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Collective Memory and the Story of History: Lineage and Nation in a North African Oasis

Jocelyne Dakhlia
History and Theory
Vol. 32, No. 4, Beiheft 32: History Making in Africa (Dec., 1993), pp. 57-79
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
DOI: 10.2307/2505632
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2505632
Page Count: 23
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Collective Memory and the Story of History: Lineage and Nation in a North African Oasis
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Abstract

Collective memory is not always synonymous with tradition on the one hand or with the recollection of collective history on the other. The example of a South Tunisian oasis, located in a region with a strong tradition of literacy, shows a process of rupture with autochthonous (non-Arab and pre-Islamic) history, a rupture based on the reappropriation of scholarly works of colonial administrators. Local memory is essentially based on the history of family and lineage origins, ideally founded on Shereefian ancestry, a genealogy going back to the prophet Mohammed. This lineage memory, which a long sociological tradition has described as destined to merge into the nation, has in fact been constantly built up, activated largely by colonial and contemporary ethnography. The forgetting that affects other dimensions of the past, and in particular the integration into the nation, should not be interpreted as a mere disappearance but as a way of making an unspoken claim.

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