Contested identities: Berbers, ‘Berberism’ and the State in North Africa (JNAS)

Principal Research Fellow Dr. Bruce Maddy-Weizman analyses the relationship between the Amazigh (Berbers) and the North African state in the Journal of North African Studies.

The emergence of the Berber/Amazigh culture movement, in Morocco, Algeria and in the Berber diaspora poses important questions for North African regimes and societies as they enter the twenty‐first century. Moreover, it provides fertile ground for students of nationalism, collective memory and identity. The Berber experiences in Algeria and Morocco have been quite different from one another, and thus pose different sets of questions to the respective regimes, societies and Berber communities. None the less, these experiences have resulted in an increasing self‐consciousness among Berbers as Berbers in both places, which increasingly includes a more explicit political dimension. The Kabylian Amazigh coexist uneasily with state authorities within a situation of overall uncertaianty as to the future nature of the State. The Moroccan case is more amorphous, and less overtly political, but is no less part of the new Berber ‘imagining’. The process of reshaping and redefining the meaning of Moroccan and Algerian collective identities has already begun and will surely be fraught with tension and difficulties. The way in which growing Berber collective self‐consciousness interacts with the Moroccan and Algerian states, and with other segments of their societies will do much to determine the future course of North African affairs.