From Household to School Room: Women, Networks, and Education in North Africa, c. 1880-present

Cette intervenante n’a malheureusement pas pu venir au colloque.

One of the paradoxes of decolonization and end of empire was an increase in the number of students from colonies or former colonies to Metropoles in search of an education. Of course the movement of students from the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean to Europe represented an older phenomenon dating back to the state-driven modernization projects of the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire. However, the participants in these earlier transnational state-sponsored educational programs were all male and generally from elite families in Egypt or Istanbul. During the last years of French Algeria, a select few Arab or Berber Algerian students studied in Paris as did more restricted number of Tunisians and Moroccans. At the heart of the empire, they engaged in anti-colonial activities in solidarity with the much more numerous Maghribi industrial laborers. However, the presence of female students from the Maghrib in French universities in this period has scarcely been acknowledged, although their stories, replete with contradictions, illuminate significant gendered and other historical processes that have remained semi-concealed until now. What political, social, and cultural transformations on both sides of the Mediterranean explain this shift? My paper employs a biographical approach to the problem of gendered educational migration during the tumultuous moments of rupture as France’s North African empire crumbled. I employ the life stories of women, such as the Tunisian nationalist, Dorra Bouzid (born 1933) whose mother insisted that she study in France in “order to become an independent woman.” In 1951, Bouzid enrolled in the School of Pharmacy in Paris, which then only had a handful of North African women students. There she became involved in oppositional politics combining syndicalism and demands for independence. Bouzid helped to organize a student newspaper in Paris and create an association for North African students. Thus paradoxically, the idea of the “Greater Maghrib,” made up of independent national states but united in purpose, came to be first enunciated by students, male and female, in Paris. I conclude by considering why and how the male-dominated nationalist narrative has erased much of this history.

Julia Clancy-Smith (PhD, UCLA, 1988) is Professor of History at the University of Arizona. Her work has focused on colonialism/comparative empires, migration, women/gender, and education in North Africa and the Middle East. She published Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800-1904) (1994) ; Mediterraneans:  North Africa, Europe, and the Ottoman Empire in an Age of  Migrations, 1800-1900 (University of California Press, 2010) ; Exemplary Women and Sacred Journeys: Women and Gender in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (AHA Series in Women, Gender, and Global History, 2006). In addition to numerous articles, chapters, and reviews, Clancy-Smith edited North Africa, Islam, and the Mediterranean World (2001). She is currently editing A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and has co-edited the following volumes: Domesticating the Empire: Gender, Race, & Family Life in the Dutch and French Empires (1998); Writing French Colonial Histories, special issue French Historical Studies (2004); and The Walls of Algiers: Image and Text in the Making of the City (Los Angeles/Seattle: Getty Research Institute & University of Washington Press, 2009). She is co-authoring The Modern Middle East & North Africa: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press, 2011). She is currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study working on book that traces education and schooling in North Africa from the pre-colonial era to independence within the larger framework of world/comparative history and women/gender theory.

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