Colonial Histories, Post-colonial Memories: The Legend of the Kahina, a North African Heroine

Publication Year



No other North African legend had been adopted, transformed, and used by as many social groups as that of the Kahina myth. In this book, Abdelmajid Hannoum examines the role the myth played in what may be called an ideological conquest. Since its inception in the 9th century, the Kahina legend has provided the ideological armature for use in anticolonial struggles, North African nationalism, Berber nationalism, and Arab feminism. But the Kahina story has also provided the ideological justification for incursions into North Africa by various groups who used the legend to articulate the region as Arab, sometimes French, sometimes Berber, and sometimes Jewish. His book further explores the processes and context in which memories of the past are transformed and shaped, not only by those recounting the legend orally, but by historians writing about North Africa, Islam, and French colonial rule in the region.

In the tradition of Edward Said's Orientalism, Abdelmajid Hannoum's study of the Kahina myth is a vibrant account of the spread of Islam, Arab, and French colonialism in the North African region. Colonial Histories, Postcolonial Memories, through its innovative methodology and extensive use or oral accounts, is also an illuminating exploration of the complexities involved in the production of historical knowledge.


"Upper-division undergraduates and above." - Choice

"The fascinating figure of the Kahina is explored to wonderful effect in this study, her role in the colonial history of North Africa finally having been given the original consideration it so richly deserves." - Lawrence Rosen, Professor and Chair, Anthropology, Princeton University

"Hannoum's work is one of the most original I have seen having to do with North African cultural history…The interweaving of myth, colonial history, postcolonial history and sociological analysis seems to me masterful…The play of Berber, Jewish, and Arab identities, male and female, historical and mythological, is not only become again matter of current political and scholarly interest, but the demonstration of the manner in which those identities are formed and expressed, the play of literary and cultural genres through which they are actuated, is an important contribution to social analysis, and not only in North Africa." - Professor Clifford Geertz, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

Series Title
Studies in African Literature
Portsmouth, NH