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Believe in the Border, or, How to Make Modernity in the Nineteenth-Century Maghrib

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The Algerian-Tunisian frontier zone was much contested in the late nineteenth century, defying the logic of modernity that sought to establish territoriality. This modernity appeared only through an imbrication of raids, warfare, environmental shifts, and competing territorial claims. The violence of the territorial process, the changing geography of sovereignty, and uncertain frontier delimitation: these and other elements challenge the image of modernity arising in a fixed territory according to a linear chronology. This article argues that modernity in the Maghrib, seen through the lens of territory, is a temporally and spatially variable process: “modern” sovereign power existed only at certain levels of abstraction and within certain environmental relations. To consider modernity in the Maghrib, we will have to see how claims of sovereignty and the process of territorialization were understood by actors operating on local, regional, and imperial scales.

Affiliations: 1: Radford University bcutler2@RADFORD.EDU


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