Lecture by Dr. Osama Abi Mershed, Georgetown University


Location: Hesburgh Center Auditorium

Tuesday, September 20th, 6:00 pm, Hesburgh Center auditorium: “The Lords of the Hour: Mountain Sanctuaries and Modes of Resistance in Colonial Algeria.” Lecture by Dr. Osama Abi Mershed, Georgetown University. A reception will follow in the Great Hall of the Hesburgh Center.

This talk will focus on the new modes of anti-colonial resistance that began to unfold in the Algerian hinterland, especially in the northern region of Kabylia, following the defeat and surrender in December 1847 of the Emir Abd al-Qadir. Unlike previous insurrections, these movements were mobilized by populist preachers—usually unknown newcomers to the political scene—who claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad and declared themselves the Holy Redeemer, the mahdī and Lord of the Hour (mūl es-sā‘a), come to purify Algeria of foreign and domestic corruptions. Following his talk, Osama Abi-Mershed will be pleased to discuss the 2011 “Arab Spring” in comparison with popular uprisings in 19th-century Algeria.

Osama Abi-Mershed is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University, specializing in Near- and Middle-Eastern History, and director of Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. His book, Apostles of Modernity: Saint-Simonians and the Civilizing Mission in Algeria Between 1830 and 1870 (Stanford UP, 2010) studies how French army officers serving in the colonial Offices of Arab Affairs profoundly altered the course of political decision-making in Algeria. Guided by the modernizing ideologies of the Saint-Simonian school in their development and implementation of colonial policy, the officers articulated a new doctrine and framework for governing the Muslim and European populations of Algeria. Apostles of Modernity shows the evolution of this civilizing mission in Algeria, and illustrates how these 40 years were decisive in shaping the principal ideological tenets in French colonization of the region. This book offers a rethinking of 19th-century French colonial history. It reveals not only what the rise of Europe implied for the cultural identities of non-elite Middle Easterners and North Africans, but also what dynamics were involved in the imposition or local adoptions of European cultural norms and how the colonial encounter impacted the cultural identities of the colonizers themselves.

Dr. Abi-Mershed’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Henkels Lecture Series and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Arts and Letters Teaching Beyond the Classroom Grant, the Romance Languages Excellence Fund, the Ph.D. in Literature Program, and the Department of History.