The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States

The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
Copyright Date: 2011
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/725874
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  • Book Info
    The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States
    Book Description:

    Like many indigenous groups that have endured centuries of subordination, the Berber/Amazigh peoples of North Africa are demanding linguistic and cultural recognition and the redressing of injustices. Indeed, the movement seeks nothing less than a refashioning of the identity of North African states, a rewriting of their history, and a fundamental change in the basis of collective life. In so doing, it poses a challenge to the existing political and sociocultural orders in Morocco and Algeria, while serving as an important counterpoint to the oppositionist Islamist current.

    This is the first book-length study to analyze the rise of the modern ethnocultural Berber/Amazigh movement in North Africa and the Berber diaspora. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman begins by tracing North African history from the perspective of its indigenous Berber inhabitants and their interactions with more powerful societies, from Hellenic and Roman times, through a millennium of Islam, to the era of Western colonialism. He then concentrates on the marginalization and eventual reemergence of the Berber question in independent Algeria and Morocco, against a background of the growing crisis of regime legitimacy in each country. His investigation illuminates many issues, including the fashioning of official national narratives and policies aimed at subordinating Berbers in an Arab nationalist and Islamic-centered universe; the emergence of a counter-movement promoting an expansive Berber "imagining" that emphasizes the rights of minority groups and indigenous peoples; and the international aspects of modern Berberism.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73478-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION AND TERMINOLOGY
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Maghrib—i.e., the Islamic “West,” roughly encompassing the present territories of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania in Northwest Africa—has, as L. Carl Brown reminds us, long been recognized by historians and social scientists as a useful unit of analysis. It was there that an “imprint of geography with history, terrain with theology,” produced a distinct mix of political, social, cultural, and linguistic attributes that marked it off from the Mashriq (the Arab-Islamic “East”), Africa south of the Sahara, and the northern Mediterranean littoral.¹ Central to this mix since the beginning of recorded history have been its native...

  6. Part I ENTERING HISTORY
    • One ORIGINS AND CONQUESTS: Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, Arabia
      (pp. 13-36)

      The purpose of this chapter and the following one is to give a succinct overview of the history of North Africa from antiquity to independence, with an emphasis on its Berber components, particularly in the territories that constitute modern-day Algeria and Morocco. This is not a Berberist reading, per se, although such a reading can hardly be ignored either. In any case, the intent is to dispassionately present the main developments of Maghribi history from the mists of time to the end of modern colonialism—political, social, cultural, religious, and legal—from the angle of the Berber-speaking populations, and their...

    • Two THE COLONIAL ERA
      (pp. 37-62)

      France’s conquest of Algiers in 1830 and initial years of rule constituted an “old-school” kind of imperial policy.¹ However, just as the Ottomans extended their rule of Algiers in an improvised, unplanned way and ended up maintaining a presence for three hundred years, the initial absence of French intention to permanently rule Algeria was soon superseded. The dynamics of France’s conflict with the various tribal, ethnic, and regional groupings that together constituted the Muslim Algerian community, combined with the dialectical processes shaping the emergence of modern French identity, resulted in a venture unique to nineteenth-century colonialism: the destruction of precolonial...

  7. Part II INDEPENDENCE, MARGINALIZATION, AND BERBER REIMAGINING
    • Three MOROCCO AND ALGERIA: State Consolidation and Berber “Otherness”
      (pp. 65-101)

      From the outset, the newly independent states of Morocco and Algeria were intimate rivals, offering competing geopolitical, ideological, and sociocultural visions and orientations.¹ Within just over a year of Algeria’s achieving independence, the two countries would find themselves in a sharp, albeit brief, armed conflict against one another, the “War of the Sands.”² Twelve years later, their rivalry would manifest itself in the struggle to determine the future of Spain’s Saharan territory adjacent to both countries: Algeria (and Libya) supported the Polisario independence movement, in line with prevailing international norms pertaining to decolonization, while Morocco insisted on the “reunification” of...

    • Four ALGERIAN STRIFE, MOROCCAN HOMEOPATHY, AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE AMAZIGH MOVEMENT
      (pp. 102-128)

      At its outset, the decade of the 1980s had been envisaged by Arab leaders as the “decade of development.”¹ However, matters turned out differently. These years were marked by a steep decline in the price of oil at mid-decade, the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, which bled the two countries white (causing an estimated one million casualties and costing hundreds of billions of dollars, at the very least), renewed violence in the Arab-Israeli sphere (the 1982 Lebanon war and the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada), and further internecine sectarian violence in Lebanon. By its end, most Arab states appeared to be...

  8. Part III REENTERING HISTORY IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 129-130)

      At the turn of the new century, scholars of the contemporary Maghrib were in general agreement that North African states, nearly a half-century after having achieved independence, were at a crossroads. Clement M. Henry characterized the regimes as “desperate,” threatened by the burdens of economic adjustment programs and facing confrontations with Islamist oppositions. Benjamin Stora and I. William Zartman talked of the need for a redefining, or “re-contracting,” of state-society relations. Abdallah Laroui, who was not only a preeminent historian of the region but also a committed Moroccan nationalist writing from an explicitly historicist/materialist perspective, quietly despaired over the failures...

    • Five BERBER IDENTITY AND THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA
      (pp. 131-152)

      In recent years, the expansion of an international discourse on human rights, which includes the recognition of the existence and rights of subordinate, nondominant ethnolinguistic groups, has created new opportunities for the promotion of the Berberist agenda. Consequently, a number of Berber organizations, both in North Africa and the Diaspora, have made the advocacy of the Berber cause in various international forums a central thread of their activities. In so doing, they sought to bring pressure to bear not only on the Moroccan and Algerian states, but also to highlight the repressive policies of Libya toward its largely marginalized Berber...

    • Six MOHAMED VI’S MOROCCO AND THE AMAZIGH MOVEMENT
      (pp. 153-182)

      The ascension to the throne of King Hassan II’s eldest son, Mohamed VI, following Hassan’s death in July 1999, occurred smoothly and without incident, attesting to the degree of both stability and legitimacy that Hassan had attained in time to pass on to his eldest son. Not-withstanding Hassan’s last years, the dominant image of his era was that of a supreme ruler who struck fear into his subjects’ hearts. While not formally challenging the legacy of his father, Mohamed quickly sought to put his own stamp on Moroccan affairs as a kinder, gentler monarch attuned to the needs of his...

    • Seven BOUTEFLIKA’S ALGERIA AND KABYLE ALIENATION
      (pp. 183-201)

      Backed by the military, which was badly in need of the legitimacy provided by civilian rule, Abdelaziz Bouteflika registered resounding success in consolidating his position in the decade following his ascent to the presidency in 1999. The Islamist insurgency was finally broken, although not entirely stamped out; Algeria’s standing in the international community, which had been badly damaged during the civil war, improved substantially, particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City by al-Qa‘ida jihadists. The Algerian authorities now became a desired and cooperative partner in the U.S.-led “War...

    • Conclusion WHITHER THE STATE, WHITHER THE BERBERS?
      (pp. 202-210)

      Over the course of recorded history, Berbers have straddled multiple worlds; they have been multilingual, multicultural, always part of the “other”; and always engaged in one form of accommodation or another with stronger, more advanced civilizations—from Roman to Byzantine, Islamic to modern times. Historical dynamics have ensured that Berber-Arab differences have been socially enduring but nonetheless muted: not since the initial Islamic conquests have there been significant episodes of interethnic violence in North Africa. Colonial policies had contrary effects, some intended, others not: while acting to reify Berber-Arab differences, with some success, they also initiated complex processes of territorial...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 211-254)
  10. SOURCES
    (pp. 255-278)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 279-292)