Re-presenting Minorities : Wyndham Lewis’ Journey Into Berber Athena

Mohamed Dellal, University of Oujda


As with Martin Bernal’s whitened Egypt in Black Athena, (1) one finds in Wyndham Lewis’ Journey Into Barbary (1931) Europeans' connivance at whitening Agadir and Marrakech in their drive to naturalise their colonising enterprise. It is in this line of thought that the present paper endeavours to conduct a reading of the representation of the Berbers and their culture in Wyndham Lewis’ book. The essence, therefore, is to deconstruct a prior reading of a given reality itself meant to be a deconstructive reading of yet another prior reading of the same reality. Lewis’ reading of Berber ethnicity/culture in the 1930s has, indeed, been conceived, at least by Lewis and his editor, as a demystification of the history of the Berbers. But while his work eulogises the Berbers, it is the political significance of this whitening of the Berber culture that is problematic. It is a Literary Act (2) tantamount to what Matthew Arnold calls "ethnographic politics"; (3) a very common weapon used by governments to control the flow of wealth, to construct and politicise the concept of race in order to maintain power within certain racial boundaries. In the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is being used to put pressure on developing nations and minor governments at the risk of having to put up with political instability. In this sense "ethnographic texts" such as Lewis’ become lethal crusading texts, when used for ethnic, religious and civilisational vilification. My reading of the text by Lewis, therefore, will be conducted with the purpose of debunking his supremacist and Euro-centric ideas. It is also my intention to show that his trip to Morocco and his reading of Morocco and the Berber question, at that particular moment in the history of the country, is not politically impartial. The propositions embedded in the above assumption are many. The first is that the trip might have been sponsored by some guild and/or governmental organisation, given the intent behind it; the second is that the mood of the text shows that it is more of a report for some military purpose than a mere travel text; a fact substantiated by the facility Lewis had with French officers and the red carpets rolled out for him in every corner of the country he went to; the third is that so much mystery surrounds this journey and the future of the text (mainly after the completion of the book). Indeed, several passages point to the mysterious behaviour on the part of Lewis during this trip. Lewis himself confesses to travelling "incognito". (4) It is also surprising to find that Lewis dedicates this book to his wife whom he says "has made the trip" with him when nothing in the text indicates her presence. One even wonders where she could have been when Lewis was gallivanting in brothels in Tlemcen, Marrakech, Agadir and other places as well. If she had made the trip, why then all this mystery?

Provisional answers to Lewis’ peregrinations in Morocco, and more particularly in the Rio de Oro, could come from the fact that he had had prior experience with the French army during World War I. He had been to France, apparently to improve his French. But it was the desire to have first hand experience of the war that had motivated him then. It could be argued that the same might have motivated him to undertake such a journey into Barbary. Yet beyond any speculation as to whether he was invested with a mission or not by some third party—something we cannot verify given the secrecy with which his trip was surrounded—it would be worthwhile to probe the text presenting/representing (5) the Moroccans and the mystification which surrounds such representational practices. One such mystification lies in the pragmatic implicatures of the text. When we look closely at the mood of the book, as the passage below shows, it is given a military-reporting tone.

There is always the "Crusading" factor to be reckoned with, also the dislike for all that is foreign, which is fairly powerful, and the promise of loot. But the dislike of foreigners is easily brought to a head by foreign agitation-as the Germans during the War kindled the anti-French emotions of the Sous and the Noun. During the European War the Germans pointed to their alliance with the Turks to show what a Moslem-loving lot they were, and they succeeded in thoroughly stirring up the Aït ba Amran and the rest. A landing was to be effected upon the coast of the Aït ba Amran below Tiznit. This coup was of the same order as that planned by our friend Spilsbury, Mr. Cunninghame Graham's "Clubman-filibuster".

All I am saying here, is that the northern part of the Spanish Sahara is an ideal spot for an unlimited number of coups de main. It possesses a deserted coast, it is outside the French zone, it is only Spanish in name… (p. 182).

From the text above, it appears that the information presented and the mood (6) used point out to a situation with three major actants, (7) Lewis the sender of the information who is in sharp ideological opposition to the subject/opponent (the native with a fervent "crusading factor nourished by the dislike for all that is foreign" a feeling that the Germans kindle). Most of this is presented as important information likely to help Lewis and his clan (here representing the Self) curb the fomented trouble caused by the Others (the natives and the Germans). The second paragraph highlights this very sensitive logistical information. The "all I am saying here" phrase comes to reinforce the doubts that one may have as to whom Lewis is addressing. In other words, the style used here amounts to couching sensitive information in casual verbiage. If coupled with the mystery accompanying the trip, as pointed out above, one is led to believe that Lewis must have, indeed, been hired by some organisation to gather information likely to help them settle in Morocco, and similarly help strengthen the hold of Western civilisation on these uncouth and heathen wildernesses. This is a theme that comes out very strongly in the whole book as I will demonstrate in due course.

One can easily accuse Lewis of being a megalomaniac in trying to mystify the journey into Barbary. To discourage any sceptics, or perhaps fool those readers who are less versed in Moroccan history and politics, Lewis describes himself as an erudite in North African culture and politics. One understands, therefore, his references to books such as Hakluyt’s Voyages (1552); Cunninghame’s Moghreb el aqsa (1898); Walter Harris’ Tafilalet (1895); Budgett Meakin’s Life in Morocco (1905), The Moorish Empire (1899) and the Moors (1902); Dorothy Mills’ The Road to Timbuktu (1924) and a host of other French texts all about Morocco, its people and its territory. (8)

But his erudition should be taken with a pinch of salt. Having read so much, one would certainly feel an authority in the field. But perhaps we can see this erudition as an intimidating strategy on the part of Lewis to blind us to the possible lack of knowledge he may have on certain subjects. For indeed, there are many mistakes with language. Spelling mistakes like "Tangitanian Mauretania" (p.82) instead of "Tingitane Mauretania" as a reference to Tingis—a name given Tangier—by the Romans. (9) The term "timgremt" (p.93), also occurring several times within the text) is also misspelled. A Berber Kasbah is a "tigremt" . The blood-red "cheqhia" (p.94) also spelled as "chequia" should have been pronounced and spelled as "sheshia". The term "chequia" is a grafting—Joycean-manner—of two terms "sheshia" and "taquia" both referring to different forms of native hats. Giving Lewis the benefit of the doubt, we may want to assume that he might have resorted to this Joycean technique—for comic purposes—by taking the first syllable of the first term and the second of the last term to coin his own, "chequia". But these are common errors of travellers to Morocco and one may excuse these spelling mistakes on the part of an authority on the Berber question as Lewis, but one finds the theological readings, in the following anecdote, very presumptuous.

Every possible misdemeanour is provided for, and in some cases the fines imposed are rather curious. Here, for instance, is one of many such provisions, taken, in this case, from the Code of the Fortress of the Beni Bahman, but the laws governing the supervision of these shops are much-the same throughout the Anti-Atlas:

He who fornicates with a she-ass inside the agadir, in view of the porter, or in view of any other witness (in whose testimony reliance may be placed) will pay a fine of 2 dirkem to the Oumanas, and 3 sa'as of corn to the She-ass.

(It is interesting to note that the above crime is punishable with death according to the Koranic, the Arab, code... (p. 156)

The question is where did Lewis get this information from? It is true that adultery is severely punished by Islamic Law; but this seems like a very stereotypical and denigratory representation of Arab sexuality.

When it comes to historical and geographical information, Lewis had been fed first hand information from officers in the Bureaux des Affaires Indigènes; or from Documents et Renseignements de la direction générales des Affaires Indigènes. But one wonders where Lewis might have found such anthropological information which led him to confuse "Ait Atta … members of the great tribe, the Sanhaja, …" with "the energetic Berberised Haratin…" (p. 205). Upon reading such blunders, one understands why historians like Ross E. Dunn who worked on the field (Resistance in the Desert, 1977) warns against sweeping generalisations of this sort. Ross’s definition of the "Haratin"—which any Moroccan would, I believe agree with—does not in anyway connect the Haratin ethnic group with Ait Atta (although there could be a few inter-marriages between some Haratin and some members of the Ait Atta tribe). On the contrary a Haratin lies in sharp contrast, at least in terms of colour, with the Berber and Arab tribes of the Ziz, Guir and Draa valleys. (10) Ross even points out to the difficulty of typologizing when it comes to ethnicity and social status. (11) Lewis’ light-hearted description of such a much proud tribe as the Ait Atta testifies to his superficial knowledge of the Moroccan ethnic sensibilities, and certainly of his lack of knowledge of Berber ethnicity except where it is useful to further some of his (or his creditors’) political and military agenda.

Another shortcoming in Lewis’s text lies in the many paradoxes that permeate the text. These are mostly paradoxes of attitudes that damage the argumentation throughout. The first most flagrant one can be termed "the double standard approach". It refers to the fact that Lewis refutes an idea when it does not suit him, but he adopts it when it does. For example, he refutes "historical preparation" (12) before embarking on any investigation as this, he says, leads to making projections on the thing to be studied, although he seems to have flouted this maxim before embarking on this journey; and more surprising, only a few pages before. (13) In short, the rule adopted in one case is found constraining in another, and therefore rejected.

It is worthwhile to focus on other shortcomings and/or paradoxical attitudes he adopts towards the Berber ethnic group, he supposedly eulogises in the part entitled "Kashabs and Souks". However, political motivations as well as the ideological ones coupled with the circumstances leading to this journey have to be borne in mind. To begin with, the political and ideological motivations of this journey are very clear in the assertion by Lewis that

The French Protectorate in Morocco, then, is a great European enterprise—the last of that order, I should think, that we shall see. An administrative genius, Lyautey, did it with his eyes shut, I should say—because it was his nature to behave in that manner, and the nature of those who worked with him: he was allowed to do it because you must have soldiers to make wars with (according to politicians) and when you have soldiers they behave automatically in that way when you're not looking, unless violently stopped—they, it is their second nature, indulge in martial alarms and excursions, bully niggers, encircle accommodating sultans, and before you can say Jack Robinson (if they happen to be great guys like Lyautey) come running back with an "empire" between their teeth! And then, of course, the old imperialist framework—the old sentiment of the épopée was still there: such institutions die hard. (p. 76)

This romanticising of the French colonial expansion in North Africa under orthodox soldiers like Lyautey—Lewis’ idol—stems from a Western fantasised collective civilising mission. The military genius shown by the likes of Lyautey—although it is being deplored here—is also fantasised to show the greatness of the Old Europe made impotent by democratic ideas being preached by the Left. One is led to believe that it is this fear of the loss of power and authority by the French—and the West by proxy—that may have motivated Lewis to undertake the trip. The Act of Algesiras (January to April 1906) shows that the French presence was very precarious. It also shows that France was constantly threatened—as was the authority of the Sultan—by Berber uprisings. It was the ‘Berbers’ Zaouiyas sympathetic to Mulay Hafid who put him in 1907 on the throne in Marrakech to replace his brother who had so much debt which he contracted from the Europeans. Ahmed Al Hiba Ma-al-Aynain—also of Berber decent—raised an army in 1912 and threw out the French from Marrakech for two months until he was defeated and driven South to the Sous area. (14) At any rate, Lewis' crusade is meant to stress the fact that France’s fragile existence in Morocco is due essentially to several factors. First, there is the "jihad culture" cultivated by the southern Zaouyas, dominated by Berbers. These have constantly threatened the French presence in North Africa, and by proxy that of the Western /Christian civilisation. (15) Second, there is the competition between the European powers. (16) France was the protector, but it had no authority over the British who were conducting contraband activities arming tribes in the Sous area. The "capitulation" (17) laws which allowed Europeans to have a free-hand in French controlled territories were also weakening the French hold on Morocco, the Barbary land that the Christian/ European civilised world had to seize to ward off any menace likely to repeat the Tarik Ibn Zayad adventure into Christendom. Third, there is the German conspiracy with the local population, mainly in the Sous area, to have a share in the loot. (18) Last but not least, there are the democratic (‘progressive Europe') ideologies which were taking Europe by the storm, to the extent that they became a threat as the description of the weak Spanish garrison which was humiliated by "the dirty blue Men" of the Rio de Oro shows . (19) Lewis thinks that the Spanish accept this disgrace and humiliation to warn "active White Empires" of what is laying ahead of them if they do not abandon their progressive politics.

Thus, I have tried to lay bare the political and ideological backgrounds leading to the journey. I have also tried to show the shortcomings of certain endeavours on the part of Lewis. But the bulk of this paper aims to demonstrate how reification of a minority culture can be utilised for certain ideological, political and crusading agendas. I will now turn to an analysis of the reification of the Berber culture proper .

The terms ‘minority’ and ‘reification’ need some clarification before embarking on my analysis. The first qualifies the Berber ethnic group which throughout history has been—and is still—the largest ethnic group in Morocco. Consequently, the assumption behind the use of the term "minority" here is meant to refer to this ethnic group not in terms of its size, but as a group whose culture has been/is discriminated against by the ruling ethnic group. As for the term "reifying"; it can have several readings. In the Marxist tradition, it has always been associated with turning a thing, a person into an object. It has been explained, then, as an attempt to dehumanise the labour force, and therefore exploit it. Even where "reification" is meant to turn an entity into an object, from a pragmatic standpoint, however, it does not diminish the social significance of the object. In fact, turning something into an object does bring it under scrutiny and foregrounds it. Deictically speaking, this amounts to endowing it with some importance. It also means giving it some semantic function, just as the concept of "Defamiliarisation" (20) acts in literary readings. Lewis’s reading of Berber culture and ethnicity does no less than this. It brings the Berbers and their culture into a perspective that sets them up in dire opposition with their Arab counterparts. This, using Young’s metaphor (1995), amounts to founding a Berber Athena and bringing a nineteenth-century theme of race into perspective again; a theme which has been for sometime the Trojan horse of the Confederates (US Southern slavers) and the academics defending white supremacist views. (21) It is essential for Lewis then to start by distancing the Berbers from the Arabs ethnically, and aligning them with some European standard. To achieve this, it is necessary to find some blood relationship between the Berbers and their supposed ancestors, the Celts. Budgett Meakin has been very instrumental in this respect. In The Moors, Meakin endeavours to find some kinship between the Berbers, the Iberians and the "little black Celts" (pp.191-192). (22) Further anthropological connections are found in Plato’s mythical report relating the Berber territory south of Cap Juby (the Rio de Oro) to the Americas much to the displeasure of Stéphane Gsell (1928). The "Atlantis theory" is brought forth to substantiate the view that the Sous area might have been related to Central America (Mexico), henceforth, the similarities found by geologists and anthropologists such as cave burying and the Gaunche language which is supposedly related to Tifinar. The vegetation in the Mexican territory also lends much support to this view. Generally, this lends credence to the view that there might have been a bridge of some sort relating the Berbers south of the Sous area to ethnic groups other than the Middle Eastern ones.

Once more, Lewis’ construction of race has been undertaken through cultural construction because of his inability to formulate a substantial theory based exclusively on race. The assumption is that civilisation is exclusively white, European, or Caucasian. It is the standard through which ethnicity and race, even in the Rio de Oro and the Sous area, should be measured. So the closer the Blue men are to it, the closer they are to being white; or the farther they are from it, the more Arab they are, and therefore the most degenerate and savage. This is why Lewis endeavours hard to read white cultural features in the Berbers as the following shows: "all" whoever that determiner refers to "are agreed upon one point, namely that the Berber, in contradistinction to the Arab, is positively fond of hard work and hard manual work" (p.199).

It is also in this line of thought that reading excerpts of Berber poetry in Henri Bassek’s Essai sur la littérature des Berbères (1920) has set the link between Chleuh (23) poetry and the Celts. Architecture is also pressed into service. Indeed, and although one has to agree with Lewis that the Kasbahs of the High Atlas are fascinating monuments with their designs and the unique hieroglyphs, one must be critical of the attempt to reduce the beauty of the Koutoubia in Marrakech and Alhambra Palace in Granada, a drive in keeping with ethnographic policies of France at the time. This is what Lewis has to say about this:

"Le décor berbère a bien pour qualité propre la grandeur", say Terrasse and Hainaut; and certainly nothing could be more unlike the structureless confections of the Hispano-Mauresque than the type of these Kasbahs of the dictators of the High Atlas. It would, I suppose today, be generally conceded that Hispano-Mauresque—that is to say the architectural tradition responsible for the Alhambra (though not for the fountain of lions, which was a rebel gesture on the part of one of the last Moorish kings of Granada, restless under the barren rigours of the Koranic compulsions, which stamped out organic form, and put a Verbot upon life altogether, and for which, of course, the body of a lion in stone would be a trespass)—most people would even be eager to concede that this Hispano-Arabian pastry was the reverse of a great art-form.. We have at present (how thankful we should be for this small mercy) the monumental appetite! And Hispano-Mauresque is the opposite of monumental: it is a feeble and unenterprising architecture; the dull shell is provided, and then the interior-decorator and the birthday-cake carver are let loose on it, and these minor personages are relied upon to drench it in ornament, and make it look as if it were a great swell after all, and a match for the most impressive monuments of any civilization whatever. (p.218)

One needs to question whether Lewis' appreciation of the hieroglyphic designs in the walls of the Kasbahs needs to depend on a denigration of the splendour of the Alhambra. (24)

One could also support the view that the implicatures of the drive to reify Berber culture by denigrating its Arab counterpart is undertaken to further a colonialist political agenda, that Wyndham Lewis has brought with him from Britain, grieving at the loss of control over Morocco, the part of the Mediterranean it would have liked to control. This, in fact, is reinforced by the quotations below.

All England cares about is the mouth of the Mediterranean, and if this were secured to her ...she could have no cause to object to the French extension. ...It were better far to come to an agreement with France, and acknowledge what will prove itself one day-that France is the normal heir to Morocco whenever the present Empire breaks up. (p. 117)

Or again by the following:

Under these circumstances it may seem otiose to say that the French Protectorate, as far as I can see, is the best of all possible protectorates for Morocco. It is nevertheless advisable to proclaim it, since there are great numbers of people in Morocco—Italians, Spanish, and a few English—who spend their time abusing the work of French penetration and pacification, and squandering much passionate and stupid eloquence in vilifying France. (p.119)

But despite all these European skirmishes over this territory, what seems to have priority for Lewis is that France was the most likely to control Morocco, and therefore, it should be allowed or rather must be helped to do so to ensure "Christian civilised domination" over a heathen territory that had threatened them in the past and could do so if arms smuggled by German, Portuguese and mostly British were not stopped.

Although none of these assumptions can be simply refuted, what surprises the reader is the absolute "truthfulness" that they claim to have. For, indeed, how could Lewis or anybody be sure that the Arabs are less fond of hard work than the Berbers, or the opposite. Are we speaking about nomadic ‘transhumances’, or about agriculture? These are fields that require different skills and attitudes. Are we speaking about urban citizens or rural ones, for these are also two ways of life that require different techniques and attitudes? An evaluation like this is certainly relative because it has to take into consideration the social, geographic and economic context of the subjects under study. Otherwise, one is bound to produce non-verifiable assertions. For instance, the Berbers of the Rio de Oro that Lewis seems to be praising here have been described earlier in the part entitled "Filibusters in Barbary" as lazy, thieves and cut-throats. Chapter XVI gives a detailed account of the brigandage that the ‘Blue Men’ indulge in. Earlier, in a description of Yussuf Ibn Tashefin, this is what Lewis has to say about the same Berbers "Youssef ben Tachefin, who founded Marrakech, … led his hordes of veiled warriors to the Conquest of Granada and Cordoba." (p.80) But here again the context is one in which Moorish culture—whatever that meant for Lewis—has to be compared to European culture. A clear contradiction can be found in the following paragraph:

Give the Berber a waste—a sandy one or one of salt water, it is immaterial—and he will be entirely chez lui. In their nature, like the early Celts and Germans, these people despise trade and agriculture. They cannot see why, when you can plunder, you should do what they always got Negroes to do. Indeed, the Touaregs, the purest Berbers of the Desert, who still exist in the old manner of the Veiled Men who were the Almoravides, have a saying that I think I have already quoted: "With the plough enters in dishonour". (p.201)

It appears that the image one derives from the above is that the Berber is a man who prefers the easiest way of getting something done: that is by looting or by having a slave do his work for him. In short, it is the image of a Feudal Lord, and that of a supremacist like Lewis . (25) But this is certainly not the image of a man who is fond of work, as he wants us to believe.

This shows that the construction of race through culture has its own deficiencies as it cannot escape essentialism. There is hardly any assumption that does not run into contradiction because exclusive concepts about race as the ones drawn on up by Lewis are sweeping generalisations. This is so, necessarily because race and culture are resistant to typologizing. Further contradiction could be found in Lewis’s attempt to describe the Blue man as the "purest Berber". Such a comparison means that there are Berbers who are less highly valued by Lewis and his supremacist ethnographic typology. It is no wonder that such tribes as the Zayane, the Ait Haddidou or even the Ait Atta (mistaken for the Haratin) or the Riffans (and so many other Berber tribes that I could mention here) are brushed aside. The political necessity is to be able to penetrate the Rio de Oro to secure European dominion over most of North Africa. In other words, associating with the Touaregs may help to lift the constant threat of the "Jihad" coming from "these fanatics". For what seems to puzzle Lewis is this unbreakable and yet unexplainable connection between Islam and these Berbers. (26)

The striking element in this attempt is the use of double standards once more, thus flouting prior rules set up for the argumentation. The following examples (27) show an attempt to use images of a black soldier to debunk a prejudicial view of the Berber. First Lewis introduces the idea of the Goum. Berbers he says (here the Blue Men) can become very good soldiers in a rather shorter time than black men (from Niger). But the French do not share this view. That is why he brings in assertions from Lady Dorothy Mills to debunk that view. Mills argues against a prejudice used in relation to the Sudanese who were seen by the English white men as not dependable. According to her these are just allegations that have no foundation. Her purpose is to argue against prejudice, and that is also the purpose of Lewis. But he argues against a prejudice only to defend another prejudice. His aim is to defend the quality of the Berber as compared to the Black soldiers. So prejudice is used when it serves the purpose, but refuted when it does not. Lewis, one has to admit, misses Mills' point who argues against the idea of typologizing altogether as a colonial attitude to stigmatize the colonised, though one should not be surprised given that inconsistency is typical of Lewis. A few pages later, he comes to the same conclusion as shown in the following:

The differences between a French officer (say from Alsace or Normandy) and an average Ida ou Baqil, or an Ikounka, tribesman, are too numerous and important for the alliance to be in any sense personal. For the other each is a representative of a race, not a person. The inferior of these two abstractions can be "depended upon" so long as the race of the superior abstraction has its hands firmly upon the controls, and so long as no personal difficulty occurs to ruffle the surface of the abstract relationship. (p.143)

It is important to mention by way of conclusion that the text presented as a Lewis production should be put in its context. Such an attempt would, for phenomenological considerations, put our assessment of Journey Into Barbary (as a Lewis text) and the intentions behind it on hold. The story of the book, then, will show that the pragmatic implicatures of the text do not relate closely to the French-Berber policy (known as the Berber Dahir)—or at least not directly—much more than they do with other geopolitical contexts. Lewis, it is true attempted to publish the current book in two parts known as Filibusters in Barbary and Kasbahs and Souks, but failed to do so. The compilation and publication of these two books in one was completed in 1983, that is some 52 years after the actual trip had taken place, and 23 years after the death of Lewis in 1957. Questions can be raised with relation to this particular issue. Why was there so much delay? Is it a deliberate delay, or simply pure neglect? Is it not legitimate to think that Lewis may have hesitated to publish the book because it denigrated the British, or that it is espousing a policy—The Berber Dahir— conducted by the French authorities (Lyautey primarily) and which part of the French and the British would not have liked to give their backing to? Is it not possible to speculate and say that in 1930 the book on Hitler—which caused more controversy and damage to the reputation of Lewis—may have also led to the neglect of this book until the political climate changed. As a result of the impact of the book he wrote on Hitler (1931), Lewis had to justify his book and apologise (See his The Jews, Are they Human? 1939; and the Hitler Cult, 1939).

Given the fact that the book was not published in the 1930s, one wonders whether connecting them with the French/Berber policy in Morocco would have any importance at all at the present time. But their publication in 1983 also comes as a renewed interest, in the geopolitics of the area, which was rekindled by the fact that, on the one hand, the situation in the Middle East and the Arab world moved centre stage again. The Israelo/Palestinian problem brought the Arab question to the fore. The French-Berber policy—initiated by Lyautey—was extended to become a West Arab policy sponsored by the whole of the Western world which saw imminent threats from the Arabs. (28) On the other hand, fighting over the Western Sahara as predicted by Lewis, (29) has continued for almost a decade.



1. Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation, Volume I. The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (London: Free Association Books, 1987).

2. Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Atteridge (New York and London: 1992).

3. Robert Young, Colonial Desire, Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (London and New York: Routledge, 1995) 55.

4. "I was of course travelling in the strictest incognito", 91.

5. The notion of presenting here is equated with that of re-presenting in the sense that any reading of a reality is tantamount to either a presentation of something already presented, or simply a representation of something already represented.

6. Genette, Gerald, Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane Lewin, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1980.

7. Greimas A.Julian, La Semantique Structurale, Paris, Larousse, 1966.

8. Reference is made here to texts like :

  • Vicomte, Charles de Foucauld, Reconnaissance au Maroc (paris, 1898);

  • Henri, Bassett, Essai sur la Littérature des Berbères (Algers, 1920);

  • E.F.Gautier, Le Sahara (1928), Les Siècles Obscures du Maghreb (1927);

  • L.C.L Justinard, Tribus Berbères : Les Ait Ba Amran (Paris 1930).

9. Cf. Ronald Seth, Milestones in African History (Philadelphia, New York and London: Chilton Book Company, 1969).

10. It is true that there are Berberised Haratin as there are Arabised ones. But to confuse Ait Atta for the Haratin is a prejudice no Attaoui would have accepted.

11. "A division of the qsar-dwelling population into these six categories is a useful guideline, but it does not mean to imply a simple typology of vertical stratification with shurfa and murabtin at the top and Jews at the bottom. To work out such a typology would present difficulties. A number of factors had to be considered in determining a man's place in the social framework: religion (Muslim or Jew), status as freeman or slave, ancestry and depth of known genealogy, occupation, and skin color. Sometimes the social categories and the roles connected with them overlapped. A man whose ancestors were shurfa might have the social and economic status comparable to that of a common cultivator. A hartani might have the same social position as a slave. Moreover, the precise meaning of names to indicate categories might change from one locality to another, or the same name might be used to refer to groups which did not , have similar social positions. For example, in the valley of the Wad Dra in - south central Morocco the term haratin had a much more restricted meaning than in Taftlalt. In the Dra the great majority of the sedentary population had strongly Negroid features, but their social position relative to other groups was similar to that of the ahrar of Taftlalt. Furthermore, the meaning of all these terms could be highly subjective and could vary depending on which category was using them." (Dunn Ross, Resistance in the Desert, 1977, 45)

12. Notice the phenomenological theory advanced by Lewis in the following:

"There is an opposite difficulty of course: namely that when people know what a thing signifies historically (just as they might be informed of the uses of a complicated machine) often they see too much, and much that is not there at all.. Thus nothing will persuade me that the Koutoubia (the celebrated mosque-tower at Marrakech) is anything but a pleasantly arranged square tower. The lyrical flights of fancy regarding it are aberrations merely of the historically-minded-a triumph of history over the eyes in the head." (p.53)

13. The following shows how much reading Lewis said he had done before he undertook his trip to North Africa.

"My first stop was in Paris: that was a short stop, as all stops in Paris ... should be. There I provided myself with a quantity of books and maps. I always desire the fullest information regarding any habitation or work of man, strange to me, which I propose to approach and interrogate. I was about to visit the country of Jugurtha and of Masinissa, so I began reading about these persons--before I set foot in Maghreb I knew more about the inhabitants of, say, the hinterland of Tetouan than they know themselves--though I never have been to Tetouan, and only came to read about it because the Gomara are a sort of "Soussi," strangely "Berberophonic" in the midst of Arabic-speaking tribes. But as a result of this preliminary preparation, I knew long before I put my legs across its back or had ever clapped eyes on it, that the ass of which the Berbers make such an extensive use is of Egyptian origin, and that the Berbers got to know of these valuable little animals through the Libyans, the people occupying the steppes west of the valley of the Nile. The wild ass, its ancestor, is still to be found in the North-East of Africa; that I knew too. Then, when I reached it, I was able to recognize in Maghreb which manner of goat alone in fact belongs to it-the skinny one namely, with very long black hair, like tufts from its master's head, apparently not interesting to the dairyman; whereas I knew that the Maltese, Spanish, and Angora goats (which I recognized at once) were new-comers. This will suffice to give you an idea of the extent of my reading before I landed at Oran." (p. 26)

He also shows the same enthusiasm for the fact was well prepared in the following:

"So the well-informed traveller (and I was a very well-informed one, indeed, as I have said) approaches Tlemcen with respect". (p.51)

14. Ross E. Dunn, Resistance in the Desert, Moroccan Response to French Imperialism, 1881-1912, University of Wisconsin Press, 1977.

15. "should Morocco (as a consequence of some great dispute between the nations of Europe, or for any other cause) begin to slip of the hands of the European, one of the two places where the clutch of the Nazarene will first-loosen is the Blue Belt, in the extreme south. The other is the Riff, in the extreme north. These, for the French, are the two danger-spots." (p.177).

16. "The cause of all this is not however the feebleness of European arms. It is a result merely of the competitive susceptibility of European nationalism. Rio de Oro could be wiped up in six months or less by the French, without any trouble whatever. But Rio de Oro is "Spanish." If the French invaded Mauretania, the nomads they were driving before them would all pass over the imaginary frontier line of this desert-colony of Spain’s. "International complications" would immediately supervene. It is, in an even more aggravated form, the same sort of difficulty with which France is confronted at Agadir". (p 164)

17. This is what Mohammed Kenbib in Les Protégés : contribution à l’histoire contemporaine du Maroc (1996) has to say about the « capitulations » La France se félicitait donc, en 1937, de l’élimination des séquelles d’une institution, les capitulations et les protections consulaires qui en étaient l'extension, qui avait été au creur de la mise en dépendance du Maroc. Les Français avaient eu, plus que tous autres, une responsabilité particulière dans l'aggravation de ce véritable cancer, les protections (Himayat) et les associations agricoles (MokhaLata), qui, au cours du XIXe siècle, rongea lentement mais irrémédiablement tous les vieux mécanismes sur lesquels se fondait l'édifice économique, social et politique marocain.

18. `But the dislike of foreigners is easily brought to a head by foreign agitation - as the Germans during the War kindled the anti-French emotions of the Sous and the Noun. During the European War the Germans pointed to their alliance with the Turks to show what a Moslem-loving lot they were, and they succeeded in thoroughly stirring up the Aït ba Amran and the rest. A landing was to be effected upon the coast of the Aït ba Amran below Tiznit. This coup was of the same order as that planned by our friend Spilsbury, Mr. Cunninghame Graham's "Clubman-filibuster."' (p. 182)

19. "What a situation, seeing the legendary Spanish pride — and what an odd reductio ad absurdum of the arrogant European idea of a Conquering white Race! The fort at Cap Juby might almost be maintained there by the unsuccessful Spanish in order to revenge themselves upon the rest of ‘progressive’ Europe, by disgracing as it were the still active White Empires. ‘You will alls sooner or later come to this!’ the Spaniard it may be sardonically is saying! Such at least is the picture that all bring back from a visit to this peculiar colony of Spain’s." (p. 164)

20. Raman Seldon, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Theory (Great Britain: The Harvester Press, 1985) 9-10: "Shklovsky called one his most attractive concepts ‘defamiliarisation’ (ostranenie: making strange). He argues that we can never retain the freshness of our perception of objects; the demands of ‘normal’ existence require that they must become to a great extent ‘automatised’ (a later term). That Wordsworthian innocent vision through which Nature retains ‘the glory and the freshness of a dream’ is not the normal state of human consciousness. It is the special task of art to give us back the awareness of things which have become objects of our everyday awareness."

21. Young speaks about the question of race as having always been culturally constructed. Polygenists and supremacists like Nott, Gliddon, Hotze and proponents of the Anrhopological Society founded in London, have always constructed race culturally based on the criterion that Civilisation was initially, and always, White. (see his "Egypt in America", 1995)

22. "There is a strong supposition that the mysterious Iberians in the Peninsula were of Berber stock, and I am inclined to believe, from internal evidence, a theory which at first sight struck me as very far-fetched, that they were closely allied to the "little black Celts," the genuine Celts being a tall, red-haired people. If so, they were ancestors to part of the population of the western parts of Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, to say nothing of Biscay and Finisterre, and the builders of those rude stone monuments which exist as well in Barbary as in Britain. Professor Brenton makes out the Etruscans to have been Berbers, and Professor Keane holds the Berbers to be of Caucasian stock." (Quoted from The Moors, London: 1902) 415.

23. Chleuh poetry is a reference to the poetry written by the Sous people But mention should be made of the fact that it has been isolated from Zayane or Ait Hadiddou’s or other Berber poetry. Whether this is the result of ignorance or deliberate omission is a question needing more attention.

24. This is what Washington Irving (in his The Alhambra, Twayne Publishers, 1983) had to say about the Alhambra.

"In front of this esplanade is the splendid pile commenced by Charles V., and intended, it is said, to eclipse the residence of the Moorish kings. Much of the oriental edifice intended for the winter season was demolished to make way for this massive pile. The grand entrance was blocked up; so that the present entrance to the Moorish palace is through a simple and almost humble portal in a corner. With alI the massive grandeur and architectural merit of the palace of Charles V., we regarded it as an arrogant intruder, and passing by it with a feeling almost of scorn, rang at the Moslem portal." (p.29)

25. His Vorticism that is his valorisation of violence, energy and the machine; his right wing views (after 1917) are all composite ingredients for a supremacist ideology that seems to sweep beneath the polished and eulogizing descriptions of the Berbers and their culture.

26. "I have been insisting so much upon all these facts connected with the struggles of Arab versus Berber, partly because what is most interesting politically about Morocco at present moment derives from this hereditary disposition of the extra-Moroccan; the Saharan "Barbary", to take the lead, and to supply (or threaten to supply the great religious chiefs, for the liberation of Barbary from the successive yokes of the civilized world. Marrakech always is the earliest capital, within the borders of Morocco, for the first concentrations of these fanatical waves." (200)

27. "The Goum is an 'irregular soldiery. The Goums are more highly trained than the Mokhaznis, though the French military are of opinion that a really good Mokhazni takes a great deal of beating: and in, fact, of course, all Berbers not only are so naturally warlike but are so often engaged in war from boyhood on that a few months of discipline turns them into perfect soldiers (whereas it takes four years of very hard work to make of the huge black lout from the Niger for instance a dependable fantassin).

Dependable, however, is not the word it seems. For it is said that no Berber is ever dependable. After twenty years of service, he is still not dependable from the European standpoint. "Il faut faire attention," : say the French-after however long a time! For they are unassimilable really. They are the perfect soldier certainly: but not quite in the European sense-never the perfect armed servant, or the automaton. So "Il faut toujours faire attention!"

Lady Dorothy Mills, in her book about Timbuctoo, says the French in the Soudan say the same thing regarding the Negro. "I have never personally come across dishonesty among the Negroes," she says. "I have also found a good deal of loyalty. But then my experience has been comparatively superficial and very brief. Most white Africans will tell you that the Negro has no abiding sense of loyalty or honesty; that after many years of seemingly both qualities he will let you down or rob you. And I suppose the white man who asserts this must have some sad and sound experience or reason for his assertion. Whether these regrettable lapses are the result of cold-blooded and deliberate depravity, or a sudden irresistible atavistic reversion to primitive instincts, I, of course, cannot say, but am inclined to believe it is the latter ."

This is of course the race problem. A man can only be "loyal" to another man if he himself is very much of a person: this is rare, and still rarer must be the case where, given the necessary detached equipment, any case at all for personal loyalty exists. (Is not the idea "underlying the term ‘loyalty,' used above, that of the White Over-Lord? A Black Man ought— that is the idea to sacrifice himself to a White. In practice of course he will do just as long as he must, and for as long as it is convenient to do so.) (142-3)

28. Some of the events that are referred to here can be given as follows:

  • The Rise of the Fundamentalists with the Khomeini Revolution (1979) and the overthrow of the Shah dynasty.

  • The Success of the Mujahideen Afghan backed by the West in their fight against the Soviet Union. (1980s).

  • Tension in the Middle East heightens with the assassination of Anouar Sadat by Muslim brotherhoods for having signed the Camp David Accord with Israel. (1979)

  • The Israeli aggression on Iraqi-French backed missile facilities (1981).

  • The Civil War in Lebanon.

  • The Sharon massacre of Sabra and Shatila (1982)

  • The Lockerby Tragedy

  • The Bombing of Tunis by Israeli jets in pursuit of the so-called Palestinian terrorists.

  • … Etc.

Most of these events are closely connected with the Middle-East Arab and Muslim world. The Western intellectuals are eager to know more about the actors in these events and mostly about their motivations. Campaigns of denigration are launched by the West. Cartoons and Films portraying Arabs as villains have become common ground culture in the West. These campaigns are geared at dismantling the Muslim Arab block. They use every means available among which stirring trouble by igniting ethnic conflicts within Arab countries. One of the factors facilitating this drive is the lack of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The Kurdish problem in the Gulf (Iraq and Turkey), and the Berber question in the Maghreb have become tools the West could use to press these governments into making concessions. Ideological propaganda is used for the same purpose.

29. "The Rio de Oro, as an aeroplane route, acquired a value that it had not possessed as a mere desert, one evidently irreclaimable by man. The Spaniards, just on the point of parting with the Rio de Oro for a song, jacked up their price, and stood out for a sum that seemed to the French negotiators exorbitant. They broke off the negotiations. There the matter has remained ever since — Yet for the perfecting of this extraordinary French colonial empire the Rio de Oro is of critical importance. And the non-possession of it by France may one day—who can say?—be in the nature of a military disaster." (164-5)



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