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Berbers and the Nation-State in North Africa  

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Throughout history, North Africa’s native Berber-speaking populations have been central to the mix of political, social, cultural, and linguistic attributes that rendered the region distinct. At the dawn of the 20th century, Berbers still constituted a substantial majority of sharifian Morocco’s population, and a significant minority of French Algeria’s Muslim populace; their numbers were smaller in Ottoman Libya and smaller still in France’s Tunisian protectorate. Nationalism began to spread in North Africa during the first decades of the 20th century. Each nationalist movement was shaped by a particular combination of factors; all of them, however, foregrounded the Arab and Islamic components of their collective identities, downplaying or ignoring the Berber ones. Berbers actively participated in the struggles for independence in both Algeria and Morocco, often in leadership roles. This pattern would continue during the decades after independence, even as both the Algerian and Moroccan states placed supreme value on the Arabization of the educational system, and of public life in general. The state’s overall view of Berber identity was that it should be consigned to the realm of folklore. However, even as the number of Berber speakers continued to decline, there arose a modern Berber (Amazigh) identity movement that demanded a reexamination of the underlying premises of their countries’ collective identities, one that would bring the Berber language and culture to center stage. It also demanded genuine amelioration of the dire conditions of poverty that characterized much of the rural Berber world. As ruling regimes struggled to maintain their legitimacy after a half century of independence, the Berber “question” now took on a new salience in North Africa’s increasingly contested political space.

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Newspapers as Sources for African History  

Emma Hunter

Newspapers have become increasingly important as a source for African history, and the range of historical questions newspapers have been employed to address has expanded dramatically. Newspapers are not only sources for political history, they also have much to teach us about the social, cultural, and intellectual history of Africa. They were spaces of literary and textual experimentation. They also played an important role in the creation of new identities. It is essential, however, that we approach newspapers critically as sources and think carefully about their limitations, as well as the opportunities they present to the historian.

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Pepetela  

Alexandra Santos

Pepetela (b. 1941) is one of the most awarded Angolan writers and a successful creator of the myths and epics sustaining Angolan identity in the symbolic domain. He has played many roles throughout his life, from revolutionary socialism ideologist to guerrilla fighter, government member, university professor, and civic activist. Most notably, he is a prolific writer; his dozens of novels, chronicles, plays, and fables constitute an incomparable testimony to 20th-century Angola. His writing articulates a strong sociological awareness with a world vision that feeds on the ideological currents of nationalism and socialism. This surprising junction makes the basis for literary works in which the struggle for independence, the construction of the Angolan nation, the socialist revolution, and social analysis assume great relevance, as does the quest for the symbolic roots of national identity. Pepetela has been the most thorough explorer of Angolan historical sources and autochthonous myths, from which he assembled narratives that are considered foundational to the nation. His work is the object of numerous academic essays in several languages. Just as importantly, he is a favorite among readers worldwide.