University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

2013 med conf program


Conference Program

(APRIL 12-13 2013)

Link to Conference Papers


5.30 p.m.
A Timbuktu book collector between the Mediterranean and Sahel.
Key note speaker: Shamil Jeppie, Institute for Humanities in Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

Available for download as audio (51.9 MB) or video (286.4 MB).

Question and Answer Session

Available for download as audio (24.6 MB) or video (129.6 MB).


8.30-9.00 BREAKFAST

9.00-10.30 AM
PANEL 1: African Manuscripts and their influence on the Mediterranean World

The Case Of Ethiopian Manuscripts
Getatchew Haile, Regents Professor Emeritus of Medieval Studies, and Curator, Ethiopian Study Center at College of Saint Benedict and Saint John

Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa, was markedly influenced by the cultures of the Mediterranean and Middle East nations. Christianity and Islam arrived in Ethiopia almost as soon as they were born.  Ethiopian converts to Christianity received the literature of their new faith in their written languages, Ge’ez, and in time added their own contributions. Islam arrived later, of course, but the Ethiopian city of Harer prides itself as being one of the oldest Muslim cities in East Africa. There in Harer, Islamic education flourished in Arabic, the language in which the religion was revealed. Throughout much of Ethiopian history, manuscript production and destruction have been an ongoing process. It is a challenge for historians and preservationists to study their contents and rescue them from further destruction. This paper will deal with the case of the Christian manuscripts, as the study of the Arabic manuscripts is in its initial stage.

Muslim Women’s Education from the Maghreb to America and Back
Beverly Mack, African American and African Studies, University of Kansas

This study illustrates the relevance of Maghreb scholarship to the transmission of knowledge and information world-wide. Nana Asma’u ‘dan Fodio (1793-1864) — scholar, teacher, poet, and activist – was actively involved in the trials and itinerancy of the Sokoto Jihad (1804-1830), in which she was principally involved. Although she never travelled beyond her region (now known as northwestern Nigeria), her scholarly reputation extended into the Maghreb during her lifetime.  This paper explains how Asma’u’s reputation and work was spread from the Maghreb to the United States and back to West Africa by American Qadiriyya groups that purposively modeled their own communities on that of the nineteenth century Fodio family network. In those American ummas they created women’s study groups on Asma’u’s model, the ‘Yan Taru (“The Associates”), and used her educational materials in twentieth century technological contexts.

 Resolving the Moral Ambiguity of Ending Racial Slavery: Ahmad Bābā al-Timbuktī and his Dialogue with the Maghrib
Timothy Cleaveland, History, University of Georgia

This essay examines the life of Ahmad Bābā al-Timbuktī (1556-1627) and his efforts to persuade Maghribi scholars to accept the Islamic status of self-professed Muslims in West Africa, and therefore to end racial slavery. The essay primarily examines Ahmad Bābā’s Mirʿrāj al-Ṣuʿūd ilā nayl ḥukm mujallab al-sūd, which argued that Northwest Africans were illegally enslaving West Africans on the basis of race. The essay also examines Ahmad Bābā’s efforts to publicize the scholarly achievements of the West Africanʿulama through biographical dictionaries such as the Nayl al-ibtihāj bī taṭrīz al-Dībāj, and the Kifāyat al-muḥtāj li-maʿrifat man laysa fī al-Dībāj. While racial slavery persisted in the Maghrib in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there are reasons to believe that Aḥmad Bābā’s efforts had some effect on the region’s perception of Islamic West Africa.

Comment: Wadad Kadi, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Chicago

10:30-10:45 a.m. Coffee break

SATURDAY 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

PANEL II: Cultural impact of the South on the North

Beur/Maghrebi Musical Interventions in Contemporary France
Ted Swedenburg, Anthropology, University of Arkansas
Over the past two decades rai music and rap music have both come to occupy an important position in the French cultural mainstream, as well as to bring the culture and politics of North African Muslims into the mainstream as well. Beurs (French-born children of North African immigrants) are important figures in France’s rap scene, and they often collaborate with Algerian rai artists to produce rai-rap fusions. This fusion work has recently given rise to a new genre of music called rai’n’b, popular in both France and Algeria. Rai artists working in France have also produced very interesting, and very popular, work in collaboration with artists coming from other migrant populations in France, most notably reggae and zouglou musicians. My paper focuses on three songs produced in this vibrant mix of French culture in which Beurs and North African immigrants have been active, and suggests the range of issues that are being brought to the cultural and political center by these works of art. “Don’t Panik” is an aggressive hip-hop track by a Beur rapper Médine, from Le Havre. In it he rails angrily against discrimination that targets youths of France’s urban ghettos, Africans, workers, and Muslims, embraces all those identities, and at the same time, urges his listeners to be…calm. “Partir Loin” (To go far away) is a rai-rap fusion number that features Rim-K, a rapper with the group 113, and Reda Taliani, a rai singer born in Algiers but now residing in Marseille. The song meditates on migration from both sides of the Mediterranean, bemoaning the fact that tough conditions push so many young Algerians to leave for France, and that once abroad, migrants long for their comrades and family left behind. “Même pas fatigué” (Not even tired) is a rai-zouglou fusion from rai superstar Khaled, born in Oran and until recently a resident of France, and Magic System, one of Ivory Coast’s biggest zouglou bands. It is a relentlessly upbeat party song, celebrating the arrival of a multi-cultural France and its rich blend of peoples and sounds and customs. These works provide a sense of the diverse and complicated sorts of impacts that North Africans and their culture(s) are having on contemporary France.

The Diaspora and the Cemetery:  Emigration and Social Transformation in a Moroccan Oasis Community
Paul Silverstein, Anthropology, Reed College
This essay explores the history and social consequences of emigration from the southeastern oases of Morocco, which since the 1940s have functioned as a veritable demographic pump, sending streams of labor migrants to northern cities and across the Mediterranean. It examines the close symbolic and material relations between physical and social mobility, as migrant remittances transform embedded hierarchies based on property ownership, irrigation rights, and economic independence.  The essay situates these micro-level dynamics in the larger political tensions around “harrag” (overseas undocumented migration), Berber (Amazigh) ethnic activism, tribal land rights, and racialized violence that have recently struck rural Morocco – tensions that have made Amazigh militants, often based in the diaspora, particularly concerned about the cultural fate of their homeland oases communities.  In underlining these political frictions and ambivalences, the essay critically intervenes in a larger literature that has too often and without qualification characterized emigration as cultural uprooting and an inevitable harbinger of social death.

Islam and the French Republic: the Affair of the Muslim Headscarf (1989-2004)
Carine Bourget, French and Italian, The University of Arizona
In the second half of the twentieth century, France became home to a substantial Muslim minority. One of the most salient and long lasting effects of the phenomenon of immigration from North Africa to France will be to have moved Islam up to the rank of second religion of France.

The “affair of the scarf,” sparked in 1989 when Muslim girls were expelled from their public school for refusing to remove their scarves, started a national debate that culminated into the 2004 law that bans certain religious signs in public schools. This talk will give an overview of the development of the affair, and delineate the other issues that played into the debate, as both the French public school and the Muslim scarf became symbols for various crises affecting France. In addition, it examines how Arab writers living in France have presented the affair of the scarf in non-fiction writings.

Comment: Hakim Abderrezak, French and Italian, University of Minnesota

12:15-2:15 p.m. Lunch break

2:15-3:45 p.m.

PANEL III: Connections and networks from West to East

The Elegant Plume: Ostrich Feathers, North African Commercial Networks and European Capitalism
Aomar Boum, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, The University of Arizona
This paper traces larger connections between the Barbary Coast and Europe’s capitals (namely Paris and London) by looking at how Ostrich feathers became an important luxury commodity from North Africa to different European markets. Until the later nineteenth century, the source of ostrich feathers was principally from ostriches that were hunted in the wild, coming mainly from North as well as West Africa. The trading value of the ostrich plumes triggered a colonial French and British competition over this luxury commodity leading to attempts to establish domesticated ostrich farms, principally by the French in North and West Africa and the British in South Africa. This paper uses an economic historical frame to understand colonial French and British relations during the 19th century in Africa through ostrich feather trade. The paper examines the trade feather that developed particularly by the later nineteenth century, and focuses on how ostrich feathers as commodity inform our understanding of the networks and connections between the southern shores of the Mediterranean and its northern urban centers. I argue that by looking at the need of ostrich plumes in European markets and the rise of consumption of fashion goods based on the ostrich plume, nineteenth century European capitalism destroyed not only the wild North African ostriches but also disrupted traditional trans-Saharan trading routes and shifted major Jewish networks to maritime routes in the southern African shores.

Intellectual Traditions, Islamic Reform and Nationalism in the Mzab
Amal Ghazal, History, Dalhousie University
This paper discusses the role of North African Ibadis, Mzabis in particular, in movements of religious reform and nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It unravels the intellectual networks in which Mzabis had been integrated since the late nineteenth century and that spanned from North Africa to East Africa and Oman. Mzabis’ membership in such networks highlighted the reformist trends within Ibadism that led to a rapprochement with the other sects of Islam.This also consequently facilitated the assimilation of Mzab and of Mzabis into the nationalist movements of Algeria in which Mzabis played a leading and formative role. Sources include manuscripts from the Mzab valley, Mzabi newspapers and French archival material.

The Caravan Slave Trade And Economic And Political Transformations In The Regency Of Tunis 1759-1814
Ismael Montana, History, Northern Illinois University
My presentation, which is part of a larger study of how the caravan slave trade from the African interior and its abolition was shaped by economic and political transformations occurring after the second half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries-Tunisia aims to explore effects of these developments on the slave trade. It uses information on Tunisian foreign trade to document the shifting trends of the caravan trade within broader patterns of the Tunisian economy and argues that shifts in the caravan trade reflected trends in the economy of Tunisia. Thus the presentation will highlights the hitherto neglected interdependence between the caravan slave trade and the Tunisian economy and contends that increased market activity following the Tunisian reform and European penetration of the Tunisian economy resulted in the demand for additional slaves, which the slave-based economies in the western and central Sudan were able to supply. Not until 1814, when the Tunisian economy was slowed down by Hammuda’s wars with Venice and Algiers, fluctuations in the slave trade continued to mirror trends in the Tunisian economy and other regional changes in the Mediterranean including economic developments in the central Sudan.

Comment: Daniel Schroeter, History, University of Minnesota

3:45-4:00 p.m. Coffee break

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Final Round table to discuss the concepts and themes raised over the course of the workshop

6:30 -9:30 p.m. Closing reception for panelists in Heller Hall, 1210

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