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  • The Maghrib in the New Century: Identity, Religion, and Politics
  • Amal Ghazal
The Maghrib in the New Century: Identity, Religion, and Politics Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and Daniel Zisenwine, eds. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007278 pp., $59.95 (cloth)

This edited volume is the product of a workshop held by the Maghrib Working Group of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University on 28 May 2003. It contains an introduction penned by one of the doyens of Maghrebi studies, Benjamin Stora, and is organized into four thematic parts, of varying length and substance, that deal with postindependence Maghrebi states and societies. Algeria gets the lion's share in terms of focus and analysis, followed by Morocco, and then Tunisia. Libya and Mauritania, the other two Maghrebi countries, receive no coverage at all. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia form the nexus of this volume not only because they are the "core" countries of the Maghreb but also because they fit the broad framework of concern and analysis of the workshop.

The Maghreb is presented here in the context of the "Greater Middle East," sharing much in common with the eastern part of the Middle East. However, the Maghreb has, according to the workshop organizers, an edge that makes it "more ripe than those in the Arab and Muslim East for the kind of partnership initiatives envisaged by Western policy makers that they hope will be transformative in nature"(ix). This statement explains a key motive behind the volume's discussion of themes and issues that relate to democracy, economic development, security, and political in/stability in the Maghrebi countries and their impact on shaping Europe's relationship with the Greater Middle East.

Part 1, "A Half-Century after Independence: Rethinking Maghribi History, Memory, and Identity," consists of three chapters that analyze the rewriting and reinvention of Moroccan and Algerian history and the role of both collective and fragmented memories in that process. Chapter 2, "The (Re)fashioning of Moroccan National Identity" by Mickael Bensadoun, focuses on the Amazigh and the Islamist discourses against the official one. Chapter 3, "Algerian Identity and Memory" by Robert Mortimer, examines the writings of Assia Djebar and Yasmina Khadra in the context of competing secular and Muslim interpretations of Algerian history and identity. The Berber/Amazigh cultural movement in both Algeria and Morocco and its re/ construction of Berber history and nationalist history are covered in chapter 4, "Berber/Amazigh 'Memory Work.'" The contention over that history reflects three main discourses and their counter-discourses: state and society, secular and Islamist, and Arab and Berber. While the secular-Islamist discourse and counterdiscourse in the Maghreb is dominant in any analysis, it is the Arab-Berber dimension of the debate over Maghrebi history and politics that has been gaining increasing importance and significance. Part 1 of this volume highlights the centrality of this issue and gives a clear indication of the direction of current and future research on the Maghreb.

Part 2, "Regimes and Societies: New Challenges," consists of five chapters, with two focusing on Algeria, two on Morocco, and one on Tunisia. The dynamics and the challenges of political Islam in the Maghreb are of utmost concern in this part, along with an assessment of the stability of the Maghrebi ruling regimes and of the potential for democratic development. The length of this part of the volume reflects the centrality of its themes to the workshop organizers and the volume editors. Certainly, political Islam and the civil war in Algeria have been receiving much attention from scholars and researchers, and the topic has been so exhausted that the two chapters "Reflections on the Aftermath of Civil Strife: Algeria, 2006" by Gideon Gera and "The Fate of Political Islam in Algeria" by Louisa Aït-Hamadouche and Yahia H. Zoubir read more like déjà vu analyses, with the exception of Aït-Hamadouche and Zoubir's interesting observation on the common features between the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The three chapters "From Hasan II to Muhammad VI: Plus Ça Change?" by Daniel Zisenwine, "Justice and Development or Justice and Spirituality? The Challenge...


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