The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Berber Academ: Notes on the Invention of Modern Amazigh Nationalism

Similar to the Zionist movement, modern Berber nationalism (or Amazigh nationalism) was not created in the ancestral homeland, but in the Diaspora: in the 1960s and 1970s, Berber intellectuals from Algeria created the Berber Academy in Paris. This Berber Academy invented almost the entire repertoire of modern Amazigh nationalism – not least by designing a new alphabet (Neo-Tifinagh), by claiming a historical homeland (Tamazgha) and by presenting a pan-Amazigh flag. As the first institution to pursue a pan-Amazigh agenda, the activities of the Berber Academy have contributed to create the idea of an imagined community in which the Berber community still identifies today.

Firstly, the paper provides an analysis of the Berber Academy. It presents the state of the art of the research carried out around this institution and aimed, on the one hand, at identifying the historical, political and social factors that led to its establishment and, on the other hand, at understanding the process of nation-building that was imagined within the Berber Academy.

Secondly, the paper analyses the impact of the Berber Academy. In this section, the paper underlines the legacies of the Berber Academy in the contemporary development of Amazigh nationalism, which has both a transnational and local-base dimension. The way transnational Berber institutions (World Amazigh Congress) and recently developed Berber proto-nationalist movements negotiate between pan-Amazigh nationalism and more local goals is explored, and a comparison to similar institutions in early Zionist history is established.