Internationalizing the Maghrib: The (De)Colonization of Morocco as a Global History

AHA Session 17
Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Conference Room B (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Joshua S. Schreier, Vassar College

Session Abstract

Scholarship on the Arab world has experienced a noticeable boom in recent years, thus bringing increasingly more attention to the countries of the Middle East. The states of North Africa, however, continue to remain absent from many contemporary scholarly debates. Seen as neither sufficiently Arab by many Arabists, nor as African enough by most Africanists, they fail to attract attention outside the small community of regional specialists. Moreover, until recently it was even acceptable to produce entire monographs based solely on European sources and ignore the -admittedly rather chaotic- local archives. This is especially true of Morocco, which, due to its location on the far northwestern corner of the continent, continues to be seen as a somewhat isolated and unique case. Following the signing of the Treaty of Fez in 1912, which established France and Spain as its two “protective powers,” this perceived separateness from the rest of the Arab and African world became even more distinct. Discomforted by this historiographical void, the editorial board of the International Journal of Middle East Studies recently expressed its hope “for a sustained increase in the number of submissions (…) from scholars working on the Maghrib.”[1]Following this call, we intend to bring the most recent scholarship dealing with North African to the attention of the wider community of historians.

Our panel studies various aspects of Moroccan history during the first half of the 20thcentury, focusing especially on the relationship between the native population, the colonizers, and the larger world. Combining local archival material and Western sources, the presentations will deal with five interrelated issues: the participation of Maghribi diplomats in the Moroccan question prior to 1912 and how they formulated foreign policy responses to the overwhelming power of the Western states; France's reforms of the Moroccan legal system with a focus on the impact of new jurisdictional boundaries on Jewish-Muslim relations; the nationalist movement in the Spanish zone as it both collaborated with, and resisted against the colonizers; the Istiqlal (Independence) Party’s decision to commence an anti-colonial propaganda campaign in Paris following the liberation of France in 1945; and the creation of a French police network meant to stave off criminality and political activism in Tangier. We argue that the time is now ripe for a reevaluation of the trajectory of North Africa during the colonial period in general, and the history Morocco in specific. Our panel will not only be relevant to historians of the Maghrib, but to all scholars interested in imperialism and colonialism throughout the world.

[1] “Editorial Foreword,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45 (2013), p. 648

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