Mobility and religions in Mediterranean Africa

(Antiquity – Present times)

10JUNE - 13JUNE 2019

Maghreb studies network

Coord.: Sophie BAVA (LPED – UMR 151 AMU-IRD), Stéphanie GUÉDON (EA 4270-CRIHAM, Université de Limoges)
Org.: Centre Jacques-Berque (UMIFRE 2, USR 3136, Rabat), École des hautes études hispaniques et ibériques (Casa de Velázquez, Madrid), École française de Rome, Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain (UMIFRE 1, USR 3077, Tunis)
Coll.: UMR 151 (Laboratoire Population, Environnement, Développement, Aix-Marseille Université – Institut de recherche pour le développement), IRD/LMI Movida, EA 4270 (CRIHAM, Université de Limoges), Université Internationale de Rabat

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Centre Jacques Berque
35 R401, Rabat 10020, Maroc


This doctoral workshop is organized as part of the scientific collaboration between the School of Advanced Hispanic and Iberian Studies (Casa de Velázquez, Madrid), the French School in Rome, the Jacques Berque Centre (CJB, Rabat) and the Scientific Institute on Contemporary Maghreb (IRMC, Tunis). This collaboration aims at promoting an interdisciplinary dialogue and PhD training in the Humanities and Social Sciences for young researchers working on Maghreb-related topics. The French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development - IRD, the International University of Rabat (Chair for Society, Culture and Religious Facts), as well as the University of Limoges, also supported this particular session.

The circulation of individuals and the associated religious dynamics are central in the ongoing debates regarding mobility in Mediterranean Africa. This doctoral workshop will then tackle the religious facts and the religious issues resulting from the mobility that, during the course of history, has affected North Africa and made it an interface between Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa or even the Middle East. Long-term studies, from Antiquity to present times, allow the heritage of each period of history in contemporary religious dynamics, and the mobility to which they are linked, to be fully measured.

Mediterranean Africa has been a major point of encounter between the three main religions. The early development of Christianity in Africa, the origins of which we still know little about, benefited from a continuous circulation of believers, who linked the African and Mediterranean pastoral communities together. The new mobility that emerged from the Islamisation of Maghreb in the Middle Ages, and the political and religious battles that it caused, deeply altered the societies in North Africa. More widely, it also affected the relationships between northern and southern Africa, through the influence of the Ibadi Berbere missionary merchants, as well as between the northern and southern Mediterranean. One of the consequences of the latter was the long-term installation of Jewish communities in Maghreb. The contemporary mobilities across Mediterranean Africa create new and awaken ancient religious dynamics. They depend not only on collective religious motivations, but also on individual ones, which are necessary to distinguish when mapping the circulation of individuals. The anthropological and sociological studies carried out from Maghreb to Egypt also underline how mobility itself can generate religious encounters and even religious conversions.

By crossing the paradigms between religion and mobility, we can evaluate the influence of religion on the renewing of migratory issues, and also the importance of migration in the contemporary religious reshaping in Sub-Saharan and Mediterranean Africa. Within migration, religion builds identities, sometimes modifies routes, revives cult places, accompanies and welcomes foreigners, invests and redefines urban territories. It can even formulate new political questions in the societies it crosses. Within religion, mobility questions certainty, permits new encounters, even sometimes creates conflicts, but it is also a resource for rethinking contemporary theologies.

The objective of the workshop is to cross disciplinary approaches, research fields, periods and corpus of sources, in order to offer the young participants a methodological and scientific opening on a common study topic and to explore its richness. We will therefore tackle, through the proposed works, the origin and challenges of past and present mobility in northern Africa, in religious matters. For this reason, the training that this workshop proposes is directed to PhD students and young researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences, whose field of investigation expands from Maghreb to Egypt.

Each participant will be actively involved in the enrichment of the exchanges, presenting his/her PhD research subject, and contributing to the collective reflection, which will be led by senior researchers from several disciplinary fields.


  • Sophie Bava
    Socio-anthropologist, IRD 
  • Léon Buskens
    Jurist, Director of NIMAR, Attaché in charge of Education at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Morocco
  • Anouk Cohen
    Anthropologist, CNRS
  • Farid El Asri
    Anthropologist, UIR
  • Lucine Endelstein
    Geographer, CNRS
  • Stéphanie Guédon
    Historian, University of Limoges
  • Oissila Saaidia
    Historan, University of Lyon and director of the IRMC 
  • Bakary Sambe
    Historian, director of the Timbuktu Institute 
  • Élise Voguet
    Historian, CNRS and Director of the IISMM


The workshop will take place over four days of work in the presence of specialists in the field. It will prioritize the interventions of doctoral students and young researchers through workshops dedicated to the doctoral research of the students participating in the session. These will be complemented by discussion sessions and lectures. A public evening debate is also scheduled in parallel, at the al-Mowafaqa Institute. 

The objective of these four days is to bring together young researchers from the shores of the Mediterranean and beyond, who work on African issues and share a common thematic entry, that of mobility across different disciplines.

This workshop will then allow to address not only the knowledge itself, but also the research and writing methods specific to each of these disciplines.