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Princeton University (2014)

Master Class : The Technical and Ethical Re-education of Moroccan Artisans

Nicholas, Claire B.

Titre : Master Class : The Technical and Ethical Re-education of Moroccan Artisans

Auteur : Nicholas, Claire B.

Université de soutenance : Princeton University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Anthropology 2014

"Master Class : the Technical and Ethical Re-education of Moroccan Artisans" explores the ambivalent politics of "tradition" in post-colonial state formation and socio-economic development. The dissertation tracks a series of familiar, stubborn oppositions - between the material and the moral, the mental and the corporeal, the modern and the traditional - in state and private sector efforts to "rationalize" Moroccan artisanal labor, and in scholarly discourse on handicrafts. These distinctions animate encounters between artisans and development actors, with backgrounds in different systems of skill, expertise, and ethics of work. They also underpin notions of progress and gender equality that figure in attempts to transform women’s labor in an economic sector where prestige once inhered in men. Grounded in over seventeen months of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, it describes shifts in how Moroccan artisans make sense of their craft, as they negotiate participation in development projects that capitalize on Moroccan cultural and religious identity. The analysis draws on French colonial archives and scholarship, along with present-day Moroccan government documents and visual media, to trace continuities and departures in strategies to reform handicrafts in the name of poverty reduction and global market competitiveness. Pairing historical insight with ethnography’s fine-grained attention to practices unfolding in situ, the thesis privileges weavers and embroiderers’ experiences in two sites : a state-sponsored rural women’s weaving cooperative, and a Marrakech-based, French-owned handmade textiles company with Moroccan employees. This analysis illuminates historical continuities in the contested nature of Moroccan cultural identity and the way these struggles coalesce around traditional labor, bodies, and objects. This is especially important for the anthropological and wider literatures on the Middle East, which tend to concentrate on the "immaterial" or discursive aspects of religion and political forms. Arguing that the material is often the focus of social transformation and the reconfiguration of ideas and beliefs, this thesis thus rejoins an enduring anthropological emphasis on material culture and the more recent stress on symbols and cultural "texts," to the benefit of both traditions.


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