The modern Berber (Amazigh) identity movement has recently achieved constitutional recognition of Amazighité as an integral component in both Moroccan and Algerian national identities, with Tamazight being recognized as an official language, alongside Arabic. But translating these achievements into real change faces formidable obstacles.
Kabyle Berbers in Algeria and the French diaspora continue to play crucial intellectual and cultural roles in Kabyle and Berber identities. Kabyles, two-thirds of Algeria’s Berbers (who altogether make up approximately 20-25 percent of the country’s total population), have played a part at key junctures of Algerian history: French colonial rulers and scholars recognized their distinctiveness, viewing them as less “Islamic” and more “European,” and thus candidates for association with Algérie francaise. Kabyles also played outsized roles in the Algerian war of independence and make up a good portion of the country’s professional classes and some of the political elite; their home territory in the mountains east of Algiers has also been the focus of repeated unrest and opposition to the ruling military-bureaucratic oligarchy.