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Village Matters

Village Matters: Knowledge, Politics and Community in Kabylia, Algeria

Judith Scheele
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 191
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  • Book Info
    Village Matters
    Book Description:

    Kabylia is a Berber-speaking, densely populated mountainous region east of Algiers, that has played an important part in Algerian pre- and post-independence politics, and continues to be troublesome to central government. But 'Kabylia' is also an ideal, s

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-775-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Acronyms & Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xii-xii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    In spring 2001, a high school student named Massinissah Guermah was killed inside a gendarmerie post in a small village in Kabylia, north-eastern Algeria. This event, which as such was not unusual in a country plagued by endemic violence, often perpetrated by the security forces themselves, led to riots that quickly spread through the region. They were the longest and most sustained in the history of independent Algeria (Roberts 2001; Salhi 2002). The immediate concerns of the rioters were familiar to anyone who had followed the news on Algeria since the 1980s. The main issue was the fight against the...

  9. 1 Massinissah’s Children
    (pp. 10-30)

    In 2002, the Algerian national football team played, for the first time in history, a French national team (the French national team, in fact, that had just won the World Cup, and catapulted France into the never-dreamt-of realms of football paradise). The captain of the French team, Zinedine Zidane, world footballer of the year and Marseille’s ‘national’ idol, was of Kabyle origin. A large number of the other footballers similarly were second-generation Algerian (or West African) immigrants. The team had been heralded by most of the national press and the political establishment as the living representation of France’s multi-cultural, but...

  10. 2 The Republic of Martyrs
    (pp. 31-48)

    Primary schools were not long to remain the only institutions through which Kabyles could get to know the intellectual and practical tools of their French occupiers. In the First World War, 158,533 Algerian soldiers fought in the French army, while 11,000 men emigrated to Syria to avoid conscription, and returned after the war (Mahé 2001). Some were taken to France to replace factory workers busy at the front, and stayed. In 1914, 13,000 Algerian ‘French Muslims’ were registered in France, 10,000 of whom were probably from Kabylia; in 1928 Louis Massignon counted 120,000 Kabyles in France:

    It is said that...

  11. 3 Shifting Centres
    (pp. 49-73)

    The following four chapters aim to describe Ighil Oumsed, an ‘ordinary’ village (if any village can be ordinary) in Kabylia, where I carried out most of my fieldwork. The present chapter deals with the aspect of the village that strikes any visitor to the area before anything else might come to his or her mind: its spatial organisation. Special attention will be paid to the various ways in which this spatial organisation is perceived, used, and thereby constantly reinterpreted by villagers, and to the impact such practices have on the self-perception of the village community. Although at first sight the...

  12. 4 The Theft of History
    (pp. 74-96)

    After my informants had decided that I had received sufficient geographical material about the village, there was a general consensus that I should now look into its history. However, opinions about what this ‘history’ might be, and more importantly, who would know it and have the right to speak about it, varied from villager to villager. Arezqi, for example, suggested trips to various neighbouring villages and towns, where he had fixed appointments with a large number of ‘experts’ on ‘Berber history’, most of whom had been to university, if possible in France. In the village itself, he maintained, nothing was...

  13. 5 The Centres of the World
    (pp. 97-121)

    One of the reasons it took me so long to find my way around the village was the simple fact that at the beginning I was not left to spend much time there. Arezqi, who had carefully prepared my arrival, had set up trips to various neighbouring villages and towns, where he had fixed appointments with all the experts on Berber matters he could possibly summon. Most of these ‘experts’ resided in the towns in the valley. To arrange the appointments, Arezqi had activated a large part of his innumerable and very extensive networks, ranging from those established through shared...

  14. 6 Speaking in the Name of the Village
    (pp. 122-147)

    The outstanding feature of Kabyle villages, as all anthropological and historical works on Kabylia seem to agree, is its village assembly, or tajmaεt (see Chapter 1). According to all authors, and to many Kabyles themselves, in Kabylia, the tajmaεt is what turns a mere agglomeration of houses and people into a village. It is what truly ‘makes’ a Kabyle village; and from a male point of view at least, ‘village’ and tajmaεt’ are practically synonymous – or at least they should be.¹ Looking for the tajmaεt in Ighil Oumsed, however, proved to be as difficult as looking for the village’s spatial...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 148-150)

    I used to tell villagers during my stay that I very much liked being there, and that I thought Ighil Oumsed very beautiful, and its people very welcoming, nice and interesting. This, though true, became a running joke. Women especially, when introducing me to their relatives and friends, would never fail to make me repeat these judgements, which never failed to get an incredulous laugh back. People felt flattered at my observation, as they generally did at my ‘scientific’ interest in their village, but they never quite believed that I was not just being polite, seeing that I had quite clearly...

  16. Appendix 1: Tables & Figures
    (pp. 151-156)
  17. Appendix 2: Texts
    (pp. 157-162)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-174)
  19. Index
    (pp. 175-180)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)