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The Moroccan Non-Exception: Roundtable Introduction

[Image of a building facade in Casablanca. Image by Nadir Bouhmouch] [Image of a building facade in Casablanca. Image by Nadir Bouhmouch]

Since protests shook the region in December 2010, pundits have rushed to make sense of what is happening in Morocco. In the process, a normative framework has emerged under the guise of "Moroccan exceptionalism," effectively compounding the complexities of the events and processes taking shape. "Impressive though often overlooked, this rare success story from the Arab Spring," describes one report on Morocco, "is occasionally invoked as a possible source of emulation by other Arab or predominantly Muslim states." Another article asserts that, "In a region in which political legitimacy is hard to come by, Morocco is governed by a monarchy with three centuries of continuous history in the country." Fareed Zakaria singled out Morocco as a country that "seems to be doing something right." Aside from putting forth merely a surface reading of the situation in Morocco, these examples of exceptionality, and others, would suggest that that the basic methodological tools used to assess other countries in the region are inadequate.  

While the outcomes of the uprising in Morocco differ from other countries in the region, it is in no way exceptional and each society continues to contend with its unique circumstances. Beyond looking at the timeline of protests, elections, and reforms that are often used as markers for Morocco's exceptionality, there is another, more nuanced story to be told. 

This roundtable provides an opportunity to dispel the basic notions of "Moroccan exceptionalism" through a multidisciplinary lens. Each contribution addresses a particular aspect of the complexity that is Moroccan political and civil society, peeling away the layers of an assumed historical teleology that comprises the framework of "Moroccan exceptionalism." 

Abdeslam Maghraoui interviews Ahmed Marzouki, one of the last surviving prisoners from the notorious Tazmamart prison. Marzouki's grim retelling of the seventeen years he spent in Tazmamart offers a sobering perspective into the realities of the victims from Morocco's "Years of Lead" under King Hassan II. While the interview focuses on a period in Morocco's near past, Maghraoui situates the interview within the current context, citing the ongoing injustices committed against dissenting journalists and activists, begging the question of whether the "Years of Lead" are back. Nadir Bouhmouch's contribution challenges dominant perceptions and media representations of Moroccan women, by putting forth a two-fold critique of the recently released and controversial film, "Much Loved," directed by Nabil Ayouch. The film tackles the subject of prostitution in Morocco, and Bouhmouch levels criticism at not just the film, but also the varying reactions that followed its screening at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The final installment in the roundtable is a two-part series by Samia Errazzouki, which examines the history and memory of state formation in Morocco, taking a close look at the Moroccan Liberation Army. Errazzouki's contribution contests the proposition that Morocco's transition to independence and statehood was free of violence and political disputes, offering an alternative approach to understanding the foundations of the contemporary Moroccan state. 

Collectively, these contributions question the very core of the narrative of "Moroccan exceptionalism." They demonstrate that while Morocco's circumstances might be unique, they are not exceptional. This roundtable also aims to amplify the voices of indigenous scholars, writers, and activists, offering an opportunity to take part in a conversation concerning a country that has long been, and continues to be, a site of knowledge production in the region. Links to each individual contribution, which will be published once a day throughout this week, will be posted below following publication.

"The Moroccan Non-Exception: A Conversation with Ahmed Marzouki, Former Tazmamart Detainee" by Abdeslam Maghraoui

"The Moroccan Non-Exception: 'Much Loved' and Realism, Colonialism, and Pornography in Moroccan Cinema" by Nadir Bouhmouch

The Moroccan Non-Exception: A Party, an Army, and a Palace (Part I) by Samia Errazzouki

The Moroccan Non-Exception: A Party, an Army, and a Palace (Part II) by Samia Errazzouki

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