Islam, réforme et colonisation: une histoire de l'ibadisme en Algérie (1882-1962) by Augustin Jomier is an important study of colonial North Africa, Islamic reform, and Ibadi Islam. Jomier, a professor at France’s Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales in Paris, has reframed the history of colonial Algeria by examining it “from the south.” His focus is the Mzab, a region based around seven oasis towns in the northern Sahara 600 km away from the capital city. The Mzabis on whom Jomier concentrates are a linguistic and religious minority in Algeria, speaking a Berber language and practicing Ibadi Islam both of which distinguish them from the Arabic-speaking, Sunni majority. By grounding his study not only in colonial archives but also sources from the Mzab—where he conducted extensive fieldwork—Jomier intervenes in historiographical debates pertaining to the Mzab and far beyond. The book is not only a landmark study of reform outside of the Sunni perspective, it also elucidates the limits of reform, the opposition to reformists, and the role of orientalist discourses and an emergent public sphere.
Julian Weideman is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University.