Department of Religious Studies

An Essay on Personal Naming Practices in North Africa prior to the Colonial État Civil (1880s)

with Dr. Ben Brower, Associate Professor, Department of History

Wed, May 8, 2019 | CAL 516

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

This talk examines the question of the personal name in north Africa as it took form in the colonial period as a site of social contest. In the 1880s French administrators in Algeria profoundly transformed names through both transliteration from Arabic and the introduction of a new repeating family patronym based upon French norms.  This served as the basis for a powerful administrative technology known as the état civil. My argument takes shape as I seek to understand how personal naming worked within north Africa’s multi-linguistic and multicultural society. I seek critical perspectives on a postcolonial body of scholarship and public discourse that sees personal names as sites of domination and alienation.  The history of the name suggests instead a reading attentive to the ways that names reveal the tense imbrication of self and other, even in situations like the colonial one, wherein one does speak one’s self, but is spoken by an other, indeed in an other’s name.

The Islamic Studies Colloquium is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff across the University to present research on the study of Islam and the Muslim world. Colloquium meetings aim to provide presentation experience and constructive feedback on work in progress, as well as to foster discussion and a sense of cohort among the Islamic studies community on campus. Meetings are open to all UT community, and light refreshments may be served.


Sponsored by: The Islamic Studies Initiative

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