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The Ethnographic State

The Ethnographic State: France and the Invention of Moroccan Islam

Edmund Burke
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Ethnographic State
    Book Description:

    Alone among Muslim countries, Morocco is known for its own national form of Islam, "Moroccan Islam." However, this pathbreaking study reveals that Moroccan Islam was actually invented in the early twentieth century by French ethnographers and colonial officers who were influenced by British colonial practices in India. Between 1900 and 1920, these researchers compiled a social inventory of Morocco that in turn led to the emergence of a new object of study, Moroccan Islam, and a new field, Moroccan studies. In the process, they resurrected the monarchy and reinvented Morocco as a modern polity.

    This is an important contribution for scholars and readers interested in questions of orientalism and empire, colonialism and modernity, and the invention of traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95799-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Map
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    In an iconic moment, Hubert Lyautey, first resident-general of the French protectorate in Morocco (1912–25), holds the stirrup for Moulay Youssef as he mounts his horse on the occasion of his accession to the throne in 1912 as the first sultan of the French protectorate. The ceremonial ritual is alleged to have originated in the precolonial period when the sharif of Wazzan, a major regionally powerful religio-political figure, held the stirrup.¹ According to the custom, the new sultan would then ride from the palace to the principal mosque and lead the Friday prayer (one of his few public ritual...


    • ONE France and the Sociology of Islam, 1798–1890
      (pp. 21-37)

      Writing in the new york review of books in 1971 Clifford Geertz argued that the old explanations of North African society were no longer valid, if they ever had been.¹ When he arrived in Morocco in 1965, with the classics of French colonial ethnography as his guide, Geertz looked immediately for the primordial groupings that he had been led to believe structured social relations at every level. Yet on closer examination, he discovered, the concepts of tribe, saintly lineage, sufitariqa, and even the extended family, tended to dissolve before his very eyes. The French colonial literature seemed suddenly suspect;...

    • TWO The Algerian Origins of Moroccan Studies, 1890–1903
      (pp. 38-51)

      The rapid emergence of Morocco as a French object of study in the period 1900–1912 was in its own way as surprising as the nonexistence of this subject before 1890. The next four chapters trace the complex intellectual genealogy of French studies of Morocco from 1890 until the establishment of the French protectorate in 1912. They examine the institutional and intellectual reworking of research and teaching about North Africa and the multiple contexts in which these changes occurred. In this chapter I chart the emergence of Moroccan studies as a specific field in the period 1890–1902. I begin...

    • THREE The Political Origins of the Moroccan Colonial Archive
      (pp. 52-65)

      In 1900 the cohort of scholars gathered under the leadership of René Basset at the École d’Alger constituted the largest group of experienced researchers in North African affairs. They were eager to play a major role in the study of Morocco. Moreover, they had already shown promising results in a series of scientific expeditions led by Edmond Doutté, Augustin Bernard, and Auguste Mouliéras and sponsored by the Comité du Maroc in the period 1900–1904 that had begun to fill out the inventory of Morocco begun with theDocuments pour servir à l’étude du nord-ouest africain.¹ By late 1903, thanks...

      (pp. 66-82)

      Does orientalism have a history, or only an epistemology? Said’sOrientalismdoes not allow for the possibility of a temporary rupture in the discourse of orientalism, since the same essentialist stereotypes about colonial societies endlessly recirculate. Thus in important respects orientalism does not “have a history.” Yet, as we have just seen, something very like this occurred with respect to French representations of Morocco during the period 1900–1904. Said’s approach to orientalism derived from French theorist Michel Foucault’s notion of discourse. Said suggested that as a discourse (and not just a set of intellectual practices) orientalism provided the lens...

    • FIVE Tensions of Empire, 1900–1912
      (pp. 83-102)

      The moroccan colonial archive emerged under multiple auspices—intellectual, political, and institutional. Initially relatively open and undogmatic, it was attentive to social and historical complexity, and above all to the differences between Morocco and other parts of the Islamic world. But this fresh start for the study of Maghrebi societies was soon followed by an increasingly narrow and dogmatic conception of the field. From the start, however, the ethnographic study of Moroccan society was inextricably tangled in the passions aroused by the Morocco crisis. As the field became progressively more deeply inflected by the political context, the discursive possibilities of...


    • SIX Social Research in the Technocolony, 1912–1925
      (pp. 105-127)

      After the may 1911 relief of the siege of Fez (see chapter 2), French troops occupied the land corridor between Rabat and Fez and imposed French authority on the refractory tribesmen. With no further resistance in the months that followed, the path to a French protectorate seemed smooth. Economically Morocco had long since lost its independence. The Moroccan public debt belonged to a consortium of French banks, and the Compagnie marocaine, a consortium of French industrialist businesses, was busily acquiring Moroccan land and mineral rights withmakhzanapproval.¹ French policymakers had reached a consensus about the future of Morocco. It...

    • SEVEN Berber Policy: TRIBE AND STATE
      (pp. 128-145)

      When the protectorate was established, the French had no prior knowledge of thethamazight-speaking pastoralist Middle Atlas Berber groups. Ignorance of these groups contributed to a major debacle in the period 1912–14, when French measures to introduce security provoked instead a series of major rebellions. Gradually the French came to realize that there were crucial differences between thetashelhit-speaking groups of southern Morocco, thetarifitspeakers of northern Morocco, and thethamazightspeakers of the Middle Atlas.¹ Whereas the former two were hierarchically organized sedentary agriculturalists, the latter were acephalous (having no permanent leaders) pastoral transhumants. After several significant...

      (pp. 146-166)

      The nineteenth-century French quest for vivid colors, pungent odors, and intense emotions that might relieve the oppressive grayness of bourgeois existence looked to the Orient (in this case, the Maghreb) to provide the necessary diversions. As enshrined in the paintings of Eugène Delacroix and the books of Pierre Loti, one city above all loomed in the French imagination as the apotheosis of all that was most captivating, most mysterious in the Orient. It was the Moroccan city of Fez, the “setting sun of Islam.” That is to say, a certain image of Fez did—as for the realities, little of...


    • NINE The Invention of Moroccan Islam
      (pp. 169-183)

      The history of moroccan islam began with a relatively open first phase (1900–1906) focused on studies of “Islam in Morocco,” which under the influence of the laws of colonial entropy gradually morphed into a disciplinarily defined but discursively policed new field, “Moroccan Islam.” The open and historically grounded studies of Georges Salmon and Edmond Doutté in the early 1900s gradually became a bestiary of colonial stereotypes of Islam. The appearance of Édouard Michaux-Bellaire’s 1909 “L’organisme marocain,” thesummumof colonial knowledge about Moroccan Islam, tells us all we need to know about the possibilities of achieving discursive escape velocity....

    • TEN From the Ethnographic State to Moroccan Islam
      (pp. 184-200)

      There was no discourse on Moroccan Islam before colonialism. Nor was Morocco an integrated national territory. Rather, the discourse on Moroccan Islam was reinvented at each major turn of the wheel, as Morocco itself was remolded from 1900 onward. Before the establishment of the protectorate, Moroccan Islam—both the French discourse, and the national myth of modern Morocco—was very much a work in progress. Moroccan Islam emerged as an object of study in response to the political and intellectual struggles surrounding the Moroccan question. Under the French colonial gaze Morocco’s distinctive society, culture, and institutions were inspected by the...

    (pp. 201-202)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 203-234)
    (pp. 235-236)
    (pp. 237-260)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 261-273)