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Markets of Civilization Islam and Racial Capitalism in Algeria with Muriam Haleh Davis and Mona Oraby

Markets of Civilization


This is a hybrid event. Attendees may attend remotely via zoom, or attend in person at Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St NW, Room 505, Washington, D.C. 20052.

Markets of Civilization Islam and Racial Capitalism in Algeria (Duke University Press, 2022)

In Markets of Civilization Muriam Haleh Davis provides a history of racial capitalism, showing how Islam became a racial category that shaped economic development in colonial and postcolonial Algeria. French officials in Paris and Algiers introduced what Davis terms “a racial regime of religion” that subjected Algerian Muslims to discriminatory political and economic structures. These experts believed that introducing a market economy would modernize society and discourage anticolonial nationalism. Planners, politicians, and economists implemented reforms that both sought to transform Algerians into modern economic subjects and drew on racial assumptions despite the formally color-blind policies of the French state. Following independence, convictions about the inherent link between religious beliefs and economic behavior continued to influence development policies. Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella embraced a specifically Algerian socialism founded on Islamic principles, while French technocrats saw Algeria as a testing ground for development projects elsewhere in the Global South. Highlighting the entanglements of race and religion, Davis demonstrates that economic orthodoxies helped fashion understandings of national identity on both sides of the Mediterranean during decolonization.


  • Muriam Haleh Davis is Associate Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz. Herresearch interests focus on development, decolonization and race in North Africa. Her first book, Markets of Civilization: Islam and Racial Capitalism in Algeria was published with Duke University Press in 2022. She is now working on the history of the social sciences and decolonization, with a particular focus on the discipline of sociology.

  • Mona Oraby is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University and editor of The Immanent Frame (TIF), a digital publication of the Social Science Research Council that advances scholarly debate on secularism, religion, and the public sphere. She is the author of Devotion to the Administrative State: Religious and Legal Pluralism in Egypt (Princeton University Press, forthcoming) and coauthor of A Universe of Terms: Religion in Visual Metaphor (Indiana University Press, 2022).