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Beth Sorensen
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Paul Silverstein returns from studying the ethnic struggle, marginality, and Amazigh/Berber consciousness in North Africa

PORTLAND, OR (November 24, 2004)- Paul Silverstein, assistant professor of anthropology at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, recently returned from seven months of fieldwork in southeastern Morocco, where he studied ethnic politics in Berber-speaking southeast Morocco.

Berbers, the indigenous, non-Arabic speaking people of North Africa, call themselves Imazighen, "free humans" in the Berber language, and have inhabited African north of the Sahara desert since ancient Egyptian times. The name "Berber" originates with the Romans, who followed the Greek custom of designating speakers of unintelligible languages as "barbarians." An Arab minority has politically dominated Morocco and Algeria, leaving Berberphone peoples historically marginalized, though both communities are typically Muslim. In the last few years, however, Berber activism and the desire to establish a national and transnational Berber cultural movement appear to be accelerating.

Silverstein’s research attempts to understand the relationship between the Berber/Amazigh ethnic struggle, local social organization, and the historical consciousness of socio-economic and political marginality in southeastern Morocco. His research in Morocco this past year was centered on the town of Goulmima in the region of Errachidia.

"I wanted to understand how a small town of 12,000 souls, Goulmima, has come to play such a particularly important role in the development of the Amazigh/Berber cultural movement," Silverstein notes.

To support his ethnographic research in southeastern Morocco, Silverstein received an award of $17,465 from the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad (FRA) Program and an additional $12,135 from the United States Institute of Peace.

Paul Silverstein
Silverstein, who received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago, has taught at Reed College since 2000.

Author of a recently published book, "Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation," Silverstein’s ethnography of the Algerian presence in France and the transnational Berber movement examines immigration policy, colonial governance, and urban planning, corporate advertising, sports, literary narratives, and songs for what they reveal about postcolonial Algerian subjectivities.

Investigating the connection between anti-immigrant racism and the rise of Islamist and Berberist ideologies among the "second generation" ("Beurs"), the book argues that the appropriation of these cultural-political projects by Algerians in France represents a critique of notions of European or Mediterranean unity and elucidates the mechanisms by which the Algerian civil war has been transferred onto French soil.

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Reed College
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit