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Coming To Terms With Tradition: Manuscript Conservation In Contemporary Algeria

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Chapter Summary

Algeria was historically lacking in urban culture and therefore in independent scholarship, there seems to be a general unspoken consensus that French colonial rule destroyed most local manuscript collections, and irredeemably severed any intellectual tradition that Algeria might have possessed. This destruction was indeed considerable; however, it cannot account solely for the relative neglect of the religious heritage in Algeria, nor for the particular difficulties encountered by present day attempts to redress this knowledge gap. This chapter explains these difficulties, linking them to the problematic relationship that many contemporary Algerians maintain with their history and with local traditions of knowledge and scholarship. It argues that what are at stake in current debates about manuscript conservation are not merely technical matters, but fundamental questions of intellectual and social legitimacy. The chapter considers two case studies: Kabylia, a Berber-speaking area in north-eastern Algeria; Touat, a group of oases in south-western Algeria.

Keywords: Berber-speaking area; Contemporary Algeria; Kabylia; local traditions; Manuscript conservation; social legitimacy; Touat



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