Arabization and Its Discontents: The Rise of the Amazigh Movement in North Africa (JMEA)

MDC Principal Research Fellow Dr. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman analyzes the emergence of the Amazigh (Berber) national identity movement.

The Berber-Amazigh identity movement has emerged in recent decades in North African states, demanding official recognition of linguistic and cultural rights and challenging the hegemonic narrative of history propagated by ruling elites who advocate the full Arabization of society and the reduction of Berber culture to folklore status. In recent years, the movement has gained a measure of linguistic and cultural recognition from North African states. This hard-won legitimization has in turn given the Amazigh movement new confidence to press its demands. The events of the “Arab Spring” have contained an important Amazigh dimension. With the needs of North African states now even more acute, and given the political and social discontent bubbling up from below, the Amazigh identity project is clearly entering a new era, one that poses both new opportunities and new challenges, particularly in the face of increasingly influential Islamist movements.