Theorizing the Histories of Colonialism and Nationalism in the Arab Maghrib

By Burke, Edmund,, III | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

Theorizing the Histories of Colonialism and Nationalism in the Arab Maghrib


Burke, Edmund,, III, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


THE MAGHRIB AND MIDDLE EASTERN HISTORY

The field of maghrib studies has always been marginal to the U.S. academy - not quite African, not quite Arab, not quite European, the Maghrib inhabits a space between the essentialisms evoked by each. For Africans (and Africanists), North Africans were slavers and proto-imperialists, whose historical experiences diverged from those of sub-Saharan Africa. As constituted in the U.S., African studies has tended to see its terrain as Africa south of the Sahara, "black Africa" as opposed to "white Africa" (thereby mindlessly replicating colonial racisms). While Africa specialists are fully aware of the historical links between the two, such as the trans-Saharan gold trade, Islam and Arabic culture, the field often proceeds as if the North were another world.

Although two-thirds of all Arabs live in northern Africa (Egypt and the Arab Maghrib are each one third), Maghribis have long been regarded by U.S. Arabists as "not quite real Arabs," spoiled by colonization and the mission civilisatrice. Mashriqi Arabs, confident of their historic primacy and cultural superiority, regard Maghribi Arabic as incomprehensible, Maghribi intellectuals par trop francise, and Maghribi history as inalterably other (forgetting a common Ottoman and Islamic past). Those who study the Mashriq in the U.S. have tended to absorb these prejudices, often without thinking. As a result, "the Arab World" studied in the U.S. remains a field seriously out of kilter, shorn of one third of its inhabitants, an essentialized rump of a much larger and more diverse reality. As a result a comparative historical approach to the Arab World has been slow to emerge.(1)

Finally, despite one hundred and thirty-two years of French colonization (or indeed because of it) French historians see Algeria's history as occurring off-stage, rather than as an inalterable part of the history of France. Added to this is the way in which the way the histories of imperial role have tended to map on to the division of labor of colonial scholarship in Middle East studies. Eastern Arabs (some of them, anyway) had Britain as their colonial tutor, and thus their colonial records are readily accessible to Anglophone scholars. Western Arabs, on the other hand, were ruled by France (as well as Spain and Italy), thereby interposing a further screen over their colonial pasts for the linguistically challenged. British colonialism is a big subject in the U.S. (itself a former British colonial possession), while French colonialism is not. As a result serious historians of colonialism in the Maghrib have worked mostly in the shadows, and histories of the colonial Middle East take the British experience as normative, while largely ignoring French, Spanish and Italian colonialism.

As a result of its multiple marginality, the Maghrib has been something of an intellectual cul de sac in the U.S. Middle East field: professional journals and academic conferences largely ignore it, while books on North Africa go mostly unreviewed.(2) As the history of colonialism and nationalism recedes into the past, however, the marginality of the Maghrib seems increasingly less at issue. For the first time it is possible to imagine North Africa not in terms of what it is not (African, Arab, French), but rather as a site from which to interrogate the dichotomous forms of identity and historical understanding which derive from the history of modernity.

Today, in a different historical moment, that of the "posts" (colonial, modern, Cold War, Gulf War, structuralist) these "lacks" appear in a different guise: as marks of hybridity, alterity and liminality, sites of resistance and contestation. The colonial past of Arab North Africa appears as increasingly fresh and relevant to increasing numbers of scholars from outside of the traditional field of North African studies, a key terrain in which colonial culture can be apprehended.(3) Feminist theory, cultural studies, minority studies, postcolonial studies, the influence of the subaltern studies group of Indian historians, new ways of conceptualizing Europe as a dynamic multi-cultural arena (rather than a series of hermetically sealed essentialisms) have combined to bring histories of colonialism back onto the academic agenda. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Theorizing the Histories of Colonialism and Nationalism in the Arab Maghrib
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.