My Amazigh Indigeneity (the Bifurcated Roots of a Native Moroccan)

15 September, 2021
Amazigh woman walk­ing past a mur­al, Taroudant, Morocco.

Brahim El Guabli


I am Amazigh, Black, and Sahrawi. Amazigh lan­guage is my moth­er tongue. My moth­er is Black, and my father is Sahrawi. The only pic­ture I own of my mater­nal grand­fa­ther tells me that his roots run deep into sub-Saha­ran Africa. My cat­e­go­ry of Moroc­can cit­i­zen has escaped the atten­tion of schol­ar­ship on race and racism in North Africa and had been denied legal recog­ni­tion until the reformed 2011 Con­sti­tu­tion. This means that between 1956 and 2011, peo­ple strad­dling these diverse belong­ings were erased in favor of an Arab-Islam­ic iden­ti­ty that was shaped by uni­fy­ing Jacobin-mod­el Moroc­can nation­al­ists, adopt­ed for the post-inde­pen­dence state in 1956. Both the school sys­tem and the media did a fab­u­lous job of desen­si­tiz­ing gen­er­a­tions of Moroc­cans against their Amazigh her­itage and made sure that they were con­tained with­in the state-sanc­tioned iden­ti­ty of Moroc­co as an Arab and Mus­lim country.

Com­ing of age, how­ev­er, senior friends in high school taught me about the work of the Amazigh Cul­tur­al Move­ment (ACM), which helped me over the years to reclaim both my Amazighi­ty and Black­ness. Although Amazigh, which means both white and free peo­ple, and black are an oxy­moron, they are co-con­sti­tu­tive of my sto­ry of ori­gins. My Sahrawi roots, due to polit­i­cal issues that can­not be dis­cussed with enough nuance and pre­ci­sion in a short arti­cle, remain a work in progress. Each of these iden­ti­ties is under­lain by polit­i­cal deci­sions, sto­ries, move­ments, mem­o­ries, and also amne­sias that affirm the com­plex­i­ty of talk­ing about one’s ori­gins. Ori­gins can­not but be elu­sive in a space that has been a locus for migra­tions, mobil­i­ty, and human mis­ce­gena­tion for millennia.

Aṣl (ori­gin), uṣūl (ori­gins), and laṣl (Amazigh for origin/origins) evoke sev­er­al types of rela­tion­ships to peo­ple and place. Our ori­gins are the matri­lin­eal or patri­lin­eal rela­tions we have with our par­ents who brought us into the world, thus deter­min­ing our place in hier­ar­chi­cal sys­tems and rela­tion­ships with­in com­mu­ni­ties. Both my black­ness and my Amazighity—my oxy­moron­ic identity—are bequeathed to me by my moth­er. From my father I inher­it­ed a sense of nomadism and an unbound­ed curios­i­ty about the world. He was one of the very rare bilin­gual peo­ple in my vil­lage. He spoke Dar­i­ja (Moroc­can Ara­bic) as if he did not know any Amazigh and vice-ver­sa. Grow­ing up in this Amazigh and bira­cial home, I was already dif­fer­ent from the oth­er chil­dren in my com­mu­ni­ty, hav­ing ori­gins that encom­pass black­ness and “Sahraw­i­ness.” Ori­gins also con­nect us to place, thus giv­ing us a sense of authen­tic­i­ty through an extend­ed inhab­i­ta­tion of the land. Akāl (land in Amazigh) evokes root­ed­ness in the place of ori­gin. Whether used to reclaim a sense of being aït tmazirt (the right­ful owners/citizens of the home­land) or tar­wa n‑tmazight (the chil­dren of the land), akāl has entrenched a strong con­nec­tion between cul­tur­al con­scious­ness and Amazigh indi­gene­ity to the land of North Africa. Through the var­i­ous con­cep­tions of akāl and laṣl, one can make claims for revamp

The Amazigh lan­guage of Tifi­nagh is mak­ing a come­back in Morocco.

ing the exclu­sive sociopo­lit­i­cal, juridi­cal, and eco­nom­ic sys­tems that have been put in place in North Africa. Tamṣ­lyt (indi­gene­ity) has a reha­bil­i­ta­tive pow­er that allowed Imazighen to claim their akāl, and through the land a col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty that state poli­cies across the entire Maghreb have sup­pressed in search of an imag­i­nary nation­al unity.

No won­der then that for Amazigh activists, awāl (language/speech in Amazigh), akāl, and afgān (person/people) are the tenets of Amazigh tamṣ­lyt (indi­gene­ity) to North Africa. Tamazgha, which is the Amazigh activists re-Amazighized name for North Africa, extends from  Siwa oisis in Egypt to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.[1] A rein­vent­ed home­land that pro­vides Imazighen with an “imag­ined com­mu­ni­ty,”[2] Tamazgha, a neol­o­gism, is the idyl­lic land of ori­gins where Imazighen spoke the same lan­guage before the vicis­si­tudes of time and recur­rent con­quests dis­con­nect­ed the dif­fer­ent Amazigh pop­u­la­tions and turned them into a minor­i­ty with­in their own home­land. As a result of con­quests, the mark­ers of the land’s Amazighi­ty were erased. Toponymies have been changed, Amazigh names were for­bid­den by North African states, and the Amazigh lan­guage and cul­ture were folk­lorized. How­ev­er, this remap­ping of North Africa through Tamazgha was not just a rev­o­lu­tion­ary act that reindi­g­e­nizes the land, akāl, but also a trans­for­ma­tive act of renam­ing that con­nects the land to its lan­guage of origin.

Of all Amazigh his­to­ri­ans, Ali Sidqi Aza­yk­ou (b. Taroudant, 1942–2004) was the cham­pi­on of the neces­si­ty to lis­ten to the land, read the topog­ra­phy, and write its his­to­ry based on the traces Imazighen left imprint­ed in the topog­ra­phy and its toponymy.[3] In Tamazgha, the land speaks Amazigh. Only when a land (akāl) tells its his­to­ry in its own lan­guage (awāl) can one affirm that the indige­nous pop­u­la­tions have a say in the way their home­land is admin­is­tered. Nonethe­less, the usu­al def­i­n­i­tions of indi­gene­ity fail to cap­ture the nuances of the sit­u­a­tion in the Maghreb.

Gen­er­a­tions of Amazigh chil­dren were the prod­uct of the state’s de-Amazighiz­ing sys­tem. The school, which was usu­al­ly a pre­fab­ri­cat­ed two-unit build­ing out­side or in the mid­dle of the vil­lage, became the space where the indi­gene­ity of Amazigh chil­dren had to be sac­ri­ficed for the pur­pos­es of nation build­ing. The school, this space where the teach­ers spoke a lan­guage that was dif­fer­ent from the imam’s, was a bar­ri­er between the Amazigh world of real life, which we nav­i­gat­ed in our Amazigh moth­er tongue, and anoth­er world that required knowl­edge of Ara­bic.  Sud­den­ly, the world of Ara­bic replaced the world of the moth­er tongue, and every bit of our Amazigh knowl­edge had to be rewrit­ten and trans­lat­ed into Ara­bic, turn­ing us into palimpses­tic beings  through the school sys­tem. Tafunāst (cow) became baqara, aghrūm (bread) became khubz, agḍīḍ (bird) became ṭā’ir, and tin­ml (school) became madrasa. Three years lat­er, the same words become vache, pain, oiseau, and école, with the learn­ing of French, widen­ing the gap between the moth­er tongue and those of school. It was not just the use of words that changed, it is also the worlds that we inhab­it­ed as chil­dren that trans­formed. Every day, we strad­dled a world of oral­i­ty with our moth­ers at home with anoth­er one of writ­ten sources at school. One world con­veyed knowl­edge through ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion where­as the oth­er used images, books, and didac­tic instru­ments to fash­ion our Moroc­can­ness. Two worlds that fash­ioned our iden­ti­ties, bifur­cat­ed our tongues,[4] and com­pli­cat­ed our sense of belonging.

Amazigh titles cour­tesy of Brahim El Guabli.

The Moroc­can writer Abdelfat­tah Kil­i­to has dis­cussed in depth his shut­tling between the lan­guage of home in the old med­i­na in Rabat and the colo­nial school in the new city.[5] While the coor­di­nates of the two worlds Kil­i­to nav­i­gat­ed were set by a colo­nial sys­tem, the post-inde­pen­dence world of Amazigh chil­dren were estab­lished by nation­al­ists who saw Moroc­co as an Arab and Mus­lim nation. Sim­i­lar­ly to Kil­i­to, how­ev­er, Amazigh chil­dren were Imazighen at home and Arab at school. Although we were vil­lagers in a pre-Saha­ran vil­lage in the south of Moroc­co, we were taught that we were part of some­thing larg­er called the Arab world and the Islam­ic ummah. Even though the school taught that “sukkān al-maghrib al-awwalūn hum al-bar­bar” (Berbers were the orig­i­nal inhab­i­tants of Moroc­co),[6] the sys­tem was active­ly Ara­biz­ing our tongues. Today, mutatis mutan­dis, I can say that I have two moth­er tongues: Amazigh and Ara­bic. I am not a bi-langue in the Khat­i­b­ian sense nor do I feel any con­tra­dic­tion between claim­ing my Amazigh indi­gene­ity and con­sid­er­ing Ara­bic my sec­ond moth­er tongue.

In his cel­e­brat­ed nov­el Amour bilingue—trans­lat­ed as Love in Two Lan­guages—Moroc­can nov­el­ist and essay­ist Abdelkébir Khat­i­bi depicts the emo­tion­al and men­tal state of the bi-langue.[7] Dif­fer­ent from the bilin­gual, bi-langue seems to describe a post-colo­nial being whose life is split between two com­pet­ing lan­guages. In Khatibi’s case, Ara­bic and French. The bi-langue in Khatibi’s nov­el lives in a state of per­ma­nent trans­la­tion and uncer­tain­ty. This fas­ci­nat­ing artic­u­la­tion of for­eign lan­guage speak­ing as a pain-laden expe­ri­ence offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to think about the rela­tion­ship between lan­guage and suf­fer­ing: how does one suf­fer in or because of lan­guage? But how could lan­guage be a source of a pain? In his Le mono­lin­guisme de l’autre (Mono­lin­gual­ism of the Oth­er),[8] Jacques Der­ri­da sug­gests that the only lan­guage that he speaks is not his. An Arab Jew of Alger­ian prove­nance (he spent his first 18 years in Alge­ria, until 1949), Der­ri­da lost both his Ara­bic and Hebrew, and, thanks to or because of repub­li­can edu­ca­tion, he adopt­ed French as his own lan­guage. How­ev­er, when Vichy laws were imple­ment­ed in Alge­ria, Der­ri­da found him­self out­side school and out­side French soci­ety to which his fam­i­ly adhered since Jews were giv­en the French cit­i­zen­ship in 1870 as a result of the famous Decree Cremieux. In his reflec­tion on his state dur­ing Vichy in Algiers, Der­ri­da writes about his exclu­sion from school:

I was very young at the time, and I cer­tain­ly did not under­stand very well what cit­i­zen­ship and loss of cit­i­zen­ship meant to say. But I do not doubt that exclusion—from the school reserved for young French citizens—could have a rela­tion­ship to the dis­or­der of iden­ti­ty which I was speak­ing to you about a moment ago. I do not doubt either that such “exclu­sions” come to leave their mark upon this belong­ing or non-belong­ing of lan­guage, this affil­i­a­tion to lan­guage, this assig­na­tion to what is peace­ful­ly called lan­guage.[9]

Amazigh woman graces mur­al (cour­tesy Brahim El Guabli).

While the bi-langue in Love in Two Lan­guages suf­fers from an inter­nal dis­so­nance as a result of the clash of lan­guages with­in her­self, Der­ri­da in this pas­sage asks the dis­turb­ing ques­tion of suf­fer­ing because of the polit­i­cal uses of lan­guage. Der­ri­da uses the removal of his French cit­i­zen­ship, which last­ed for two years, to ask “But who exact­ly pos­sess­es it [lan­guage]? And whom does it pos­sess?”[10] Amazigh chil­dren were nei­ther Khat­i­bis nor Der­ri­das, but they expe­ri­enced the anx­i­eties of lan­guage pol­i­cy and its emo­tion­al con­se­quences on them for not being able to con­vey the world in their awāl—the lan­guage of their origins.

The pain of lan­guage and the ori­gins under­ly­ing it emerge when you dis­cov­er that in the eyes of city youth in mid­dle school that you are a Berber. Although our Amazigh lan­guage was aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly sub­sumed by Ara­bic and French, which became our intel­lec­tu­al lan­guages, Amazigh remained the lan­guage of home, hin­der­ing our total immer­sion in Dar­i­ja. One could not use Amazigh to dis­cuss sci­en­tif­ic or aca­d­e­m­ic top­ics with­out insert­ing French or Ara­bic words to help explain con­cepts that were nev­er trans­lat­ed into Amazigh until that point in time. In the city, our mas­tery of Ara­bic with­out Dar­i­ja enroot­ed us in our Amazigh aṣl because our urban peers called us shlūḥ, a deroga­to­ry term. Mid­dle school became the source of most Amazigh stu­dents’ con­scious­ness of their dif­fer­ence. Old­er and more engaged youth dis­trib­uted Tifi­nagh (Amazigh alpha­bet) sheets and tracts about the ACM. By the mid­dle of the 1990s, the ACM had already estab­lished itself as a strong and respect­ed advo­cate for Imazighen’s rights, push­ing King Has­san II in 1994 to announce the teach­ing of the lan­guage and its inclu­sion in the news.[11]

It was not, how­ev­er, until 2002 that Amazigh lan­guage was includ­ed in pri­ma­ry school cur­ric­u­la. As a pri­ma­ry school teacher, I was among the first group of teach­ers who were trained in neo-Tifiangh—the ver­sion of Amazigh alpha­bet devel­oped by the Insti­tut Roy­al de la Cul­ture Amazighe (IRCAM). The teach­ing of Amazigh was, of course, pre­ced­ed by the estab­lish­ment of IRCAM in 2011. Part of a larg­er, albeit short-lived, project to democ­ra­tize the coun­try, IRCAM ini­ti­at­ed the offi­cial recog­ni­tion of Morocco’s Amazigh iden­ti­ty. In addi­tion to its aca­d­e­m­ic mis­sion, IRCAM had a task to pro­duce school cur­ric­u­la as well as audio­vi­su­al mate­ri­als to dis­sem­i­nate the learn­ing of Amazigh lan­guage and cul­ture in Moroc­can soci­ety.[12] Despite all the crit­i­cism lev­eled at IRCAM, it has man­aged to cre­ate very rich resources for Amazigh lan­guage and cul­ture. IRCAM reha­bil­i­tat­ed Tifi­nagh, pub­lished a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of stud­ies about dif­fer­ent aspects of Amazigh lan­guage and cul­ture, and most impor­tant­ly made Amazigh lan­guage part of the pub­lic sphere in Moroc­co. In a mat­ter of twen­ty years, Amazigh lan­guage went from an oral sta­tus to hav­ing an alpha­bet that is taught and used through­out Moroc­co, cre­at­ing a true plurilin­gual scene in the pub­lic area with its use in pub­lic sig­nage. ACM in con­junc­tion with IRCAM’s ini­tia­tives has re-Amazighized Moroc­co. The time when Amazigh lan­guage was silenced is over.

Music is a strong con­vey­or of Amazigh indi­gene­ity. Musi­cal indi­gene­ity in Amazigh lan­guage oper­at­ed in two con­tra­dic­to­ry ways. There is a search of ori­gins through tra­di­tion, which is rep­re­sent­ed by the old­er gen­er­a­tion of rwāys,[13] but there is also the search for indi­gene­ity through musi­cal inno­va­tion, like in the case of musi­cal bands Izen­zaren (Sun Rays) and Usmān (Light­en­ing).[14] Rwāys—usually a coed band led by a main singer who played a one-stringed instru­ment called ribāb—cre­at­ed the ear­li­est reper­toire of Amazigh music. They usu­al­ly steered away from the volatile top­ics of iden­ti­ty and pol­i­tics, but their melodies and words cre­at­ed an Amazigh musi­cal iden­ti­ty. The new bands that emerged in the 1970s reclaimed Amazigh indi­gene­ity by either refig­ur­ing the rwāys’s reper­toire, which is a very nor­mal move, or by doing some­thing even more rad­i­cal, that is claim­ing Amazigh indi­gene­ity through musi­cal inno­va­tion in both melodies and instru­ments. It may sound con­tra­dic­to­ry to seek one’s roots through nov­el­ty, but the Amazigh cul­tur­al activists real­ized that win­ing back Amazigh youth who grew up in urban spaces Amazigh music had to do much more than just refur­bish the old musi­cal styles. This is where musi­cal inno­va­tion meet with Amazigh indi­gene­ity through the songs of Izen­zaren and Usmān, who sang poems by Amazigh activists.

Those of us who lived in the hin­ter­lands remem­ber how dif­fi­cult it was to cap­ture the waves of the nation­al radio at night when they aired Amazigh music. Some alleged that the weak­ness of the air waves was part of a polit­i­cal strat­e­gy to deprive Imazighen of tak­ing pride of their music. What­ev­er the case may be, the days when the waves were clear for Amazigh music to reach the south of Moroc­co were hap­py days. Nev­er­the­less, it was the video cas­settes import­ed from Europe by Amazigh immi­grants that gave this music glob­al dimen­sions and con­tributed to entrench­ing it among Amazigh pop­u­la­tions. The wide­spread use of VHS and DVD read­ers con­firmed this trend. Start­ing in the 1990s, Amazigh cin­e­ma added anoth­er lay­er of com­plex­i­ty to Amazigh people’s rela­tion­ship to their cul­ture through the new media.[15] Bout­founast (The Own­er of the Cow, 1992) was met with phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess, paving the way for a more diverse and robust cin­e­mato­graph­ic indus­try in Amazigh. See­ing one’s mar­gin­al­ized lan­guage in film for the first time was not a neg­lige­able event. It was a reflec­tion of one’s exis­tence and sym­bol of Imazighen’s resilience. Unlike Imazighen who came of age in the 1980s, younger gen­er­a­tions of Imazighen are immersed in Amazigh cin­e­ma and its diverse corol­lary artis­tic and musi­cal byproducts.

The Amazigh quest for ori­gins can­not be com­plete with­out a detour via what I pro­pose to call the “Amazigh Repub­lic of Let­ters.”[16] This repub­lic exists and strad­dles mul­ti­ple geo­graph­ic loca­tions, extend­ing from Tamazgha to West Africa and the Amazigh dias­po­ras. The Amazigh Repub­lic of let­ters is mul­ti­lin­gual and transcon­ti­nen­tal and is root­ed in an Amazigh imag­i­nary that harks back to a shared lan­guage and an ances­tral land. Divid­ed between lit­er­a­ture writ­ten by Amazigh authors in oth­er lan­guages, such as Latin, Ara­bic, French, Dutch, and Span­ish,[17] and lit­er­a­ture writ­ten in Amazigh lan­guage,[18] Taskla Tamazight (Amazigh lit­er­a­ture) has been one of the areas in which Tankra Tamazight (Amazigh awak­en­ing) took place in the last thir­ty years. A result of con­cert­ed civ­il soci­ety efforts and indi­vid­ual ini­tia­tives to enhance the writer­ly prac­tices in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly oral cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion, these efforts paid off by cre­at­ing a dis­tinct­ly writ­ten Amazigh visu­al cul­ture. Although this lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion is uneven between the dif­fer­ent parts of Tamazgha, Tankra Tamazight has been embod­ied in a very rich pro­duc­tion in ungal (nov­el) and tullist (short sto­ry) and iqṣidn (poems).[19]

Although there is noth­ing wrong with oral­i­ty as a medi­um for trans­mis­sion and restora­tion of a lit­er­ary her­itage, the strug­gle to write a lan­guage whose stigma­ti­za­tion was based on this very oral­i­ty has turned writ­ten works into loci where Amazigh world­views, myths, super­sti­tions, and cre­ative genius find their aes­thet­ic expres­sion. Writ­ing has not super­seded oral­i­ty, how­ev­er, although it allowed the Amazigh authors, who only pub­lish in Amazigh, be it in Tifi­nagh or Ara­bic or Latin script, to engage in the inten­tion­al min­ing of lan­guage to ensure that the new Amazigh aes­thet­ics that emerges from their work pre­serves both the lan­guage and the con­nec­tion to the land. The Amazigh Repub­lic of Let­ters is not just about cir­cu­la­tion, it is most and fore­most about recre­at­ing the car­tog­ra­phy of the Amazigh land in North Africa and pro­ject­ing the future preser­va­tion of the lan­guage in a rich writ­ten oeuvre.

As an Amazigh schol­ar who inves­ti­gates mem­o­ries and his­to­ries of era­sure, I came to real­ize that an effi­cient way to use my Amazigh lan­guage skills and uphold my Amazighi­ty is to study and teach my own cul­tur­al her­itage. I find inspi­ra­tion in the old­er gen­er­a­tions of Amazigh activists who taught them­selves Tifi­nagh and worked tire­less­ly to estab­lish the con­tours of a pow­er­ful “Amazigh Repub­lic of Ideas” where­by I mean an imag­i­nary space for the emer­gence of the sup­pressed Amazigh sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and agency through the reaf­fir­ma­tion of the con­nec­tion between akal, awāl, and afgān. My cur­rent work is an inves­ti­ga­tion of the for­ma­tion of the “Amazigh Repub­lic of Ideas,” which I work to unrav­el in con­junc­tion with think­ing about the Amazigh Repub­lic of Let­ters through the exam­i­na­tion of Amazigh cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion in sev­er­al lan­guages. It is edi­fy­ing for me to read and write in my moth­er tongue, but it is even more excit­ing to use these skills to trace Amazigh  ety­molo­gies in old books, read Amazigh lit­er­a­ture in Tifi­nagh, and real­ize that the con­struc­tion of indi­gene­ity is a stu­pen­dous task that requires con­stant pro­duc­tion of knowledge.

Study­ing Amazigh cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion from the Unit­ed States, where I live and work, reminds con­stant­ly of my duty as a native speak­er of Amazigh lan­guage to draw on the rich resources we have in this coun­try to unlock some of Amazigh culture’s vis­tas of knowl­edge for the ben­e­fit of my stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ty. It is also my way to reclaim my indi­gene­ity, albeit far from home.




[1] The con­cept of Tamazgha is new and has most like­ly emerged with the estab­lish­ment of the Amazigh World Con­gress in 1995.
[2] I refer to Bene­dict Ander­son ’s famous book Imag­ined Com­mu­ni­ties: Reflec­tions On the Ori­gin and Spread of Nation­al­ism (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2006).
[3] See Azāykū, Ṣidqī ʻAlī. Namād­hij Min Asmā’ Al-Aʻlām Al-Jughrāfīyah Wa-Al-Basharīyah Al-Maghribīyah (Rabat: al-Maʻhad al-Malakī lil-Thaqā­fah al-Amāzīghīyah, Markaz al-Dirāsāt al-Tārīkhīyah wa-al-Bī’īyah, 2004).
[4] Bifur­cat­ed tongues is inspired by Kilito’s  “langue fourchue” in Je par­le toutes les langues main en arabe (Paris: Actes Sud, 2013).
[5] Kil­i­to, Je par­le toutes les langues, 13–16.
[6] This sen­tence con­tin­ues to feed con­tro­ver­sies in Moroc­co. His­to­ry and archae­ol­o­gy are still debat­ed whether Imazighen came from Yemen—thus Arab—as  this les­son taught Moroc­can chil­dren. See ‘Abd al-Salām al-Shāmkh, “Iktishāf tāfūghālt yu‘īdu niqāsh ‘sukkān al-maghrib al-awwalūn’ ilā al-wāji­ha,” Hes­press, accessed on Sep­tem­ber 10, 2021.
[7] Abdelke­bir Khat­i­bi. Amour Bilingue (Mont­pel­li­er: Fata Mor­gana, 1983); Love In Two Lan­guages (Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 1990).
[8] Jacques Der­ri­da. Le Mono­lin­guisme De L’autre, Ou, La Pro­thèse D’o­rig­ine (Paris: Galilée, 1996) ; Mono­lin­gual­ism of the Oth­er, Or, The Pros­the­sis of Ori­gin (Stan­ford :Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1998).
[9] Der­ri­da, Mono­lin­gual­ism of the Oth­er, 17.
[10] Der­ri­da, Mono­lin­gual­ism of the Oth­er, 17.
[11] Inter­est­ed read­ers can check these resources: Mad­dy-Weitz­man, Bruce. The Berber Iden­ti­ty Move­ment and the Chal­lenge to North African States (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2011); Paul Sil­ver­stein, “The pit­falls of Transna­tion­al Con­scious­ness: Amazigh Activism as a Scalar Dilem­ma,” The Jour­nal of North African Stud­ies 18 (5) (2013), pp. 768–778; Brahim El Guabli, “(Re)invention of tra­di­tion, sub­ver­sive mem­o­ry, and Morocco’s re-Amazighiza­tion: From era­sure of Imazighen to the per­for­mance of Tifi­nagh in pub­lic life.” Expres­sions Maghre­bines 19 (1) (2020):143–68.
[12] See “ Texte du Dahir por­tant créa­tion de l’In­sti­tut Roy­al de la Cul­ture Amazighe,” IRCAM, accessed Sep­tem­ber 10, 2021,
[13] See Has­sane Oudadene, Rways and Tir­ruys­sa: A Sym­bol­ic Site of Amazigh Iden­ti­ty and Mem­o­ry,” (forth­com­ing in a Jadaliyya spe­cial dossier on Amazigh cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion coor­di­nat­ed by the author).
[14] To learn more about Usmān, see Tāriq al-Ma‘rūfī. Majmū ‘at usmān al-amāzīghīyya (Rabat: al-Maʻhad al-Malakī lil-Thaqā­fah al-Amāzīghīyah, Markaz al-Dirāsāt al-Tārīkhīyah wa-al-Bī’īyah, 2011) ; see also Brahim El Guabli, “Musi­cal­iz­ing Indi­gene­ity: Tazen­zart as a Locus for Amazigh Indige­nous Con­scious­ness,” in Nabil Boudraa and Karim Ouar­ras, eds., Idir: Views from North Amer­i­ca (forth­com­ing).
[15] Brahim El Guabli, “L’fraja and Music in Amazigh Cin­e­ma,” INALCO con­fer­ence “Le ciné­ma berbère et les autres medias,” March 30–31, 2021.
[16] This is a ref­er­ence to Pas­cale Casanova’s notion in her book The World Repub­lic of Let­ters (Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2004; for more about the lit­er­ary impli­ca­tions of this Amazigh repub­lic of let­ters, see the author’s “Intro­duc­tion” to the Arab Stud­ies Jour­nal’s spe­cial issue enti­tled “Where is the Maghreb? The­o­riz­ing a Lim­i­nal Space” (forth­com­ing in November).
[17] Mohand Akli Had­dadou. Intro­duc­tion à la lit­téra­ture berbère suivi d’une Intro­duc­tion à la lit­téra­ture kabyle (Algiers : Haut Com­mis­sari­at à l’Amazighité, 2009), 7–33.
[18] Had­dadou, Intro­duc­tion à la lit­téra­ture berbère,
[19] The author has curat­ed sev­en arti­cles about Amazigh lit­er­a­ture and cin­e­ma that will be pub­lished in Jadaliyya as apart of a spe­cial dossier on Amazigh cul­ture production.

AmazighArabicBerberDarijaMoroccoorigin storyself-explorationWestern Sahara

Brahim El Guabli is an Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature at Williams College. His forthcoming book is entitled Moroccan Other-Archives: History and Citizenship after State Violence. He’s at work on a second book project entitled Saharan Imaginations: Between Saharanism and Ecocare. His journal articles have appeared in PMLA, Interventions, the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, Arab Studies Journal, META, and the Journal of North African Studies, among others. He is co-editor of the two forthcoming volumes of Lamalif: A Critical Anthology of Societal Debates in Morocco During the “Years of Lead” (1966-1988) (Liverpool University Press) and Refiguring Loss: Jews in Maghrebi and Middle Eastern Cultural Production (Pennsylvania State University Press).


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