Event Title

A Light in the Old City: The Politics of Historic Preservation in Contemporary Urban Morocco

Presenter Information

Simon Idelson, Oberlin College

Location

Virtual presentation

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2020 8:00 AM

End Date

5-2-2020 5:00 PM

Abstract

Why do we preserve certain historic buildings in the present day? My project addresses this question through the cases of two Moroccan cities, Rabat and Tetouan; both cities were the capitals of the French and Spanish Moroccan protectorates respectively, from 1912 to 1956. Thus, Rabat and Tetouan possess 20th century Spanish and French colonial architecture in addition to the pre-colonial "Islamic" medinas and monuments. In this project I argue that local state and non-state actors' efforts to preserve both the precolonial and colonial-era built environments in Rabat and Tetouan show how Moroccans are reframing historic preservation as a means of urban development, rather than just a symbol of national identity or a mode to attract foreign capital as it has been in the past, and in neighboring MENA countries. I will also argue that these current preservation efforts reveal that Moroccans have expanded upon definitions of national heritage to include French, Spanish, and Portuguese heritage sites in addition to their Arab/Islamic medieval/early modern heritage. Whereas King Hassan II (r. 1961-1999) and his government primarily preserved Islamic monuments to craft an Islamic identity for Morocco, the past three decades under King Mohamed VI have seen a surge in new preservationist actors and new heritage sites to preserve. This thesis draws upon interdisciplinary theories and scholarship from political science, history, art history, architecture, geography, sociology and anthropology. My primary research for my cases draws upon government documents, newspaper articles, websites, videos, and two weeks of fieldwork in Rabat over winter term where I observed the renovations of historic spaces and conducted ethnographic interviews with architects, NGO workers, and tour guides.

Keywords:

Architecture, Urban politics, Historic preservation, Morocco, Middle Eastern studies, North African studies

Major

Politics; Art History

Project Mentor(s)

Eve Sandberg, Politics
Zeinab Abul-Magd, History
Erik Inglis, Art History

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Apr 27th, 8:00 AM May 2nd, 5:00 PM

A Light in the Old City: The Politics of Historic Preservation in Contemporary Urban Morocco

Virtual presentation

Why do we preserve certain historic buildings in the present day? My project addresses this question through the cases of two Moroccan cities, Rabat and Tetouan; both cities were the capitals of the French and Spanish Moroccan protectorates respectively, from 1912 to 1956. Thus, Rabat and Tetouan possess 20th century Spanish and French colonial architecture in addition to the pre-colonial "Islamic" medinas and monuments. In this project I argue that local state and non-state actors' efforts to preserve both the precolonial and colonial-era built environments in Rabat and Tetouan show how Moroccans are reframing historic preservation as a means of urban development, rather than just a symbol of national identity or a mode to attract foreign capital as it has been in the past, and in neighboring MENA countries. I will also argue that these current preservation efforts reveal that Moroccans have expanded upon definitions of national heritage to include French, Spanish, and Portuguese heritage sites in addition to their Arab/Islamic medieval/early modern heritage. Whereas King Hassan II (r. 1961-1999) and his government primarily preserved Islamic monuments to craft an Islamic identity for Morocco, the past three decades under King Mohamed VI have seen a surge in new preservationist actors and new heritage sites to preserve. This thesis draws upon interdisciplinary theories and scholarship from political science, history, art history, architecture, geography, sociology and anthropology. My primary research for my cases draws upon government documents, newspaper articles, websites, videos, and two weeks of fieldwork in Rabat over winter term where I observed the renovations of historic spaces and conducted ethnographic interviews with architects, NGO workers, and tour guides.