Economy and culture in Amazigh milieus

The economic history of North Africa bears the imprint of the Amazigh people. For instance, Iligh’s trading house dominated part of the western axis of the trans-Saharan trade, while the merchants of Ghadames played an important role in the eastern road, to cite but a few examples. The colonial shock has changed the socio-economic structures of the region tremendously. It has, inter alia, speeded up the decline of trans-Saharan trade, handicrafts and other food-related economic activities, while at the same time promoting the development of an embryonic capitalist economy that was located on the coast and was dependent on European markets. This has greatly weakened some nomadic groups and pushed sedentary ones to emigrate to northern cities while at the same time altering many of their economic activities.

Consideration of the ways of life of the Amazigh people brought about a set of works on the economy of these communities. Most of these reported the strategic importance of controlling and regulating resources, mainly water and land, which are decisive for both the settlement and the life in collective human groups, as well as the upsurge of a claimant to politico-economic power. Throughout the twentieth century, the change of the resource ownership regime and its regulation by the Nation-State, not to mention the experiences of socialization and/or privatization of land in the countries of North Africa, upset the practices of Amazigh communities as far as resource management is concerned.

The objective of this collection is to deepen the reflection on the economic activities in different Amazigh milieus so as to cover certain areas that have not been explored sufficiently. It thus aims to consider monetary activities such as loans as well as the evolution of prices of industrial or handcraft products and the income they generate. The papers can also address trade, including imports and exports, as well as resource management and consumption patterns. The analysis can also focus on the strategies used by economic actors such as states, commercial houses, European counters, intermediaries or traders, who are not by the way all amazigh-speaking.

The prospective contributors to this collection can contribute to one of the following three themes:

Theme 1: Economic dynamics and their stakes in Amazigh societies during the 19th century

It is difficult to tackle economic activities in the period preceding the colonial occupation of North Africa without mentioning the trans-Saharan trade and its sea outlets. This has been widely documented both quantitatively and qualitatively thanks to the work of European authors such as Edward William Bovill or Jean-Louis Miège. As far as the western axis of this trade is concerned, the work of El Moukhtar Soussi and Paul Pascon mobilized local sources, which made it possible to report on the issues of ascension, decline and re-emergence of a political-economic power of an Amazigh commercial house in the South of Morocco.

In this connection, we welcome a thoughtful consideration of the institutional system which ensured prolonged existence to this commercial circuit. It would also be interesting to discuss the relations maintained by the various Amazigh communities (of the Rif, Sous, Ait Ghris, Figuig, Mzab, Ghadames, Touareg, Kabylia, etc.) with the political powers, with the brotherhood movements (Sanoussiyya, Tijaniyya, among others) which played a role in the trans-Saharan trade, or yet with Jewish traders and intermediaries from sub-Saharan groups that are not necessarily Amazigh-speaking.

It would also be relevant to give importance to other economic activities such as crafts, fishing, agriculture, livestock or other sectors that have received enough attention.

Theme 2: The colonial fact and the socio-economic upheavals

The colonial invasion of North Africa has initiated a process that has, in the long run, deprived the Amazigh community economic institutions of many of their prerogatives. First, it called into question the collective rules, which created a climate of insecurity for both trans-Saharan trade and exchanges in the souk circuit and major fairs. The colonial administration then deployed logistics and territorial engineering which allowed it to reorganize trade by mobilizing port, rail and road networks to ensure the flow of European goods and to impose dependence as well as political and economic domination on inner regions of North Africa by the urban colonies which it developed on the coastline. Paradoxically, the growth of certain large cities has enabled the development of Amazigh-speaking urban communities, such as the Soussis in Casablanca or the Djerbians in Tunis, who play a leading economic role to the present.

After independence, the intervention of a central and bureaucratic administration heightened the process of depriving the Amazigh communities of their political and economic autonomy. These have undergone, depending on the country and the circumstances, both top-down socialization policies and privatization and subcontracting ones. Simultaneously, these public policies have offered new opportunities and resources for some Amazighs to do well on an individual level. Some individual successes even led to transformations in the values ​​of Amazigh communities.

Theme 3: Economic actors and Amazigh culture

Several works have emphasized the austerity of certain Amazigh communities, which has enabled them to set up flourishing businesses. This led certain researchers, such as Erich Adolph Alport (1954, 1964) and John Waterbury (1972), to point out their similarity with the Protestant sects which, according to Max Weber, contributed to the development of the spirit of modern capitalism. More recently, Léo-Paul Dana and Robert B. Anderson (2007) have proposed a hypothesis on the entrepreneurship of local and “indigenous” communities that depends on the cultural perception of the opportunities of the group to which the entrepreneur belongs.

It would also be interesting to investigate the role played by Amazigh economic actors to defend their cultural identity and the community to which they belong. This would not only take the creation and animation of a dynamic associative fabric that would promote the socio-economic development of the regions of origin, but also support cultural movements that directly claim the Amazigh identity and political initiatives that oppose currents perceived as disdaining Amazigh territories and identity.

Finally, also relevant is the examination of the impact of these economic transformations on Amazigh cultural and artistic creations (for example the music market, Amazigh literary production, etc.) while questioning the impact of these socio-economic upheavals on the use of the Amazigh language, its diffusion and its transmission.

It is desirable that the approaches be multidisciplinary. This will make it possible to compare the perspectives of works from various branches of the human and social sciences in order to contribute to a better understanding of the economic activities in Amazigh milieus.

- Deadline for receipt of contributions: 10/30/2020
- Notification of acceptance to the authors: 12/31/2020.