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Berber Law by French Means: Customary Courts in the Moroccan Hinterlands, 1930–1956

  • Katherine E. Hoffman (a1)

As the French conquered Muslim lands in their nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century quest for empire, they encountered multiple and sometimes mixed judicial systems among the native populations. In many places, legal codes were shaped by either fiqh, meaning Islamic law, one component of which is customary law, or by non-Islamic custom, or some combination of the two. To administer native justice in French colonies and protectorates, officials sorted through this multiplicity in order to standardize procedures, principles, and punishments. The standardization of customary law codes, whether written or oral prior to submission to the makhzan (the central Moroccan government, lit. “storehouse”) under the Protectorate, required that French officials both maintain pre-contact codes and create new institutions to administer and monitor them. Through new judicial bureaucracies, the French transformed indigenous law. Customary law was a “residual category” in the sense that it consisted of what remained after colonial powers ferreted out what they considered morally offensive and politically objectionable. Legal codification involved what Vincent calls “a compromise between those recognized as leading elements in indigenous societies and the colonial administrators who co-opted them.” Yet customary law, “if understood as allowing local people to do their own cultural ‘thing,’ should also be understood to have been a carefully restricted fragment of ‘tradition.’” This tradition when manifest as customary law “implies that there is a different kind of law with which it can be contrasted,” making customary law “the ongoing product of encounters between subordinate local political entities and dominant overarching ones.” In such encounters the distinction made between custom and law has long preoccupied legal historians, as well as anthropologists, colonial administrators, and importantly, lay people. Throughout French African colonies and protectorates, this distinction was key to the French usurpation of social institutions, as was true in British overseas territories as well.

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1 Debates around legal pluralism are summarized in Fuller Chris, “Legal Anthropology: Legal Pluralism and Legal Thought,” Anthropology Today 10, 3 (1994): 912. Rather than presuming an objective distinction exists between Islamic and customary law, here I examine French attempts to identify, standardize, entextualize, and enforce such a distinction. Lawrence Rosen argues that Islamic law allows no specific place to custom as a source for judicial decision-making. See his “Islamic ‘Case Law’ and the Logic of Consequence,” in Starr June and Collier Jane F., eds., History and Power in the Study of Law (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 302–19. However, Rosen argues, collections of `amal legal commentary writings legitimized local custom in Islamic courts and were used in deliberation. On these commentaries, see Toledano Henry, Judicial Practice and Family Law in Morocco (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). Preserving existing practices was understood to safeguard against the threat of chaos (fitna) that threatened society and communal life. On the relationship between Islamic and customary law in various Muslim societies, see Bowen John, Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Messick Brinkley, The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkeley: University of California, 1993); Powers David, Law, Society, and Culture in the Maghrib, 1300–1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Rosen Lawrence, The Justice of Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), and Schacht Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983). The negotiation of custom (adat or abangan in Indonesia) and Islamic law in the colonial South and Southeast Asian courts becomes even more complex. See specific cases in Hooker M. B., Legal Pluralism: An Introduction to Colonial and Neo-Colonial Laws (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 111–16, and 266–78.

2 Merry Sally Engle, “Anthropology, Law and Transnational Processes,” Annual Review of Anthropology 21 (1992): 364; and Moore Sally Falk, “History and the Redefinition of Custom on Kilimanjaro,” in Starr June and Collier Jane F., eds., History and Power in the Study of Law (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 289.

3 Vincent Joan, “Contours of Change: Agrarian Law in Colonial Uganda, 1895–1962,” in Starr June and Collier Jane F., eds., History and Power in the Study of Law (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 164.

4 Moore, “History,” 293–94.

5 Ibid., 301.

6 Sally Falk Moore, Law as Process: An Anthropological Approach (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul), 13.

7 Shereikis Rebecca, “From Law to Custom: The Shifting Legal Status of Muslim Originaires in Kayes and Medine, 1903–13,” Journal of African History 42 (2001): 261–83.

8 Hooker, Legal Pluralism, 31.

9 For overviews of the administrative and political foundations of French Native Justice in Morocco, see Henri Bruno, “Cours de Droit Coutumier Berbère” (MS, 1916), in the Bibliothèque Nationale Royale du Maroc, C930; and “La Justice indigène,” Cours de perfectionnement des affaires indigènes, Direction des affaires indigènes et du service des renseignements, Résidence Général de France au Maroc (Rabat: Imprimerie du Service des Renseignements, 1924); Jacques Caillé, La Justice Coutumière au Maroc, Extrait du cours, Organisation Judiciaire et Procédures Marocaines, Institut des Hautes-Etudes Marocaines (Casablanca: Imprimeries Réunies, 1945); and Georges Surdon, “Esquisses de droit coutumier berbère marocain,” unpublished MS of conferences given in training of the Service des Affaires Indigènes 1927–1928 (Rabat: Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines, 1928).

10 Rosen, “Islamic ‘Case Law,’” 317.

11 On the role of the sultan and his vizirs (ministers) under the Protectorate, see also France Anthony Clayton, Soldiers and Africa (London: Brassey's Defence Publishers, 1988), 9193.

12 For more on Native Affairs officers, see El Qadery Mustafa, “La ‘science sociale’ des Affaires indigènes au Maroc,” in Anthropologie du Maghreb (Fes, 1924); and Gruner Roger, Du Maroc traditionnel au Maroc moderne: le contrôle civil au Maroc, 1912–1956 (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1984).

13 Marc Méraud points out that fifteenth-century France underwent the same process of codifying oral legal tradition. Histoire des A. I., le service des Affaires Indigènes au Maroc (Paris: La Koumia—Public-Réalisations, 1990), 184. While the term “codification” in legal studies necessarily involves writing, Protectorate sources use it as anthropologists do, to mean the uniform application of principles to cases, so that legal “codes” can be oral or textual.

14 Robert Montagne argues that the spread of the makhzan, even in the pro-Protectorate period “ruined” `urf, as the law once confined to local councils came under the qayds and regional religious scholars who helped apply Islamic law. See his Les berbères et le makhzen dans le sud du Maroc: Essai sur la transformation politique des berbères sédentaires (groupe Chleuh) (Paris: Libraire Felix Alcan, 1930), 389–90.

15 My review of Anti-Atlas civil and criminal court registers from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s period suggests that there was considerable overlap between the types of cases heard by these two courts for a given tribe, particularly in regards to divorce, inheritance, and land transfers. For an overview of the intentions and inadvertent consequences of the dahir, see Hoisington William, “Cities in Revolt: The Berber Dahir (1930) and France's Urban Strategy in Morocco,” Journal of Contemporary History 13, 3 (1978): 433–48. As in colonial Uganda and other colonies in the post-World War II period, there was rising consciousness and nationalism, social and economic discontent, and political unrest that all presented challenges to the Protectorate government. See Vincent, “Contours of Change,” 165.

16 For an analysis of Middle Eastern and European press coverage of the 1930 dahir, see Lafuente Gilles, La Politique Berbère de la France et le Nationalisme Marocain (Paris: Harmattan, 1999), 213–68.

17 See, for example, Koller P. Ange, Essai sur l'Esprit du Berbère Marocain (Fribourg, Switzerland: Imprimerie St-Paul, 1946).

18 Lorcin Patricia M. E., Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria (London: I. B. Taurus, 1999), 62, and 177–81; and Taithe Bertrand, “Algerian Orphans and Colonial Christianity in Algeria, 1866–1939,” French History 20, 3 (2006): 240–59.

19 See Eickelman Dale, Knowledge and Power in Morocco: The Education of a Twentieth-Century Notable (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). Robin Bidwell, notably, remarks that the Berber Dahir evoked no protest in the mountains despite agitation in the cities. See his Morocco under Colonial Rule: French Administration of Tribal Areas 1912–1956 (London: Frank Cass, 1973).

20 See for instance Al-Fasi Allal, Harakat al-istiqlaliyah fi al-maghrib al-arabi (Cairo: Al Risala, 1948); Berque Jacques, French North Africa: The Maghrib Between Two World Wars (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967); Brown Kenneth, “The Impact of the Dahir Berbère in Salé,” in Gellner E. and Micaud C., eds., Arabs and Berbers (Lexington: Lexington Books, 1972), 198202; Combs-Schilling M. E., Sacred Performances: Islam, Sexuality, and Sacrifice (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 280–83; Halstead John P., Rebirth of a Nation: The Origins and Rise of Moroccan Nationalism, 1912–1944 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967); Hart David, Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco (London: Frank Cass, 2000), 1617; William Hoisington, “Cities in Revolt”; Laroui Abdallah, Les origines sociales et culturelles du nationalisme marocain (Paris: Maspéro, 1977); and Rosen Lawrence, Bargaining for Reality: The Construction of Social Relations in a Muslim Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 63.

21 Spencer William, Historical Dictionary of Morocco (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980). Even the esteemed Berberist David Hart is prone to exaggeration in Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco, 16–17. But see alternative accounts: El Qadery Mustafa, Politique berbère et lecture du XX siècle marocain (IRCAM: Rabat, 2004); and “La ‘science sociale’”; Hoisington William, The Casablanca Connection: French Colonial Policy, 1936–1943 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 2939; Lafuente, La Politique Berbère de la France; and Mounib Mohamed, Adhahir ‘al barbari’ akbar ukduba siyassiya fi l-maghrib al mu'aâssir (Rabat: Dar Bou Regreg, 2002).

22 My remarks here are based on reading over twenty thousand court cases (in both the ad-hoc registres brouillards and the registres de jugements) recorded in the four customary courts (tribunaux coutumiers) based in Igherm (each with jurisdiction over one to four tribes), and the court of Ait Abdallah (later called Illalen de l'Est) between 1936 and 1956. These court dockets are unclassified and stored at the Markaz qadi al muqim, Igherm.

23 Read J. S. and Morris H. F., Indirect Rule and the Search for Justice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 168.

24 Scham Alan, Lyautey in Morocco: Protectorate Administration, 1912–1925 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), 200.

25 See, for instance, the request made on behalf of the Ida ou Zeddout people in 1935, in Hoffman K. E., “Purity and Contamination: Language Ideologies in French Colonial Native Policy in Morocco,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 50, 3 (2008): 734–35.

26 I am indebted to Mohamed Mounib for this detail on the consensus of penal fines. For more on the specific areas of customary law codified in extant documents, see the contributions in Organisation Tamaynut, ed., Le Droit Coutumier et les législations au Maroc (Rabat: Organisation Tamaynut, 2007). For punishments stipulated in extant documents in Berber customary penal codes, see Hart David, “The Penal Code in the Customary Law of the Swasa of the Moroccan Western Atlas and Anti-Atlas,” Journal of North African Studies 3, 4 (1998): 5567; and Hanoteau Louis-Joseph-Adolphe-Charles and Letourneux Aristide-Horace, La Kabylie et les coutumes kabyles, vol. III (Paris: Challamel, 1893).

27 Hoisington, The Casablanca Connection, 104.

28 Hoisington William, Lyautey and the French Conquest of Morocco (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995), 93108; El Qadery, “Politique berbère,” 5.

29 El Qadery, “Politique berbère,” 10. Similarly in Uganda, in transforming agrarian society and building infrastructure, the British colonial state looked to an African indigenous law that required every able-bodied man to work unpaid on public works projects for a month each year. See Vincent, “Contours of Change,” 161. The French evoked the Berber twiza collective laboring practice for French corvée labor. See Aspinion Robert, Contribution à l'étude du droit coutumier berbère Marocain (Etude sur les coutumes des tribus zayanes) (Casablanca: Editions A. Moynier, 1937), 5758, for the Middle Atlas Zayan tribe; Hoffman K. E., We Share Walls: Language, Land and Gender in Berber Morocco (Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2008), 9798, for the Sous; Hanoteau and Letourneux, La Kabylie et les coutumes kabyles, vol. II, 60, for Kabylia; and Robert Montagne, Les berbères et le makhzen dans le sud du Maroc, 247–48, for a comparison of regions. Similarly, British officials in Uganda retained Luganda terms that “hid the degree to which these were colonial innovations.” Vincent, “Contours of Change,” 161.

30 See selected letters collected in Lyautey Louis-Hubert, Paroles d'action, Duby George, ed. (Paris: Editions de la Porte, 1995); Bidwell, Morocco under Colonial Rule; Hoisington, The Casablanca Connection; and Lyautey and the French Conquest of Morocco; Gilles Lafuente, La Politique berbere; Porch Douglas, The Conquest of Morocco (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982); Scham Alan, Lyautey in Morocco: Protectorate Administration, 1912–1925 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970); and Spillman Georges, Du Protectorat a l'Indépendance: Maroc, 1912–1955 (Paris: Plon, 1967), 196–97.

31 Morris H. F., “Native Courts: A Cornerstone of Indirect Rule,” in Read J. S. and Morris H. F., eds., Indirect Rule and the Search for Justice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), n.p.

32 See Hobsbawm Eric, “Introduction: Inventing Traditions,” in Hobsbawm Eric and Ranger Terrence, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 114; Kaplan Martha, “Luve Ni Wai as the British Saw It: Constructions of Custom and Disorder in Colonial Fiji,” Ethnohistory 36 (1989): 349–71; Kelly John D., “Fear of Culture: British Regulation of Indian Marriage in Post-Indenture Fiji,” Ethnohistory 36, 4 (1989): 372–91.

33 Georges Surdon, “Esquisses de droit coutumier berbère marocain.”

34 See Comité d'études berbères de Rabat 1915/1916, discussed in Hoffman, “Purity and Contamination,” 731–33.

35 Montagne compares legal Islamization to linguistic Arabization in terms of overlap, borrowing, and multiple stages of transition, noting, “all the tribal groupings that interest us are found in this indistinct state.” While acknowledging that drawing a clear distinction between Islamic and customary law-abiding tribes was difficult, he urged, “Let us try nonetheless to specify the nuances.” Montagne Robert, “Le régime juridique des tribus du sud marocain,” Hespéris 3 (1924): 326.

36 Letter of 20 Nov. 1946 from Capt. Perrony to the Chef de Cercle in Taroudant, in Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre, Vincennes (SHAT), Série 3H (Maroc 1877–1960), 2073.

37 El Qadery, “Politique berbère,” 12.

38 See Robert Morel-Francoz, “Organisation judiciaire des tribus berbères de l'Anti-Atlas” (Paris: CHEAM, ca. 1939); and J. Lafond, “Les sources du droit coutumier dans le Sous: le statut personnel et successoral,” unpublished report, 1947, in SHAT 3H 2017.

39 Georges Surdon, “Esquisses de droit coutumier berbère marocain,” 15.

40 This popular idea was incorporated into Native Affairs officer training; see Bruno, “Cours de Droit Coutumier Berbère,” lesson 7.

41 Morand Marcel, Etudes de droit musulman algérien (Algiers: Jourdan, 1910, and Centre des Archives Diplomatiques, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Nantes (CADN), Protectorat du Maroc, 1912–1956, DAI 31). See also Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 67, regarding the French view of women's status as an indicator of broader social traits. On French attempts to change customary law so as to change women's roles in Algeria, see Mahé Alain, Histoire de la Grande Kabylie, xixe–xxe siècles. Anthropologie du lien social dans les communautés villageoises (Paris: Éditions Bouchêne, 2001).

42 Merry Sally Engle, Colonizing Hawai`i: The Cultural Power of Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 8.

43 See for example the letter written just before the application of 16 May 1930 dahir by the Director General of the Native Affairs' Military Cabinet to the Procureur Général of appeals, in CADN Maroc DI 732.

44 See the Journal officiel of June 1933, quoted in an undated report by the Masonic lodge Le Grand Orient de France, entitled “Le Malaise Nord-Africain—les remèdes,” for the Guernut Commission, in Centre des Affaires d'Outre-Mer, Aix en Provence (CAOM) FM Guernut 43. The masons asserted that the only way to avoid rural poverty was to ensure that each family had an inalienable parcel of 10 to 15 hectares of land.

45 Rosen, “Islamic ‘Case Law,’” 318.

46 Bernard Cohn writes that the colonial British in Bengal similarly did not know the local language. For this reason, the Bengali spoken by litigants had to be translated into Persian and then English, with the end result being a heavy reliance on locals whom the British, like the French, suspected as being unreliable. Cohn Bernard, “The Command of Language and the Language of Command,” Subaltern Studies 4 (1985): 296.

47 In this article, italicized Arabic or Berber words followed by an English gloss in brackets indicates usage of the Arabic or Berber in the original document. I have retained such words to give a sense of French officials' usage of Moroccan terms they considered commonplace enough to pass without translation. Otherwise, an English gloss followed by the French original word or phrase in brackets (such as in the following sentence here) is used to offer readers of French a sense of these documents' sometimes colorful phrasing. When the original text contained an Arabic/Berber word or phrase followed by a French gloss in parentheses, I have retained this usage, as in the example later in this passage.

48 In Méraud Marc, Histoire des A. I., le service des Affaires Indigènes au Maroc (Paris: La Koumia—Public-Réalisations, 1990), 339.

49 Georges Surdon, “Une séance de Djemaa judiciare en pays de coutume berbère,” unpublished report, n.d., in CAOM ala/gga/31h/2 (n.d.).

50 N.A., “Une enquête ethnographique et sociologue allemande sur l'Afrique du nord. Transl. Maurice de Prandieres and Robert Montagne,” Unpub. MS (1924), 44.

51 El Qadery, “Politique berbère,” 10.

52 Commission Guernut, “Organisation & fonctionnement de la justice indigène au Maroc,” CAOM FM Guernut 37, 13. The short-lived Guernut Commission was established under the left-wing Popular Front of Blum's government in 1937 to assess the “legitimate complaints and aspirations of the natives” in French colonies, territories, and protectorates so as to recommend improvements in their standard of living. Reports claimed that the organization and function of native justice left much to be desired. The beginning of World War II, and the rise of the Vichy regime, ended the Commission, but it yielded fruitful studies and critique nonetheless. This unsigned, May 1938 report was forwarded in triplicate by Resident Général Noguès to the Commission's director Henri Guernut (1876–1943), a former president of the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme. It was presumably compiled and authored by a mason named R. Bérenger, since he was tasked with justice and legal codification. On the committee's composition, see CAOM FM Guernut 21.

53 Saïd Guennoun, “Notes personnelles succinctes sur le commandement et la justice indigène au Maroc,” unpublished report, 193 in CADN Maroc DAI 444.

54 See also Qadery Mustafa El, “Saïd Guennoun ou Tiherci d'un intellectual ‘indigène,’Awal 30 (2004): 7187, for a biography of this fascinating officer. This idea of the “linchpin” reappears in Caillé, La Justice Coutumière au Maroc, 6.

55 Benhlal Mohamed, Le collège d'Azrou (Paris: Editions Karthala et Ireman, 2005), 333–53.

56 Methodological and technological constraints greatly limit our ability for historical analysis of language used in Protectorate courts. For what can be known by the framing of arguments in court records, see Conley John M. and O'Barr William, Just Words: Law, Language, and Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 116–28.

57 Caillé, La Justice Coutumière au Maroc, 16–17.

58 J. Lafond, “Les sources du droit coutumier dans le Sous: le statut personnel et successoral,” unpublished report, in SHAT 3H 2017 1948, and in Berque Jacques, “Le Droit du Sous,” Opéra Minora, vol. I (Paris: Éditions Bouchène, 2001), 448.

59 Caillé, La Justice Coutumière au Maroc, 16–17.

60 See also, for the Middle Atlas courts, Aouchar Amina, Colonisation et Campagne Berbère au Maroc (Casablanca: Afrique Orient, 2002), pt. II, ch. 3.

61 Unfortunately, I have lost my reference to this quotation. Ayt means tribe. Fulan is a generic name, meaning roughly “so-and-so.” There were important exceptions to this generalization, including Tashelhit-speaking Captain Ropars, who headed the Igherm military post from 1949–1954. See K. E. Hoffman, “Purity and Contamination,” 724.

62 I. M. Lyautey, “Où en est la question berbère au Maroc,” unpublished 1923 report, in CADN Maroc DAI 580, 8.

63 This description is based on both my own field research with the customary court registers from Igherm and Ait Abdallah, and from the procès-verbal of the passage de consignes between Lt. Ropars and Capt. Haguenin, of 20 February 1948, in SHAT 3H 2094, dossier 3.

64 For a discussion of the “clarity” of French, see Swiggers Pierre, “Ideology and the ‘Clarity’ of French,” in Joseph J. E. and Taylor T. J., Ideologies of Language (New York: Routledge, 1990), 112–30.

65 Commandant Izard, “Etude sur l'organisation des Tribunaux Coutumiers,” Bureau des Affaires Indigènes, unpublished 1930 report, in CADN Maroc DAI 455, doc. 69.

66 Montagne, “Le régime juridique des tribus du sud marocain,” 326.

67 Lt. de Laforcade, “Etude sur les actes en pays de coutume,” unpublished 1941 report, in CADN Maroc DAI 455, doc. 53, and SHAT 3H 2073, fol. 2, doc. 1.

68 I am grateful to Clark Lombardi for bringing this possibility to my attention. Such a process certainly merits further investigation, although it is difficult to research and trace historically.

69 This is discussed in El Qadery, “La ‘science sociale,’” 19–20.

70 Montagne Robert, “Organisation sociale et politique des tribus berbères indépendantes,” Revue des Etudes Islamiques 2 (1927): 223–47.

71 CADN Maroc DI 730.

72 Roberts Richard, Litigants and Household: African Disputes and Colonial Courts in the French Soudan 1895–1912 (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2005), 6566, and 88–90.

73 Conklin Alice L., A Mission to Civilize: The Republic Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 133.

74 CADN Maroc DAI 441.

75 Méraud, Histoire des A. I., 179.

76 Ibid., 180.

77 Commission Guernut, “Organisation & fonctionnement.” See also Hart on the diya in “The Penal Code.”

78 Handaine Mohammed, “Le Droit coutumier et les législations au Maroc: Approche historique,” in Organisation Tamaynut, ed., Le Droit Coutumier et les législations au Maroc (Rabat: Organisation Tamaynut, 2007), 61.

79 Arehmouch Ahmed, Izerfan Imazighen: Droits coutumiers amazigh (Rabat, 2001), 105–6, in El Khatir Aboulkacem-Afulay, “Droit coutumier amazigh face aux processus d'institution et de mise en place de la législation nationale au Maroc,” in Organisation Tamaynut, ed., Le Droit Coutumier et les législations au Maroc (Rabat: Organisation Tamaynut, 2007), 97, n. 5.

80 This does not have the religious connotation usually associated with the word shari`a. Aspinion Robert, Contribution à l'étude du droit coutumier berbère Marocain (Etude sur les coutumes des tribus zayanes) (Casablanca: Editions A. Moynier, 1937), 15.

81 Commission Guernut, “Organisation & fonctionnement.”

82 Starr June and Collier Jane F., “Introduction: Dialogues in Legal Anthropology,” in Starr J. and Collier J. F., eds., History and Power in the Study of Law (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 89.

83 Sally Falk Moore, “History,” 277–301.

84 Personal communication, 2009. Georges Marcy similarly claims that Berbers rarely resorted to seeking out the advice of a council for legal issues and disputes. “Le Problème du Droit Coutumier Berbère,” Revue Algérienne, Tunisienne et Marocaine de législation et de jurisprudence (1954 [1939]): 22–24.

85 The phrase “Attendu en droit que les arrangements à l'amiable sont considérés comme les meilleurs jugements” (“Amicable settlements are considered the best rulings”) is commonly noted in Igherm and Ait Abdallah courts dockets. See, for example, the docket of Tribunal Coutumier I (Igherm), Registre de jugements, 1952–1953, case 51 (1952), n. 23bis. When parties agreed to a settlement, the docket commonly noted that the case had been settled “à l'amiable” (“by mutual consent”).

86 Similarly the British officially discouraged altering customary law in Africa: “Interference with native customary law, which may be relied on to adapt itself to changing circumstances, is much to be deprecated.” Lugard F. D., The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (London: Blackwood, 1965 [1922]), 312, in Read J. S. and Morris H. F., eds., Indirect Rule and the Search for Justice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 167.

87 Georges Surdon, “Une séance de Djemaa judiciare en pays de coutume berbère.”

88 Captain Margin of Fes summarized and circulated these minimal pieces of information needed for customary court records; see CADN Maroc DAI 580.

89 Hoffman, “Purity and Contamination,” 735–36.

90 Capitaine Picardat, “Contribution à un guide de la justice berbère (coutumes chleuhs),” 1938, in CADN Maroc DAI 454, doc. 44.

91 SHAT 3H 2073.

92 This unfortunate lack of familiarity with local judicial codes was supposed to be avoided in colonial India through a 1 January 1800 law that stipulated that no civil servant would be appointed before demonstrating familiarity with local laws, regulations, and several languages, “the knowledge of which is required for the due discharge of the respective function of such offices.” The seminary in which languages were initially taught expanded to a college. The Indian scholars it employed “were engaged in an extraordinary burst of scholarly, literary and pedagogical activities” to make materials available for students to read and write Hindustani given what officials widely perceived was a disastrous reliance on local assistants. See Cohn, “The Command of Language,” 306–9.

93 See SHAT 3H 2073, dossier 90 A1, Affaires berbères—justice coutumière: Textes légaux et circulaires 1938–1939, “Note pour le Chef d'Annexe d'Irherm,” no. 297/C/Tt; cl. 30/A.I.

94 Starr and Collier, “Introduction,” 9.

95 In this, French policy differed from an established principle of law in the British Empire that held “that a Hindu or a Muhammadan carries his personal law with him wherever he goes,” as one Hindu representative to the Legislative Council of Madras explained in regards to the regulation of marriage among Indians in Fiji; Kelly, “Fear of Culture,” 375. Principles guiding such difficult legal situations were more clearly established in Algeria. See Morand, Etudes de droit musulman algérien, 140–47.

96 Hart, “The Penal Code,” 55.

Acknowledgments: Generous funding for this research was provided by a Charles Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, a National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, a long-term fellowship from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, a Northwestern University Faculty Research Grant, and an Institute for the Humanities Fellowship from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mohamed Ouakrim, president of the Court of Taroudant Providence, and Ali Achfur, senior secretary at the Judicial Center, Igherm, generously allowed me to work with the original court dockets in Igherm and Taroudant. I wish to thank also Mina Alahyane and Hmad Laamrani for supplemental documentation, commentary, and helpful connections; Hafsa Oubou, Jenny Hall, and Devon Liddell for documentation; and Mohamed Mounib for provocative commentary on French Protectorate Berber policy. I am grateful to the fellows at the Camargo Foundation in Spring 2007, to archivist Anne-Sophie Cras at the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères archives in Nantes (CADN), and to Greta Austin, Joshua Cole, Clark Lombardi, and anonymous CSSH reviewers for comments and perspective. All translations from French are my own.

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  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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