The 1960s and 1970s presented fertile soil for a number of anthropological theories in Morocco. Those theories tried to offer explanatory paradigms for societies that had just shaken off colonization, especially in Anglo-Saxon studies. Segmentary theory, as part of this tradition, should be understood within the dichotomy of continuity and rupture in theoretical contributions on Morocco; its roots derive from both Khaldunian and colonial thought. Ernest Gellner's work on the Saints of the Atlas (1969) is considered among the most interesting studies that applied segmentary theory to understand Moroccan society in the post-independence era. In fact, much criticism has been levelled at this theory from different researchers such as Jacque Berque, Paul Pascon, Abdelkbir Khatibi, Abdellah Hammoudi, Abdellah Laroui and Mokhtar Harras, among others. Criticism mainly focused on the ideological and ethnocentric background that frames the frozen starting arguments of the segmentary approach. It maintains that ‘pre-capitalist’ societies were static, had no history and could not produce but social orders and intellectual and economic institutions that exalt loyalty to community and the authority of customs and ancestry, while they lacked power centralization, would reproduce themselves routinely and statically as well as diminish the prospects of social change. This paper criticizes Gellner's segmentary theory for neglecting the role of kinship and blood ties, social stratification and chiefship, marginalizing socio-historical dynamics, and the overemphasizing of the pacific role of religion and saints.
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Research Article| April 01 2013
Anglo-Saxon anthropology in Morocco: evaluating Gellner's segmentary theory
Contemporary Arab Affairs (2013) 6 (2): 260–276.
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Mohammed Masbah; Anglo-Saxon anthropology in Morocco: evaluating Gellner's segmentary theory. Contemporary Arab Affairs 1 April 2013; 6 (2): 260–276. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2013.782720
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