” 531. 35. Cavalli-Sforza, The History and Geography of Human Genes, 159. 36. Bosch, “Population History,” 296. 37. Maca-Meyer, “Mitochondrial DNA Transit,” 1. 38. Irish, “The Iberomaurusian Enigma,” 406; Brooks, “The Climate-EnvironmentSociety,” 255. 39. Muzzolini, “The Emergence,” 227-229. 40. Cavalli-Sforza, The History and Geography, 161. 41. Brett, The Berbers, 19. 42. Ibid., 12, 15. 43. Newman, The Peopling of Africa, 64-68. 44. Brett, The Berbers, 41-42. 45. Mercer, Spanish Sahara, 71. 46. Brett, The Berbers, 82. 47. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, 491. 48. Mercer, Spanish Sahara, 71. 49. Norris, “New Evidence,” 260. 50. Ibid., 256-257. 51. Despite the brevity of the empire, John Mercer has argued that the effect of the Almoravids on Maghribi society should not be overlooked: “The Almoravids’ influence included the implantation of the Malikite rite, now a part of orthodox Islam, and the founding of Marrakesh. In fact, the Sahraoui influence on Morocco appears greater than that of the subsequent dynasties on the desert; one might feel that, had the nomads been allowed to put their case at the International Court of Justice in 1975, this would have given them as good a claim on Morocco as King Hassa