This book presents key moments from the lives of mavericks in the Muslim Mediterranean world at the turn of the twentieth century, showing how their nonconformity forced those around them to rethink basic values and mores.
Subaltern studies, the study of non-elite or underrepresented people, have revolutionized the writing of Middle Eastern history. Subversives and Mavericks in the Muslim Mediterranean represents the next step in this transformation. The book explores the lives of eleven nonconformists who became agents of political and social change, actively organizing new forms of resistance—against either colonial European regimes or the traditional societies in which they lived—that disrupted the status quo, in some cases, with dramatic results. These case studies highlight cross-border connections in the Mediterranean world, exploring how these channels were navigated.
Chapters in the book examine the lives of subversives and mavericks, such as Tawhida ben Shaykh, the first Arab woman to receive a medical degree; Mokhtar al-Ayari, a radical Tunisian labor leader; Nazli Hanem, Kmar Bayya, and Khiriya bin Ayyad, three aristocractic women who resisted the patriarchal structures of their societies by organizing and participating in intellectual salons for men and women and advocating social reform; Qaid Najim al-Akhsassi, an ex-slave and military officer, who fought against French and Spanish colonial expansion; and Boubeker al-Ghandjawi, a nearly illiterate trader who succeeded, though his diverse connections, in establishing important relations between the Moroccan sultan and the representative of the British government. Although based on individual and local perspectives, Subversives and Mavericks in the Muslim Mediterranean reveals new and unrecognized trans-local connections across the Muslim world, illuminating our understanding of these societies beyond narrow elite circles.
“This book is important in helping shape the emerging field of Mediterranean history, which aims to overcome the pitfalls of nationally based histories. Taken as a whole, the book encapsulates, through the lively narratives of individual life histories, many of the important developments at a crucial moment in the history of the Middle East and North Africa.”
Daniel Schroeter, University of Minnesota, coeditor of Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa and author of The Sultan’s Jew: Morocco and the Sephardi World
“This most impressive volume is an important contribution to our knowledge of the Muslim societies that it covers. Significantly, it should provide a most useful text for university teaching in terms of both the information provided and the methodological ground traversed.”
Kenneth Brown, founding editor of Mediterraneans journal and author of People of Salé: Tradition and Change in a Moroccan City, 1830-1930