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Arabs of the Jewish Faith

The Civilizing Mission in Colonial Algeria

Joshua Schreier

Publication Year: 2010

Exploring how Algerian Jews responded to and appropriated France’s newly conceived “civilizing mission” in the mid-nineteenth century, Arabs of the Jewish Faith shows that the ideology, while rooted in French Revolutionary ideals of regeneration, enlightenment, and emancipation, actually developed as a strategic response to the challenges of controlling the unruly and highly diverse populations of Algeria’s coastal cities.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Jewish Cultures of the World


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p. vii

Maps, Figures, and Tables

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book was a group effort, and I have many people to thank. Zachary Lockman provided advice, numerous careful readings, and unparalleled menschlichkeit. I am also a better thinker for having studied with Timothy Mitchell, Michael Gilsenan, Ariel Salzmann, Samira Haj, and Lila Abu-Lughod. Another brave cadre of scholars slogged through various incarnations...

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pp. 1-22

Arabs of the Jewish Faith explores how Algerian Jews responded to and appropriated the colonial campaign to assimilate them to France during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. It argues that France’s policy of assimilation developed as a strategic response to the challenges of early colonial domination, including governing the demographically and economically important ...

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1. Jews, Commerce, and Community in Early Colonial Algeria

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pp. 23-55

In March 1832, General Pierre Boyer sent a report to the governor general of Algeria describing the commercial life of Oran. The French had occupied this formerly Spanish city the year before, and the officer, nicknamed Pedro the Cruel for his public use of corporal punishment, including group beheadings, was the local French commander.1 As Boyer put it, Oran’s “commerce...

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2. Revolution, Republicanism, and Religion: Responses to Civilizing in Oran, 1848

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pp. 56-85

Amran Sénanès was disappointed. During a meeting at the beginning of September 1847, three months after the consistory’s founding, the representative shared his belief that it was “regrettable” that the powers of the consistory were so “restrained.” The consistory, with its current competencies, he thought, was perfectly geared to France, “where the Jewish population is ...

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3. Synagogues, Surveillance, and Civilization

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pp. 86-113

In March 1848, Emmanuel Nahon of Oran’s consistory requested financing from the director of civil affairs to support the construction of a “large and unique” synagogue that could unite the entirety of Oran’s Jews. Nahon framed his request as an urgent response to the social unrest that had recently gripped Oran. The owners of the city’s private synagogues, he ...

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4. Teaching Civilization: French Schools and Algerian Midrashim, 1852–1870

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pp. 114-142

It was the beginning of January 1859 and Mr. Fredja ben Sadoun was furious. The Tlemcen Jew had been sending his ten-year-old son to the Jewish school that Oran’s consistory oversaw in his town. One day, his son came home upset about having been punished in school. The boy told his father he had misbehaved in class, but the school supervisor agreed that he had com-...

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5. From Napoleon’s Sanhedrin to the Crémieux Decree: Sex, Marriage, and the Boundaries of Civilization

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pp. 143-176

In the early 1870s, a wealthy Algerian Jew named Sasport

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pp. 177-182

In late eighteenth-century France, a Portuguese-Jewish merchant from Bordeaux named Samuel Peixotto chose to divorce his wife, Sara Mendes Dacosta. Rather than regulate the affair with a rabbi, he sued for divorce in the Paris royal courts, claiming that he had the right to divorce on the grounds that he was Jewish. Peixotto’s odd move—attempting to get a French ...


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pp. 183-221


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pp. 223-233

About the Author

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p. 234

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550350
E-ISBN-10: 0813550351
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547947
Print-ISBN-10: 0813547946

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 3 photographs, 2 tables, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Jewish Cultures of the World
Series Editor Byline: Matti Bunzl and Jeffrey Shandler See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 769927205
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Arabs of the Jewish Faith

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Algeria -- History -- 19th century.
  • France -- Colonies -- Algeria -- Ethnic relations.
  • Jews -- Cultural assimilation -- Algeria.
  • Algeria -- Colonization -- History -- 19th century.
  • Algeria -- Ethnic relations.
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