Subaltern studies, the study of non-elite or underrepresented people, have revolutionized the writing of Middle Eastern history. Subversives and Mavericks in the Muslim Mediterranean represents the next step in this transformation. The book explores the lives of eleven nonconformists who became agents of political and social change, actively organizing new forms of resistance—against either colonial European regimes or the traditional societies in which they lived—that disrupted the status quo, in some cases, with dramatic results. These case studies highlight cross-border connections in the Mediterranean world, exploring how these channels were navigated.
Chapters in the book examine the lives of subversives and mavericks, such as Tawhida ben Shaykh, the first Arab woman to receive a medical degree ; Mokhtar al-Ayari, a radical Tunisian labor leader ; Nazli Hanem, Kmar Bayya, and Khiriya bin Ayyad, three aristocractic women who resisted the patriarchal structures of their societies by organizing and participating in intellectual salons for men and women and advocating social reform ; Qaid Najim al-Akhsassi, an ex-slave and military officer, who fought against French and Spanish colonial expansion ; and Boubeker al-Ghandjawi, a nearly illiterate trader who succeeded, though his diverse connections, in establishing important relations between the Moroccan sultan and the representative of the British government. Although based on individual and local perspectives, Subversives and Mavericks in the Muslim Mediterranean reveals new and unrecognized trans-local connections across the Muslim world, illuminating our understanding of these societies beyond narrow elite circles.
Odile Moreau is an associate professor of history at the University of Montpellier in France and a researcher at the French National Research Center (CNRS), Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF), Paris.
Stuart Schaar taught history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and at Brooklyn College (CUNY) for nearly forty years.