10 Pages

Scission, Discontinuity and Reduplication of Agnatic Descent Groups in Precolonial Berber Societies in Morocco

It would appear desirable to provide this article with a solid historical base outlining the expansion of such groups, which in recent precolonial times at least seem on our evidence to have been more numerous among Berber-speaking communities or societies than among Arabic-speaking ones. Nonetheless, the large and loose Shawiya confederacy of the Casablanca hinterland, which is technically 'Arab', provides, through its original ethnographer Edouard Michaux-Bellaire, one such example of amalgamation which, if correctly reconstructed, might well have taken place somewhat before the big Berber push that began across the Atlas from south-east to north-west in search of greener pastures, starting in the midsixteenth century and ending abruptly in 1912 with the arrival of the French (cf. Hart 1993). The Shawiya case, too, seems fairly well documented : for the existence of groups which were originally Berber among this now linguistically totally Arabised group in that part of the Atlantic coastal region formerly known as the Tamsna seems well attested for the late medieval and early modern periods. These various Shawiya sections or groups were, for the most part, although not all, of Zanata Berber origin and affiliation, unlike the Berber groups in the Atlas; and the name Zanata still persisted as a group name in the Casablanca environs well into the time of the French protectorate, all of which comes to light through the investigations of Michaux-Bellaire (1915).