Berber Culture on the World Stage: Village to Video

By Boudraa, Nabil | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Berber Culture on the World Stage: Village to Video


Boudraa, Nabil, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Berber Culture on the World Stage: Village to Video. By Jane E. Goodman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005. Pp. 256. $65.00 cloth, $23.95 paper.

Jane E. Goodman's study of Berber Culture on the World Stage is very timely. In recent years, there has been little research and only a few publications have appeared on Berber (Kabyle) culture within American academia. Some time has passed since Pierre Bourdieu's scholarly work-his analysis of the Kabyle house that has been studied worldwide, and has become a reference on Berber culture. Goodman's work is on par with Bourdieu's opus and significantly contributes to the perspectives of the scholarship he paved. Although her book is entitled Berber Culture on the World Stage, it actually focuses on Kabyle culture, one of the many facets of the wider Berber heritage in North Africa and elsewhere. More pertinently, the subtitle Village to Video delineates the working idea of the book that invites an understanding of the different ways Kabyle culture moves from locality to globality. The book illustrates how a small unit, such as a village, a house, tajma'at (village assembly), or a wedding, a song (A vava inouva), and a single event (Berber spring) can represent the essence of Berber cultural identity and make it visible on the world stage. In this dynamic process of movement between the local and the universal, Goodman rightly insists on the globalizing configuration of branching interconnections, despite classical perceptions of culture being "stable and unitary" emanating exclusively from Kabyle activists and poets.

In her introduction, Goodman provides a brief but accurate historical account of the Berbers and paints the cultural and socio-political context by which a reader unfamiliar with Berber history may get through facts and episodes with ease and clarity. Within this background, emphasis is put on major relevant events and cultural aspects that marked both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the "Kabyle Myth," the issue of Berber language, and the more recent antagonism between Berberism and Islamism.

Part One, entitled "Circuits," deals mainly with the three main aspects symbolic of the Kabyle Berber identity: the Berber Spring (in reference to the demonstrations of April 1980); Idir's famous song A vava inouva; and the Kabyle village. Here, the author's originality lies in her analysis of the ways in which these cultural signifiers are represented and of the networks used to bring them to a world stage. …

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