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Title: Moral homelands : localism and the nation in Kabylia (Algeria)
Author: Maas, Lucy Gabrielle
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 1894
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is a study of attitudes to regional and national identity in Kabylia, a Berber-speaking region in northeast Algeria, and among Kabyle migrants in Paris. I illustrate how Kabyles nurture a fragile balance of nationalism and regional particularism through a primarily moral notion of local community, and extend it to an alternative vision for an Algerian nation which they believe has been debased by a corrupt state regime and Arabo-Islamic ideology since national independence. The thesis is based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork divided between two places – Paris and a large village in Kabylia – and reflects my interest in how people ‘imagine’ national community through their experience as members of smaller social groups. Many Kabyle activists today formulate an alternative vision of Algerian national politics as a federation of several regionally based affective communities, each maintaining internal solidarity. This echoes a tendency in French colonial writings on Kabylia, discussed in the opening chapter, to conceive of the region as an island, intensively connected yet defensive of its autonomy. As citizens of the existing Algerian state, many Kabyles contest assimilation by claiming to represent Algeria’s ‘true past’, and investing contemporary governance initiatives with its values. They represent the radical difference that this implies with metaphors of the Kabyle community as a family within ‘public’ national life, and accuse the state regime of reversing this relationship by adopting a language of coercive authority appropriate only within the family. The transmission of Kabyle values today relies heavily on music, and especially political song, which I demonstrate – beyond its role in disseminating dissident ideas – acts as a vehicle for a type of secular revealed knowledge widely seen as the purest embodiment of Kabyle morality. Beyond the hollow rhetoric of Western liberalism that some see in Kabyle activism, I set out to demonstrate that the particular narrative of identity that I examine, in stressing regional uniqueness at the expense of recognition from a centralized state, also reflects anomalies inherent in the concept of ‘nationalism’ itself as a compromise between the requirements of external co-operation and internal allegiance.
Supervisor: Gildea, Robert; Willis, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Middle East ; Africa ; Social anthropology ; Ethnographic practices ; Migration ; Indigenous peoples ; History of Africa ; ethnomusicology ; music and politics ; Algeria ; Berber ; nationalism ; regionalism ; minorities ; political song