Out at last! This collection of essays on Morocco’s colonial past was edited by my friend and colleague Driss Maghraoui, AUI’s resident contemporary historian.
Several years ago (more than I like to tell), when the publication project was still embryonic, Driss asked me to translate the contributions of two Moroccan scholars. French-to-English translation is not easy for me–my brother Ron does it professionally–but, given that the topics of the essays relate to subjects I teach, I accepted the challenge.
Abdelahad Sebti’s contribution, “Colonial Experience and Territorial Practices”(Chapter 2), deals primarily with colonial administration. Whereas most of the territory of Morocco (mountains, pasture lands and deserts especially) remained under French military administration for the duration of the Protectorate regime, some regions (the “useful” agricultural plains which attracted colons settlers) eventually came under French civilian administration. I discuss such territorial practices in my Political Geography course. Now that this text has been published I will be able to assign it as reading next time I teach the course. Moreover, my grandfather, Raoul (akaDésiré) Roigt, was contrôleur civil for the district of Chichaoua (half way between Marrakech and Essaouira), when my mother was born. Sebti’s analysis thus dove-tails well with my family narrative and I was happy to have the opportunity of contributing to its publication.
Rita Aouad’s “Slavery and the Condition of Blacks in Morocco in the First Half of the Twentieth Century” (Chapter 8), will also be useful to me in class. Moroccan students have a very poor understanding of the country’s long history of slavery, and of the racist attitudes it fostered and which still flourish unresolved. My students think that slavery is something those horrible Europeans and Americans perpetrated in distant counties. They seem to have not the slightest inkling that slaves were bought and sold and consumed in Morocco until as recently as their grandparents’ day. The topic is not taught in school textbooks and is never referred to in official discourse. Furthermore, though racist attitudes against black people abound on campus (as elsewhere in Moroccan society), students are somehow convinced that “there is no racism in Islam because Islam is against racism.” This is the pat, knee-jerk comment I get in class every time the subject is broached. I usually respond by reminding students that: “fornication and the drinking of alcohol are proscribed in the Holy Book and that the consumption of hashish is illegal in Morocco; does that mean that these things don’t actually happen?” This always produces a short moment of silence. I am happy to have Aouad’s essay on hand, to assign when needed.
Bibliography on slavery in Morocco
- Mohammed Ennaji, Serving the Master: Slavery and Society in 19th Century Morocco, translated by Seth Graebner, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.
- Madia J. A. Thomson, The Demise of Slavery in Southwestern Morocco, 1860-2000: Economic Modernization and the Transformation of Social Hierarchy, Edwin Mellen Press, 2011.
- Choukri El Hamel, Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam, Cambridge University Press, 2012.