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Arab France

Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 1798-1831

Ian Coller
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Arab France
    Book Description:

    Many think of Muslims in Europe as a twentieth century phenomenon, but this book brings to life a lost community of Arabs who lived through war, revolution, and empire in early nineteenth century France. Ian Coller uncovers the surprising story of the several hundred men, women, and children—Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks, and others—who followed the French army back home after Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt. Based on research in neglected archives, on the rediscovery of forgotten Franco-Arab authors, and on a diverse collection of visual materials, the book builds a rich picture of the first Arab France—its birth, rise, and sudden decline in the age of colonial expansion. As he excavates a community that was nearly erased from the historical record, Coller offers a new account of France itself in this pivotal period, one that transcends the binary framework through which we too often view history by revealing the deep roots of exchange between Europe and the Muslim world, and showing how Arab France was in fact integral to the dawn of modernity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94754-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This is a book about a France that never quite existed. It is not a counterfactual or fictitious history. It addresses the making and unmaking of a space that had no name and appears nowhere in the official record. All that remains of that space are mute and hardly decipherable traces scattered here and there across disparate archives and libraries: the unusual consonance of certain names inscribed upon headstones along the grey rows of cemeteries and in the pages of the now largely unread works of early Orientalism; the unnamed turbanned heads looking back at us from the paintings and...

  5. 1 A Rough Crossing
    (pp. 21-46)

    In late August 1801, a fleet of British frigates set out from the port of Aboukir in Egypt. They were carrying the tattered remnants of the French Grande Armée, abandoned two years earlier by their commander, Napoleon Bonaparte, to fight on without much hope in Egypt, and at last given passage back to France by the treaty concluded with England and the Ottoman Porte. One night, just a few days into the crossing, a tragic scene unfolded on board one of these ships, a frigate named thePallas. According to a letter conserved among the papers of the Commission d’Égypte,...

  6. 2 Ports of Call
    (pp. 47-74)

    On their release from quarantine in Marseille, the first act of the Egyptian exiles was to organize the funeral of their leader, General Ya’qub, which attracted a crowd of onlookers as they carried his body to its sepulchre. The body had not been buried at sea: his widow had insisted on its preservation during the journey in a barrel of rum. The burial of Ya’qub was an important ritual for the heterogeneous population now arrived in France: their unifying figure was now gone, and something new would have to bring together the various and contradictory currents of the emigration. According...

  7. 3 The Making of Arab Paris
    (pp. 75-98)

    The most ancient monument in today’s Paris is not French but Egyptian. The obelisk of the place de la Concorde stands at one end of the “golden road” stretching through the Jardin des Tuileries, past the empty site of the Tuileries palace favored by Napoleon, and the triumphal arch celebrating his victories, to meet the Egyptianizing glass pyramid of the Louvre at its farthest point. Thus the axis of an Egypt part real and part imagined plays a central role in imagining modern Paris and its history. The glass pyramid of the Louvre stands today in an open square. In...

  8. 4 Policing Orientalism
    (pp. 99-120)

    At almost the same moment that Georges Aïdé arrived in Paris, trailing behind him the controversies of the community in Marseille, another of his fellow notables from the Council of Refugees also arrived in the capital, albeit at an address some distance further along the rue Saint-Honoré. ‘Abd el-Al, the former aga, or chief, of police under the occupation in Cairo, clearly saw this as a propitious moment for extending his own networks of sociability into the capital of the Empire. ‘Abd el-Al brought with him a young Copt, Ellious Bocthor, as his assistant and translator. But Bocthor would experience...

  9. 5 Massacre and Restoration
    (pp. 121-139)

    On the night of 25 June 1815, an angry mob surged through the streets of Marseille baying for Egyptian blood. The pogrom had begun as a settling of political scores with the Bonapartists, who had dominated this royalist stronghold under the Empire, and again during the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s return to power from his exile on Elba. But it rapidly took on a racial cast. Intoxicated by violence, the crowd accompanying the royalist militias began to focus their fury upon easier targets, those whose color or dress marked them out as guilty. Within hours, dozens lay butchered in the...

  10. 6 Cosmopolitanism and Confusion
    (pp. 140-166)

    By the third decade of the nineteenth century a significant population of Arabs was living in France, chiefly in Marseille and Paris, with a presence in the town of Melun, and a few scattered souls in other towns and villages. These people had survived the catastrophic collapse of a political system, the upheavals of transition, and the installation of another, more hostile administration, despite the murderous violence that targeted them. The mobility that had come to characterize their lives in France served them well during this tumultuous period. But they also showed considerable political acumen and the political skills for...

  11. 7 Remaking Arab France
    (pp. 167-186)

    In a remarkable preface to his final work, published after his death, Joseph Agoub offered an eloquent defense of the Arabic language, placing Egypt for the first time in his works as just one element in a larger Arab world. In this text, Agoub acknowledged his debt to the work of Arab intellectuals like Mikha’il Sabbagh and Ellious Bocthor who had come to Paris before him. But where in his early poetry he had condemned Islam as a barbarian attack on the glories of ancient Egypt, for the first time Agoub acknowledged the Qur’an as one of the inexhaustible sources...

  12. 8 The Cathedral and the Mosque
    (pp. 187-210)

    At noon on 18 December 1832, Joanny Pharaon, the chief interpreter to the military commander of the French army in Algiers, stood on the steps of the Kechaoua Mosque in the Shari’ al-Diwan. Before him, the great doors of the mosque were closed and barricaded; four thousand Muslims had locked themselves inside. Behind him, a company of the Fourth Regiment of the Line had installed itself in the street facing the mosque. Joanny stood alongside the other interpreters of the “Commission” appointed by the duc de Rovigo, who had been charged with negotiating the seizure of the most beautiful mosque...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 211-218)

    Today, when the inhabitants of Marseille take a bus along the boulevard Sakakini, it is unlikely that they have any sense of the history that lies behind the thoroughfare’s name. The visitor who strikes across the bridge from Notre Dame in Paris toward the church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is unlikely to know that this is a Melkite church where ser vices are regularly conducted in Arabic, like those Isa Carus once performed in the church of Saint-Roch. Thebanlieusardswho take the RER D into Paris from Melun pass the barracks where generations of Arabs served in the French military, but...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 219-256)
    (pp. 257-282)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 283-288)