Amazigh: The Berbers of Morocco


    The purpose of this study is to provide an ethnographic overview of the Moroccan Berber tribes, comparing past and present.  We will review Berber history, culture, social structure, geography, economy, law, religion, and politics. Our assumption is that all Berber tribes are experiencing a fundamental process of cultural change, varying in degree according to geographic location.  However, in order to understand accurately present-day cultural norms and practices, we have set as a baseline of comparison descriptions of the traditional way of life before foreign colonial powers and national governments established control.  We rely heavily on published works of Western anthropologists who have studied the Berbers, to include those early anthropologists in the service of French and Spanish colonialism (taking into account their agendas).  In addition, a variety of other documents written by diverse individuals with first-hand knowledge of tribal affairs are utilized.  We also quote the Berbers themselves, who are increasingly vocal in redefining their own history and culture, and demanding recognition as equals with Arabized Moroccans.  A transformation from tribalism to ethnic nationalism clearly is evident among Moroccan Berbers.  Urban Berber intellectuals and university students now reject the very term Berber as a foreign imposition and insist on calling themselves Amazigh (free man) in their own language.  This type of transformation is not unique to Morocco.  The present study provides a relevant example for evaluating tribal efforts in other parts of the world to accommodate, or resist, the powerful forces of modernization and centralization.