Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

We Are Imazighen: The Development of Algerian Berber Identity in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

We Are Imazighen: The Development of Algerian Berber Identity in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture

Article excerpt

We Are Imaz ighen: The Development of Algerian Berber Iden tity in Tw entiethCentury Literature and Culture. By Faz ia Aïtel. Ga inesville: U niversity Press of Florida, 2014. 324 pp. $74.95.

Modern ethno-national movements possess a strong cultural component and the Imazighen are no exception as Aïtel, associate professor of French and Francophone studies at Claremont McKenna College, shows in an important contribution. Through her informed and nuanced analyses of cultural production among Algerian Berbers (or Imazighen as many modern-day Berbers throughout North Africa and the Berber diaspora call themselves) in literature, song, and poetry, she argues convincingly that the survival and transformation of modern Berber culture owes a great deal to the interaction and dialogue between the Berbers and the outsider, whether French or Arab-Muslim.

Aïtel's initial chapters are devoted to the colonial context and "the ghostlike" and "unacknowledged" Berber presence in Algerian literature among the first generation of Berber Francophone writers. She pays special attention to the works of various Kabyle literary luminaries and includes an illuminating chapter about the recently deceased Assia Djebar, perhaps the best known of all Algerian writers, tracing the evolution and hesitant emergence of Djebar's own Berber identity and her profound ambivalence toward it.

Nearly five years since the start of the Arab upheavals, it is now clear that the notion of secular, Arab nationalism did not provide a sufficient basis for state consolidation within the borders that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. …

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