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Senior Research Seminar: Professor Paul Silverstein

When May 20, 2016
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, Social Anthropology
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Professor Paul Silverstein (Reed College/ KU Leuven)

Living with/in the Material Past: The Politics of Remains and the Remains of Politics in Berber North Africa

Ighrarar in Ruins, 2009 (credit: Paul Silverstein)The paper explores the material and affective dimensions of contemporary Berber (or Amazigh) activism in North Africa -- a movement of cultural and linguistic revitalization of increasing importance over the past several decades, and unanticipated by the late Ernest Gellner.  I particularly query how the normative nonchalance about the pre-national (and pre-Islamic) material past comes to be arrested and interrupted, how historical ruins come to be recognized, and indeed made, from the aggregate rubble.  Drawing on my work with Amazigh activists in southeast Morocco, the essay fathoms how a particular ethical-aesthetic sensitivity to the material past is cultivated through sustained effort and training, to the ways in which young men and women learn to experience the physical landscape as positively haunted.  Through such training, ruins become less the passive objects for spiritual contemplation than the active translators of affective intensities, producing complex emotions that combine melancholy, outrage, and an incitement to political action.  I will thus argue that current Amazigh conservation efforts are not the end result of a pre-formed ethno-political ideology but the material and embodied means through which such cultural awareness comes into being.


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