and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
is French for Cass-Cass, symbol of Moroccan cuisine and,
perhaps more, the pride and of joy of millions of Maghribis
throughout the Great Maghrib. The Cass-Cass is necessary
to cook the "authentic" thrice-steamed Moroccan couscous.
It is made of two parts: the lower an oval-shaped pot where
meat, sauce and vegetables are cooked, and an upper round structure
with holes at the bottom to let the steam from the meats, carrots,
courgettes, pumpkin, and coriander through to the couscous on
the top. Couscous is a dish that has travelled far and now is
part of an international cuisine; a dish readily available in
the West. In Morocco, couscous is a mix of semolina with meats
and vegetables; in the West, couscous is a "hybridised"
dish, added to salads and other dishes.
There is a story about the Couscoussière that goes like
this: Overlooking the Old Medina of Casablanca (in an area also
known as the Mellah, formerly a Jewish quarter) stands the imposing
structure of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on the roof of which,
appeared a gigantic satellite dish. The Mellah's young people
were fascinated by the structure of the dish, more so when they
heard it could "bring the whole world to their sitting-room."
Owning such a "phantasmagoric" (Bauman 1998) technology
in 1989, at a time when most Moroccans only had access to one
channel, was a very exciting prospect to the Mellah's working
class youth. One day, a young Moroccan from the Mellah, standing
with his unemployed friends, and joking, as one would, in the
Derb (1), likened the image of the satellite dish on
the roof of the hotel to the shape of the Couscoussière.
In fact, he went further and experimented with the idea by attaching
a Couscoussière to the television antenna on his own
house. To his amazement, when he turned the TV on, he could
hear voices which were neither Arab nor French: they were Italian,
Spanish, English, and German. The picture was very bad and fuzzy,
but this did not spoil the excitement, the euphoria at the mere
thought of having access to sounds and images of the Gur
(2) in one's sitting room. He returned to the antenna and readjusted
the Couscoussière several times until the picture became
clearer. He had re-invented satellite technology! The news travelled
fast and few weeks later, the Mellah's roof-tops were littered
with Couscoussières. This was the day Moroccans gave
up their couscous for satellite.
The story of the Couscoussière is a text within a text.
What I am referring to here is not merely the story which took
place in real time and space, but also its other textuality:
its symbolic form. Couscous is not merely a dish. It is also
that against which the authenticity of a culture can be tested.
The Couscoussière is not a mere aluminum pot but is also
responsible for reproducing the "authentic" experience
of what it means to be Moroccan, Arab, Amazigh, and Muslim.
In his short,
yet seminal work, Non-Places, Marc Augé (1995)
advances that the ceaseless growth in media and communications
in the late 20th century had led to an "overabundance"
in temporality and spatiality, leading henceforth, to a crisis
of meaning. Earlier on, Jean Baudrillard (1983) expressed the
same feeling when he observed that we now inhabit a world with
more and more signs, but less and less meaning. The crisis of
meaning that Augé and Baudrillard alert to, also resonates
when one looks at the language used by social theorists to make
sense of the world we live in. If our world today is, because
of the spread of the mass media, one of "globalization"
and "hybridisation," how do we make sense of such
phenomena? How useful have globalization theories been in helping
us understand, let us ask for the purpose of this paper, the
cultural consequences of "globalization"? It is not
the purpose of this paper to sift through or attempt to organize
the chaos of globalization theories (3), nor do I intend to
engage in a phenomenology of meaning. I set myself a far more
modest and less laborious task. This is inspired from the viewpoint
that globalization theories, especially those Sparks (2004)
categorizes as "strong" ones - those which make "culture"
central to their enquiries - remain largely over-abstracted
and "non-evidential." Sparks argues that "if
we are to make any serious intellectual progress, we need to
develop the insights of social theory into the kinds
of propositions about the mass media that we can subject to
an evidential critique" (Sparks 2004: 4). The "newness"
often contributed to cultural consequences of "globalization"
is rarely challenged. Here I argue that a better understanding
of globalization's cultural consequences means that we need
to investigate not only the ways institutions of modernity have
altered the "ordinariness" of culture (Sreberny-Mohammadi
1997) at the periphery, but also how they have altered the "structures
of feeling" of its people. Ethnography, as a methodology,
is here indispensable in providing evidence against which we
can empirically test our assertions about "globalization"
and its cultural effects. However, ethnography, as anthropologists
and social scientists alike know well, is not problem-free;
especially today when anthropological "space" is far
more contested. Even in pursuing the anthropological as a means
of coming to terms with globalization's effects on culture,
we will still undoubtedly encounter problems of method and meaning,
and to say otherwise would be misleading. Here meaning itself
becomes an anthropological problematic (Augé 1995: 28).
quantitative and qualitative data from fieldwork conducted in
Morocco, I attempt to investigate how long-term consumption
of global Western media texts, other factors included, play
a role in altering young Moroccans structures of feeling. I
contend that young Moroccans (a microcosm for youth in the developing
world) are able to emigrate mentally to the West inside Morocco
through their long-term exposure to "globalized" Western
media texts and so expand the West's mental geography and its
project of modernity. I rationalise dynamics of mental emigration
as a cultural consequence of "globalization" and argue
that the non-fixed problematic nature of its symbolic points
of reference -- Islam/Arabness/Moroccanness and modernity/the
West -- together with young Moroccans' contradictory structures
of feeling makes the mental migratory trajectory incomplete.
The paper also demonstrates how difference in socio-economic
and cultural strata among young Moroccans produces different
readings of and reactions to Western modernity. These reactions,
the paper will argue, are those of incoherent acceptance, coherent
acceptance, negotiation, and coherent rejection.
of "Young Moroccans"
share a common religion, language, and history with other young
Maghribis and, in the case of Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisians,
the same French coloniser. Young Moroccans constitute the backbone
of Moroccan society: 70 percent of the Moroccan population is
under 35 (Talal 1993). Tessler observes, "One major characteristic
of Morocco's emerging political generation is its size. With
more than two-thirds of the population under the age of 35,
men and women who were born and grew up in the mid-1960s or
thereafter constitute the country's demographic centre of gravity"
(Tessler 2000). Thanks to their great demographic weight, young
Moroccans' lifestyles will in the near future constitute those
of the vast majority of the country's adult population (Tessler:
2000). Their construction as a political generation and their
role as agents of change, argues James Mattson, will not only
affect Moroccan or Maghribi society but also the whole Arab
world. Young Moroccans are also the backbone of a postcolonial
society and an attempt to discern their structures of feeling
provides us with an insight into the form of a problematic postcolonial
consciousness. It is within this critical geo-political and
socio-cultural framework that young Moroccans are placed here.
Moroccans and the Media
A 2003 survey
conducted in Morocco (Sabry 2003), targeting one thousand Young
Moroccans (YMs) from different social strata, demonstrates that
99 percent of the households in urban Morocco have television.
The survey data also showed a massive increase in access to
satellite technology. Eighty percent of the respondents said
they had satellite at home. Research conducted by Hassan Smili
in 1995 shows that only 7 percent of Moroccan households had
access to the satellite (Smili 1995: 39). The chart also shows
a clear case of stratification in access to media technology
among respondents. (See Appendix for chart and explanation of
categories.) Where 80 percent of the respondents from category
A said they had access to a household computer, only 18 percent
from category D and 16 percent from category E said they did.
As for the Internet, 47 percent from category A had access to
home Internet, where only 11 percent from category C2, 8 percent
from category D, and 3 percent from category E said they did.
In relation to satellite access, 100 percent of the respondents
from categories A and B had access to household satellite but
only 63 percent from category E had such access. Only 3 percent
of respondents from categories C2, D, and E said they had no
access to a home television, which makes television by far the
most common form of entertainment for respondents.
The survey also shows YMs have a clear preference for Western
media texts. Chart 2 shows that female respondents consume far
more Arabic programmes than male respondents. These include
mainly Egyptian films and soap opera. It also illustrates that
female respondents consume far less Moroccan programmes than
male respondents and that almost an equal amount of male and
female respondents prefer Western programmes. Only 28 percent
of respondents liked to watch Moroccan programmes. The chart
demonstrates that Western programmes are most popular with respondents,
followed by Arabic programmes (mainly Egyptian film and soap).
Moroccan programmes are least popular with respondents, only
19.6 of male and 9.2 of female respondents saying they were
preferable to Western and Arabic programmes.
The data also emphasises the unpopularity of TVM (First Moroccan
National channel) among both male and female respondents. Only
15 percent of male and 18 percent of female respondents watched
TVM, whereas 85 percent of male and 82 percent of female respondents
watched the Moroccan commercial channel 2M. Launched in 1989,
2M was the first private commercial channel in Africa and the
Arab world. In 1998, only 40 percent of 2M's programmes were
broadcast in Arabic, the remainder being broadcast in French
(Majdoul 1999: 58). Below are two tables: one contains a one
day running schedule for TVM, the other the schedule for 2M.
Please note the broadcast languages and nature of the programmes.
Table 1: TVM, timetable for 19th of May 2002
Time / Program / Language
7.00 a.m. / Koran recital / Arabic
7.15 / News / Arabic
7.30 / Cartoons / Arabic (dubbed)
9.00 / Documentary / Arabic (dubbed)
9.30 / Cartoons/ Arabic (dubbed)
11.00 / Children's / Programme / Arabic
11.15 / Folklore / Arabic
12.00 p.m. / Economic program / Arabic
12.30 Sport / Program / Arabic
13.00 / News / Arabic
13.15 / Cooking / programme / Arabic
13.45 / Morocco In Your Hands / Arabic
14.15 / News / Tamazight
14.30 / Documentary / Arabic (dubbed)
14.45 / Inspector "Rocker" / Arabic (dubbed)
15.30 / Football / Arabic
17.30 / Documentary / Arabic (dubbed)
18.00 / News / Spanish
18.15 / Music Clips / Arabic, French and English
19.00 / News / French
19.15 / Art program / Arabic
20.00 / Main News / Arabic
20.45 / Parliamentary issues / Arabic
21.00 / Series "PSE" Factor / French
23.00 / News / Arabic
23.45 / Andalusian Music / Arabic
12.45 / End of Transmission / Arabic (Koran Recital)
(Source, Al-Ahdath al-Maghribiyya: 19-05-2002)
*Morocco' s highest-circulation daily newspaper
note that TVM dedicates only 15 minutes in a whole day's broadcasting
to an Amazigh (Berber) programme. It is also important to note
that this dedicated broadcasting space is a news programme,
accommodating three different Amazigh dialects, each of which
is allocated five minutes of daily broadcast time.
4: 2M, timetable for the 19th of May 2002
Time / Program / Language
6.45 a.m. / Koran Recital / Arabic
6.55 / Documentary: Sea Treasures / French
7.20 / Cartoons / French
7.35 / Cartoons / French
7.55 / "All dogs go to paradise" / French
8.05 / Film / French
8.30 / Documentary / French
8.50 / Cartoons / French
9.40 / Hercules V Ares / French
10.00 / Travel program / French
10.50 / Cybernet "Magazine" / French
11.10 / Simpsons / French
11.35 / Sports Action: NBA / French
12.15 / Turbo: Car Program / French
12.45 / News / Arabic
13.10 / Arts Program / French
13.45 / Music / French
14.00 / News / French
14.05 / Sport / French
16.20 / News / Arabic
16.25 / Soap: Top Model / French
17.20 / Film: Melrose Black / French
18.00 / Series: H / French
19.30 / News / French
20.00 / News of the Week / French
20.20 / Sport Programme / French
20.50 / Interview / French
21.15 / Film: la Suspé Ideal / French
21.55 / News / Arabic
22.20 / Series: Soprano / French
1.10 a.m. / NBA (Basket ball) / French
2.10 / News / French
2.30 / Series: Profiler / French
3.15 / News / Arabic
3.35 / Documentary / French
4.20 / Cinema, cinema, cinema / French
4.45 / Turbo: Cars / French
5.15 / Documentary / French
6.10 / Documentary / French
(Source: Al-Ahdath al-Maghribiyya, 19-05-2002)
* Morocco's highest circulation daily newspaper
It is clear
from these two schedules that Moroccan television is saturated
with Western programmes. Apart from the 11 minutes of Koran
recital at the beginning of the broadcasting schedule and the
1.45 hours Arabic news, the remainder of 2M's 24-hour running
schedule on May 19, 2002 was all broadcast in French. The contents
of these tables begs a pressing question: If the media play
a big role in nation building, as we learn from Scannell and
Cardiff's work in The History of Broadcasting in Britain
(1991), what kind of a nation are the Moroccan media, 2M especially,
in the process of building? The reader is reminded that only
15 percent of male respondents and 18 percent of female respondents
watched TVM, whereas 85 percent of male and 82 percent of female
respondents watched 2M. To put another question, what kind of
an audience is 2M targeting if 65 percent of the Moroccan population
is illiterate, and if a substantial amount of those who are
literate (in Arabic) cannot read in French?
Moroccans, the Thereness of the West, and the Mobility of the
demonstrated that 80 percent of respondents wanted to emigrate.
Of these, 50 percent wanted to emigrate permanently and 30 percent
said they wanted to emigrate temporarily. More than 95 percent
of respondents chose "the West" as a desired migratory
destination. Seventeen percent of respondents did not specify
their desired migratory destination. Of those who did, 26 percent
wanted to emigrate to the United States (the most desirable
destination by far), 22 percent wanted to emigrate to France,
5 percent to Canada, 4.5 percent to Spain, 3 percent to Italy,
3.5 percent to Australia, and 1.5 percent to Japan.(4) Only
1.5 percent of the respondents said they wanted to emigrate
to Saudi Arabia, and less than 1 percent said they wanted to
emigrate to the Emirates.
To my mortification,
I confess that I have only used the word "mobility"
perhaps once in my life. I have, of course, used similar terms
to describe different kinds of movement, such as migration,
emigration, burning (5), but hardly ever mobility. Today "mobility"
is used to explain different aspects of the human condition
-- modernity, postmodernity, globalization -- and there are
layers upon layers of discourses of "mobility" --
the physical, the social, the political, and so on. However,
physical "mobility" as a category is seldom questioned
or problematized. Is our world truly one of "mobility,"
as many cultural theorists from the West suggest (cf. Appadurai
1996)? What is often unspoken in discourses of "mobility"
in the Western academy is the very immobility or perhaps immobilities
of the "other" who resides outside the boundaries
of Fortress Europe and the US. Mobility of people from developing
countries to Western industrialised societies is considerably
marginal because of visa restrictions imposed by the West. Since
9/11, restrictions on young Muslim youths have especially become
stringent. Five hundred Moroccans drown every year trying to
cross to Spain. To this, we must add hundreds of young people
from Algeria and sub-Saharan countries. "Mobility,"
which so many Western scholars take for granted, is sadly a
prize for which "the wretched of the earth" are prepared
to die. As one young Moroccan told me, "I'd rather a shark
than stay in Morocco." The seldom asked question is, "Whose
mobility are we talking about?" Most of the world's poor,
and the poor outnumber the rich, simply cannot afford to be
mobile. So, drawing a picture of a globalized world, characterised
by mobility, is dangerously occidental and must be questioned.
We ought to also be concerned with the structures of immobilities,
which extend from physical to mental (symbolic) trajectories.
While undertaking ethnographic research in Morocco, I asked
a young Casablancan from the working class where the West was.
He answered, relaxing his tongue, "Lheaaaaah," Moroccan
colloquial for "there." If the phonetics were translated,
the word would sound like "theeeeeeere." The utterance
"there," indicating the west as "there,"
has connotations that are deeply seated in Moroccan popular
imagination. The "thereness" of the West here does
not here merely signify distance or location, but also and most
importantly "unreacheablity" -- the geographic, economic,
and cultural unreacheablity of the West. This can be said not
only of young Moroccans but of most developing world youth.
Europe is for many of them both desirable and unreachable.
as Ang and Morley argued, "is not just a geographical site,
it is also an idea: an idea inextricably linked with the myth
of Western civilisation, and its implications not only of culture
but also of colonialism" (Ang and Morley 1989: 133). Fortress
Europe may be closing its borders, but Europe's mental geography
is, thanks to transnational communications, borderless. In fact,
it is a welcoming one! The West's mental geography ceaselessly
invites others to cross its borders, whereas its physical geography
is ceaselessly trying to get rid of, and cleanse its home from
focus groups and participant observation material conducted
in Morocco, the remainder of this discussion will look at the
ways in which the flow of Western media texts in Morocco has
allowed the emergence of different symbolic migratory trajectories.
To make sense of how young Moroccans decode the Western media
text, I stop to explore the composition of their "structure
the Term "Structure of Feeling" within a Postcolonial
I mean when I refer to the young Moroccan's "structure
of feeling"? I am aware of Raymond Williams's use of the
term, defined in The Long Revolution as "the culture
of a period: it is the particular living result of all the elements
in the general organization . . . I think it is a very deep
and a very wide possession, in all actual communities, precisely
because it is on it that communication depends" (1961:
64-65). What does the term "structure of feeling"
mean if detached from its Western context and applied to the
postcolonial? I use the term "structure of feeling"
differently to Raymond Williams, i.e., in a context where the
structure of feeling is not merely the result of dynamics inherent
to one culture, one "general organization," one "culture
of a community" or one "culture of a period,"
but is used rather in the context where "structure of feeling"
is the product of a dialectical interaction between two different
sets of cultural "general organizations." I also use
it where its context is best described not only as the product
of the "culture of a period," but also as the product
of an interaction between two different cultural temporalities.
For young Moroccans, structures of feeling were explored vis-à-vis
their conceptions of two worlds, namely, (a) their understanding,
conceptions and feelings vis-à-vis their tradition, society,
and culture, and (b) their feelings and conceptions of and about
the "other," here, the West, and Western modernity.
I do not content myself with studying elements of the two "general
organizations" separately. Further, I explore the dialectical
relationship and dynamics resulting from their inter-relation
and intersection. It is the relationship between at least two
repertoires -- Moroccan "culture"/Islam and Western
modernity -- that form young Moroccans' structure of feeling.
The interaction between these two worlds and ways in which they
are cultivated, felt, and conceived by the young Moroccan give
rise to a complex set of dynamics, among which is his/her desire
to be different in the world. This desire is predetermined by
the cultivation and co-existence of two cultural temporalities
in the young Moroccan's mind. His/her desire to be different
in the world results from his/her conception of the constituent
parts making up their structure of feeling about the world.
In other words, their desire to be different is triggered by
the existence of an "alternative" cultural temporality
or what presents itself as an alternative to him/her through
the globalised Western media text. A desire to be different
in the world is also a revolt, a kind of rebellion, as it is
a genuine desire to replace one structure of feeling about the
world and being in it by another. So, a desire to be different
in the world only can be fulfilled through the existence and
communication of a different structure of feeling as an alternative.
This desire is, paradoxically, also a desire to be like and
similar in the world. Difference here also means and translates
Migratory Trajectory and Its Points of Reference
What I am offering is a modest attempt, perhaps a preliminary
introduction, to the structure and nature of mental emigration's
symbolic trajectory and the problems that have arisen as a consequence
of my attempt to examine and rationalise its dynamics. Mental
emigration is a lived experience and as such is a social phenomenon.
It is a postcolonial condition that dwells in the mind of the
young Moroccan who is also a microcosm of the young Muslim.
Mental emigration is a state of mind and a structure of "feeling"
about the world, not necessarily felt by the anthropologist,
social scientist, or student of cultural imperialism but experienced
by the mental emigrant proper. When Knadi, a young Moroccan,
says he feels Western music in his blood and it makes him feel
as though he were there (in the West), only he truly knows what
he means and what it feels like. The same could be said about
the young Moroccan who said, "Our blood is Moroccan, but
the outside is Western." Mental emigration is a structure
of "feeling" about the world and an active desire
to be different in it. This "feeling" can only be
partly understood by observing, talking to, and sometimes befriending
the mental emigrant. It is consequential to massive penetration
of Western culture, cumulatively absorbed and cultivated by
young Moroccans through Western carriers of meaning. Mental
emigration is the product of globalization but is distinct from
it. In other words, it is not a surrogate or a different terminology
for globalisation, for it is its product. This is a fundamental
epistemological distinction. It must be added that mental emigration,
is also the product of problems internal to Morocco, e.g. authoritarianism
and poverty, as well as the cultural vacuum for which the media
are largely to blame.
is also a rich and complex cultural space accommodating different,
and at times contradictory, problematic structures of feeling
about the world, and describing it therefore merely as a negative
social phenomenon, the object of which is the ceaseless erosion
and colonisation of consciousness, would in several ways be
misleading. As evidence from fieldwork shows, mental emigration
is also perceived by many young Moroccans as a means of change,
emancipation, and, most importantly, as an "alternative"
to hegemonic cultural practices inherent to Moroccan society.
It is this paradox that makes the assessment and examination
of mental emigration as a social phenomenon problematic. On
one hand, it promises change and emancipation and, on the other,
it is, as channels of resistance embodied by young Islamists
argue, a serious threat to young Moroccans' heritage, identity,
and consciousness. The problematic nature of this symbolic trajectory
is further problematised by the complex structure of its points
of reference: departure and destination.
like physical, emigration takes place within a trajectory with
these two reference points of departure and destination. In
mental emigration, these are replaced by symbolic migratory
reference points. It departs from cultural hegemonic practices
inherent to Moroccan culture and heritage, with Islam as a major
constituent, to ideas of freedom, emancipation, progress, and
wealth deeply embedded in discourses of Western modernity. In
turn, these emanate and are decoded from Western media texts.
At no stage, however, is mental emigration total, and to argue
otherwise would be an aberration. Young Moroccans may feel that
Moroccan Arabic is inferior to French and consequently prefer
to speak and read French, yet many still speak Moroccan Arabic
most of the time. Young Moroccans may emigrate mentally from
certain Islamic cultural practices, yet mental emigration does
not eradicate these practices and they remain Muslim. Later
in this discussion, I illustrate the variety and complexity
of the different positions that can be adopted on this spectrum
with examples from discussions with young Moroccans from different
social groups. To argue that, for young Moroccans, mental emigration
takes place from a fixed "discourse" of Islam to a
fixed "discourse" of Western modernity would be misleading.
It would be a simplification and a rarefaction of what is a
far more contested and problematic phenomenon. What are my reasons
for saying this? All require an examination more thorough than
we have time or space to undertake, so only the major reasons
are examined. The mental flight from Islam and its teachings
to Western modernity is never total and perhaps never will be;
rather, it happens at different levels.
How is it
possible to mentally emigrate from Islam when the latter often
has been manipulated as an ideological tool? The history of
Morocco's makhzan (6) shows that Islam largely has been
implemented, not so much to rule with justice (a fundamental
prerequisite for ruling in Islam), but as an ideological tool,
whose aim has been the gaining and maintenance of power (see
Munson 1993). Furthermore, Al Jabri argues that the absence
of rules for the public sphere has created a deep asymmetry
in the whole Islamic legal system and "made it a means
of submission to the ruler rather than for control of political
power" (Al Jabri in Ansari 1998, 169). In the same vein,
Islam lived and experienced by the ordinary Moroccan differs
from that preached by the 'alim (theologian), the Islamist,
or that rationalised by the secular Muslim philosopher. All
arguments made here point to the fact that Islam, as a symbolic
"repertoire" is not fixed. Mental emigration can in
this context only take place from one kind of hermeneutics or
use of Islam and not Islam per se. To problematise mental emigration's
trajectory further, it is important, in assessing its symbolic
reference points -- Islamic culture and Western modernity --
not to perceive them as being two entirely oppositional historical
entities, which would be an aberration. Arab Islamic civilisation,
argues Al Jabri, was not merely a link between Greek and European
civilizations, but also a reworking and a reproduction of Greek
culture. Al Jabri insists: "The presence of Arab-Islamic
culture in international European cultural history was not a
mere temporary intermediate; its presence was that of a necessary
and crucial constituent" (Al Jabri 1991: 48). This argument
blurs the line between modernity and Islamic "repertoires"
and places them, culturally at least, within the same parameter
of human heritage.
these problematics in mind, rather than arguing that mental
emigration takes place from a fixed discourse of Islam/Moroccanness
to a fixed discourse of modernity, it is far more sensible to
argue that mental emigration occurs from specific principles
inherent in Islam's "repertoire" to other principles
intrinsic to Western modernity's "repertoire." This
rationalisation can be authenticated by many fieldwork examples.
Modernity as a "Structure of Feeling"
with Western modernity as both a discourse and symbolic migratory
reference point is equally problematic. My intention here is
neither to draw a sociological analysis of the meaning of Western
modernity, nor to repeat what has already been said and written.
Rather, my intention is to explore Western modernity in the
light of different structures of feelings, as expressed by young
Moroccans from different socio-cultural strata. To emigrate
mentally to the West is to emigrate to the West inside Morocco
and therefore expand the mental geography and the repertoire
of the West and its project of Western modernity. However young
Moroccans' readings of Western modernity were not uniform; they
varied according to differences in socio-economic and cultural
strata. I have classified young Moroccans' readings of Western
modernity as those of negotiation, incoherent acceptance, coherent
acceptance, and coherent rejection.
Group: Negotiating Western Modernity
youth are not socialists per se, but are active young members
affiliated to the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires party,
many members of which are now in government. The ones I spoke
to do not aspire to Morocco becoming a socialist country, but
rather an open democratic country where freedoms (social and
media) and human rights are respected and corruption is controlled.
The core of both discussions held in the socialist youth hall
in the working class area of Medina centred on the state of
Moroccan media and meanings of Western modernity emanating from
Western media texts. There was a clear emphasis on the issue
of freedom, which I believe is well encapsulated by the confrontation
that took place between Siham, a Westernized, modern young Moroccan
woman, and Zeinab, a female Islamist, also a member of the Socialist
Youth. The confrontation between Siham and Zeinab symbolises
a rupture inherent to the cultural structure of Moroccan society.
One part aspires to join the modern world and enjoy its freedoms;
the other adheres to tradition and Islamic teachings, which
it claims promise a different and higher stage of emancipation.
One sees Western modernity as an alternative to cultural hegemonic
practices inherent in Moroccan society; the other sees Western
modernity as a sickness and a threat to the Moroccans' collective
consciousness. Here I concentrate on the American sitcom Friends.
from comments made by participants from the socialist group
about their consumption of Friends is a complex set of dynamics,
symptomatic of a postcolonial country coexisting in a postcolonial
spatio-temporality and caught, like many previously colonised
Islamic countries, between two sets of cultural dynamics: tradition
and Western modernity, mental colonisation and mental de-colonization.
The extract below recounts a conversational confrontation between
two female participants from the socialist group that highlights
contradictions inherent to the structure of feeling of the young
nothing such as a friendship between a man and woman in Morocco
. . . I think this is wrong; men and women can enter relationships
which are platonic . . . I do not think there's anything wrong
with that . . . On the contrary, we will get to learn more about
each other . . . That's why I think the relationships in Friends
set a good example . . . I think it would be great to live with
a man without having to marry him." (Siham, 25, Casablanca,
only female participant wearing hijab): "But these
sorts of programmes contradict our tradition and way of life.
Islam teaches us to dress modestly and respectfully and not
to wear mini skirts or reveal all that God gave us." (Zeinab,
22, Casablanca, 2000).
can I now suddenly wear the hijab after 25 years of Western
influence? Young people are afraid of growing beards and talking
about Islam . . . You say American and Western film has an influence
on us. We take from the Americans. They never ask us to. They
never impose things on us. I am going to be frank here, I will
touch on a point many of my brothers and sisters ignored or
are maybe shy to talk about . . . We are taught that to be true
Muslims we have to wear the hijab, hide our head, our
legs, and whatever maybe attractive to a man. We cannot have
sex until we are married. Having sex beforehand is a big sin
. . . Most of those who marry do so in their thirties (have
to get good jobs first) . . . If you have a sexual relationship
beforehand, society points its finger at you . . . Our society
is against us, our tradition is clearly not helping so where
do we go? . . . When young Moroccans consume Baywatch,
their priorities become their human nature and not religion
or Islamic culture."
here revolves around two main issues -- the questions of cultural
identity and of gender roles or male/female dynamics within
Moroccan society. Before I engage with these two issues, I think
it important to draw upon the mental migratory trajectory at
hand by describing its structure and dynamics. Here we have
a traditionalist or traditionalizer in the person of Zeinab,
who throughout the focus group discussion was in conflict with
Siham, a liberal "modern" Moroccan girl. The two participants
embody different sets of dynamics. Where Zeinab embodies Islam
and tradition, Siham embodies the West and its discourse of
modernity. Siham draws on the meanings of Western modernity
embedded in Friends to make her case against tradition
and the Islamic cultural hegemonic practices intrinsic to Moroccan
society. Siham's argument can be encapsulated in the following
questions: How are we supposed to restrain our natural sexual
urges in a changed society where, for economic reasons, women
cannot marry until they are in their thirties? What happens
between our teens and thirties? Siham proposes the relationship
models in the American series as an alternative to hegemonic
In a social
study (Mernissi 1975) examining anomic effects of modernisation
on male/female dynamics in Moroccan society, Mernissi came to
the following conclusion:
that sexual segregation, one of the main pillars of Islam's
social control over sexuality, is breaking down. And it appears
to me that the breakdown of sexual segregation allows the emergence
of what the Muslim order condemns as a deadly enemy of civilisation-love
between men and women in general, and between husband and wife
in particular (Mernissi 1975, 58).
has increased in Moroccan society since the 1970s. Men no longer
dominate Moroccan society's entire public space. Women represent
more than 30 percent of the workforce in urban Morocco; they
inhabit the same space as men at work, in colleges, universities,
the beach, the swimming pool, the café, the discothèque,
cinema, and so on. The only conspicuous places where men and
women are segregated are the mosque and the Turkish bath. This
change, a product of both local and external factors, has managed
to break down Islamic control over sexuality. With this breakdown
comes a kind of sexual frustration, confirmed by Siham's propounding
of the relationship model in Friends as an alternative
to fixed hegemonic Islamic cultural particularities: "I'd
love to live with a man without having to marry him" said
Siham. It is crucial to add that what Siham is negotiating through
her comments is not only the right to sex before marriage, which
incidentally happens behind closed doors, but also, most importantly,
a removal of the taboo of sex before marriage so that it becomes,
as in Friends , the norm. Siham calls for the normalisation
of sex before marriage. She wants a society where she could
have sex before marriage without society pointing the finger
position as a traditionalist and a traditionalizer is undermined
by Siham's outcry for what she, Siham, believes is her natural
right. The Friends model, regardless of Zeinab's attempt
at traditionalising, remains for most participants a better
alternative to Islamic traditional hegemonic practices. This
shift represents a mental emigration from one set of values
to another. It is a trajectory from the wisdom of Islam and
its teachings to a wisdom emanating from the American model
-- through Friends -- of Western modernity. What comes
from the popular Western media text Friends is, Siham
argues, an "alternative" to the traditional male/female
dynamics at play within Moroccan society. Zeinab, the female
traditionalist, who questioned the version of modernity championed
by Siham, argued that modernity and our desire to be free in
the world are not inherently Western characteristics, but are
innate to all human beings.
Nuhians and the Incoherent Acceptance of Western Modernity
It is by
harsh economic reality and long-term cumulative exposure to
Western media texts and their contacts with Amazigh émigrés
living in France that young, largely illiterate, residents of
the small douar of Ait Nuh in the Atlas Mountains (population
about 270) construct their structure of feeling about Western
modernity. Their poverty and lack of education encourage young
Ait Nuhians to see the promise of the wealth, comfort, and luxury
they so desperately desire in Western modernity. It is important
that I revisit a comment made by a young Ait Nuhian since it
illustrates not only a young Ait Nuhians' structure of feeling
about the world, but also, and most importantly here, structure
of feeling about Western modernity.
who emigrated from here left here looking brown came back with
a different colour
Their faces look whiter. They brought
with them new expensive cars, clothes
They bought more
land and opened shops in the city
" (Ahmed, 22, Ait
young Ait Nuhian, Western modernity manifests itself as a promise
of happiness wholly built on and motivated by the possession
and accumulation of material luxury goods like cars, money,
new Western clothes, shops, businesses, etc. This kind of mental
emigration, brought about by capitalism and its culture, has
not only altered the young Ait Nuhians' structures of feelings
about their world and their position within it, but has also
transformed their very world by altering its pre-capitalist
social structure. Those from the douar (7) who emigrated
to the land of the Eromen (8), have come back looking
different, looking like the Eromen seen on television
-- white, modern, free and prosperous. This has had a destabilising
effect on what could be described as the previous "socialist
social structure" of the douar, not previously motivated
by wealth or material possessions so much as by structures of
care, trust, and play. The "émigrés are dogs,
they are racists" said two angry young Ait Nuhians. The
Ait Nuhian émigrés are all shockingly, in one
way or another, related to both angry Ait Nuhians. Young Ait
Nuhians are aware of the change taking place and of what has
caused it. Nonetheless, their aspirations to become as rich
as, if not richer than, the émigré and his family
are undiminished. For many young Ait Nuhians, this is the dream
of Western modernity, and its realisation many believe will,
regardless of difficulties, only happen if they cross the border,
to the land of the Eromen.
Class Group and the Coherent Acceptance of Western Modernity
middle class group, whose members have all been raised in a
liberal milieu, Western modernity is not perceived as a threat
or problem, but as a way of life. As Moulay, a young Moroccan
from Gautier, a Europeanized quarter of Casablanca, commented,
"We live in Morocco, but the way we speak, dress and everything
else is European." Young people from this group are introduced
to Western modernity through French, which they are taught in
private schools from the age of 4 or 5. Their life style is
liberal in several ways. These characteristics are very uncommon
among the Moroccan working class, which remains largely traditional.
As a young female Islamist argued, "I think those from
bourgeois backgrounds are most likely to develop a Western way
of life because they can afford it and have already been brought
up in a Western liberal environment" (Casablanca 2001).
modernity is neither alien nor alienating for the young people
of Gautier: they are brought up in it and it is part of their
experience. Ironically, what they find alien and alienating
is their own language, religion, and culture. Young people from
this group referred to local languages: Tamazight (8) classical
Arabic, and Moroccan Arabic, as uncivilised and passé,
championing French as the language of civilisation and "style."
Data from the focus groups show that of all subgroups, the middle
class group is the largest consumer of Western media texts,
whether news or entertainment. The survey (Sabry 2003) demonstrated
that respondents from the upper middle and middle classes were
by far the most prolific consumers of Western media texts. Sixty-seven
percent of respondents from the upper middle classes and 49
percent from the middle classes said they preferred Western
programs to Arabic and Moroccan programmes. The survey also
showed that no respondents from the upper middle classes watched
TVM, Iqra (the privately owned Saudi religious satellite channel)
and al-Manar (the Islamic Lebanese channel). These characteristics
qualify the young people of Gautier to be mental emigrants par
excellence. Their dislocation and detachment from local culture
and experience, which they perceive as uncivilised, makes them
strangers in their own country. Western modernity is for them
not merely a way of life, but a tool, one which they use to
establish their cultural superiority over the "ordinariness"
of Moroccan working class culture. Amin referred to the working
classes as "dirt," while Farid referred to young people
living in the Medina, a working class quarter, as hbash
Classes and the Language Factor
One of the
main reasons why young Moroccans prefer to be seen and heard
speaking French rather than Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, or Tamazight
is because they believe these languages to be culturally inferior
to French. Besides this "cultivated" complex, there
are other practical reasons, as Gallagher suggests:
be stated flatly that in Morocco today the non-French-speaking
candidate has no chance of getting a good government job or
advancing himself in any ministry except those of Justice, Religious
Affairs, or in specialised functions in the Interior (police
work) or Education. High level posts in key ministries like
Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Industry, Planning, Public Health,
Defense . . . and Agriculture, as well as in the many specialised
offices dealing with production and technical matters, are virtually
closed to the monolingual Arabophone, not to mention jobs in
important commercial or industrial enterprises in private business"
(Gallagher 1968: 143 as quoted in Bentahila 1983: 15).
analysis is now perhaps even more true than when it was first
written. Since then, there has been no strategic, structural
change in the way Moroccan institutions operate. Today's Morocco,
as a market, is even more open to capitalist forces. It has
attracted many European and American businesses where business
is done not in Arabic, but in French and English, and where
the demand is not for monolingual Arabophone labor but for Francophone
and Anglophone labor. This is one of the main reasons why the
Moroccan bourgeoisie teaches its children French from a very
early age and sends them to expensive schools with a heavy emphasis
on French and not Arabic. Working class families who cannot
afford these schools and their children therefore continue to
be disadvantaged. This disequilibrium deepens the stratification
of Moroccan society and produces a culture reducing Arabic,
ironically, the language of science even in Europe until the
fifteenth century, to an irrelevance. Language is an indispensable
constituent of culture, for with language, culture expresses
its experience, and creates and grows. A culture where the common
language is subordinate or perceived by its people as such is
doomed to stagnation, if not to cultural suicide. The subordination
of Moroccan and classical Arabic in Morocco has deepened the
stratification of its society into a crude and a dangerous cultural
rupture -- that between the Moroccan perceived as an Arubi
"uncultured" speaker of Moroccan Arabic or Tamazight,
and that of al-Alipa -- "Moroccan high society"
-- speaking French. To be modern in Morocco has become partly
linked to being able to speak and read French, not Arabic, and
where French is perceived as "une langue civilisee,"
Arabic has taken the rear seat and became the language of the
non-modern or those yet to embrace modernity. French in Moroccan
society is also perceived as the language of "prestige
and prosperity," whereas Arabic as the language of "poverty
and the past" (Gassous in Bentahila 1983: 28). As Gellner
observed, "I believe the impact of French culture in North
Africa to be profound and permanent
In his heart, the North
African knows not merely that God speaks Arabic, but also that
modernity speaks French" (Gellner in Bentahila 1983: 15).
Group and the Coherent Rejection of Western Modernity
group, unlike the rest of the subgroups, had a good overall
knowledge of the world's geopolitics. For most of them, Western
modernity is, with the exception of one female participant,
a kind of sickness, a threat to Islam and its culture, and so
a threat to the Moroccan's consciousness, culture, and identity.
They perceived Western modernity as the culture of capitalism,
imperialism, and globalisation, a culture erected on the principles
of an unjust economic system, which is both reifying and alienating.
As a young female Islamist remarked, "For me the West conveys
silb (from Arabic, adj. silbi, meaning "negative."
It is also from the verb salaba, meaning to deprive or
deny someone something) because the West has denied us so many
things: our youth, our identity, and our culture
the West as meaning silb, silb in the negative sense"
saw Western modernity as a coherent, historical, and organised
attack on Islam and its civilization, deploying both coercive
and non-coercive methods to annihilate and humiliate a part
of the world, which, they argue, refuses to bow down to the
West's imperialist motives. Their critique of Western modernity
extends to Morocco and its media, which they believe have become
an extension of the West. They thus see the threat of Western
modernity as being both external and internal: "There's
nothing worth watching . . . . Nothing broadcast is relevant
to our realities . . . and this surely is intentional. 2M reproduces
Western discourses . . . . It is mainly broadcast in French
and I think it has cheated Moroccan people out of their culture."
perceived the Moroccan ruling classes as collaborators of the
West and its project. They argue that Morocco is ruled by Francophiles
who serve capitalism and its culture and deepen the Moroccan
people's dislocation and alienation from their culture and heritage.
In their critique of Moroccan media, Islamists argued that,
rather than working towards creating an alternative to discourses
of modernity emanating from Western media texts, the Moroccan
ruling classes use the media to annihilate Islam's heritage
and reproduce discourses of Western hegemony. The Islamist group's
position with regard to Western modernity and its discourses
is thus one of resistance and coherent rejection. But is this
enough? In their attempt to resuscitate a golden Islamic renaissance,
most young Islamists emigrate mentally back to a past, an historico-cultural
temporality, which they idealise and present as the only "true"
alternative to Western modernity's ambivalent project. In so
doing, they tend to articulate questions of the present with
answers from the past, thus creating a rupture, if not a confusion,
within their cultural temporality. It is only through reconciling
the past with the present that a future cultural temporality
that is conscious of itself can materialise. Resistance alone
is, therefore, not enough. It has to be coupled with a search
for the present cultural tense, which is by the way not lost
but there for the making.
to make sense of a new type of migration - mental emigration
- as an effect of globalization has certainly yielded more complexity
than clarity. I have shown how the mental trajectory from the
"repertoire" of Islam/Moroccanness to that of Western
modernity is not complete, in that it did not take place from
one symbolic reference point to another, but from specific characteristics
inherent in one repertoire to specific characteristics inherent
in another. I have also attempted to show that cultural "effect"
is the product of dialectical interactions between at least
two "cultural organizations" and two cultural temporalities
coexisting within the same spatiality. I have categorized different
Moroccan groups' reactions to Western modernity as those of
negotiation, incoherent acceptance, coherent acceptance, and
coherent rejection. Islamists, who represent a very small part
of Moroccan society, were by far the most critical of the West
and modernity. For them, the West's significations that are
communicated through the Western media text, e.g., freedom and
democracy are mere discourses that mask other negative Western
significations, such as imperialism, domination, and interests.
The young Islamists here are convinced that Islam has far more
to offer than Western modernity. Most importantly, they are
convinced of Islam's interpretation of happiness, which they
argue is based not on greed, consumerism, and the accumulation
of capital but on equality, modesty, and spirituality. The dominant
reading of the West and Western modernity by young Moroccans,
however, remains largely positive. For some, it is a utopia
for which they are prepared to die. Can the symbolic model of
"mental emigration" be generalised to explore other
dynamics of mental mobility and subjectification in different
cultural contexts? As for couscous and the Couscoussière,
well, what happens to them is the toughest of questions and
will, I am afraid, remain so. But whatever you do, please don't
ever tell a Moroccan that Tunisians or Algerians make better
Sabry is a senior lecturer in Media and Communication at
the University of
Westminster (UK), where in 2003 he completed his PhD on the
topic of Media and
Migration. He has published on symbolic dimensions of migration
popular culture in Morocco. He is a member of the Communication
Research Institute London) and editor of a newly launched journal
Papers in Communication and Culture.
1. The latter
is a geographic space; usually an over-populated urban space
where people, largely from the working classes, share a strong
sense of community and belonging. The Derb is also a
socio-cultural space that reflects everyday experience. It is
the product of material realities inherent to Moroccan society.
Its existence can be attributed to different factors. Here I
will content myself with describing two main ones, one economic,
the other cultural. The practice of standing by the Derb
-- which is more common in working class areas -- is largely
due to the problem of unemployment. Many unemployed young Moroccans
from the Casablancan working classes cannot afford to go to
cafés or other recreational spaces and therefore choose
to stand or sit by the Derb for most of the day. The
second factor is cultural and it is inextricably linked to the
previous one. Being unemployed means being dependent on parents,
which in turn implies living under the same roof with them.
Here the Derb as a social space offers the young, unemployed
or student, an outlet, a space in which cultural hegemonic practices,
imposed by the elderly, can be and often are broken. Derb
is also a patriarchal space, as only men may occupy it (see
2. Moroccan name for Westerners.
3. See Sparks' article: "What is wrong with Globalization?"
4. It is important to note that the survey was conducted before
9/11 and the subsequent events and that therefore the US may
not still be the most desirable migratory destination among
5. From the Arabic word harrag, literally meaning "burner."
The latter word has become a very common and recurrent word
in everyday talk in Moroccan popular culture. People I asked
gave two interpretations of the word. According to one group
a burner is someone who burns his passport and all his identity
cards before emigrating illegally to a Western country, so that,
if caught, his or her identity will not be revealed. The other
group traces the etymology of the word to an historical event
in 711 AD when Tariq Ibn Ziyad, an Amazigh general, burnt his
fleet on approaching Spain, so that his army would have no choice
but to fight to conquer Spain. At the rock of Gibraltar, Ibn
Ziyad delivered his famous speech: "The enemy is in front
of you and the sea is behind you. Where is there to run?"
To "burn" in Moroccan popular talk is therefore a
reference to a one-way journey where one attempts to enter a
Western country illegally (see Sabry 2005).
6. In his book Les Origines Sociales et Culturelles du Nationalisme
Marocain (1977), Laroui distinguishes between two meanings
of the makhzan: the first consists of social groups such
as the Shurafa, Murabitin, Ulama, "intellectuals,"
heads of the Zaweyas, army tribes, and all those who mediate
between the Sultan and his ra'iya "subjects."
The second meaning of the makhzan is far more limited
as it comprises the official apparatuses of the state such as
the army and the bureaucracy, both of which function under the
authority of the Sultan.
7. Moroccan for "tribe."
8. Amazigh for "Westerners."
9. A Moroccan Amazigh dialect.
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1- Islamists (3x groups), Casablanca, 2000.
2- The socialist youth (2x focus groups), Casablanca, 2000.
3- Young Moroccans of Ait Nuh tribe (2x focus groups), Ait Nuh,
4- Young Moroccans from the middle classes of Morocco (2x Focus
groups), Casablanca, 2001.
5- Young Moroccans from the working class (2x Focus groups),
on the survey and the social categories: A, B, C1, C2, D, E.
a substantial number of young Moroccans were targeted by the
survey and although it had a very good respondent success-rate
(891 out of 1000), this survey does not claim to be representative
of Morocco or even Casablanca. However, the survey was sampled
so as to reflect social stratification within Casablanca. Six
different colleges were targeted from different areas of Casablanca.
As an example, Anfa School Groups, one of the most expensive
private schools in Morocco, was targeted by the survey to reflect
opinions and viewing habits among students who are brought up
in and come from the upper middle classes of Moroccan society,
whilst Ibn Toumart is a state-run Lyceé situated near
the Old Medina, one of the poorest areas of Casablanca, and
has thus been targeted to reflect opinions and viewing habits
of students who come mainly from a working class background.
I have used the demographic category 'A' to refer to Anfa and
'E' to refer to Ibn Toumart. I have also used categories B,
C1, C2, and D to reflect other socio-economic structures within
Casablanca. It is important to note, however, that these social
categories are only roughly approximate to social categories
used in the West and might therefore not adapt correctly.
A: Upper middle class
B: Middle class
C1-C2: Poor middle class
D-E: Working class