Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of London / University College London

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
Constructing Arabs and Berbers on the Peripheries of Empire: Surveying the Medieval Landscape of North-Eastern Morocco, 600-1200 CE

The Arab conquests (c.670 AD) and the subsequent spread of Islam, marked a period of dramatic socio-economic change for North Africa; new state and imperial formations emerged, longstanding networks of trade were severed and replaced with new routes, and new identities emerged. Yet, the impact of Islamic government is largely depicted in macro-scale political histories of the rise and fall of empires and states. These histories portray the Arab conquests as an absolute rupture in Magrebi history, creating new kinds of social and religious life, based around oppositions between Arab and Berbers. My research considers how identities were refashioned amidst this crucible of political change, tracing interactions between town-based Arab/ Berber Muslims and rural Berbers to access shifting attitudes, beliefs and practices. Methodologically, this study combines the most recent contributions to the anthropology of identity-formation in imperial situations with a micro-archaeological analysis of spatial practices on the frontier of the Islamic world to conceptualise the impact of imperial and state formations on different communities, and their lived space. By carrying out a targeted regional survey around Oujda, Eastern Morocco and conducting strategic excavations in both rural and urban settlements, my project will provide a detailed understanding of how the diverse inhabitants of late antique North Africa were both shaped by and shapers of the larger social, political and economic networks of the Roman and Islamic worlds. Understanding how categories of social identification came into existence during the early Islamic period by means of a complex interaction of politics, ethnicity and religion is as important for antique North Africa as it is today.