The Cultural Switch Gear in the Arab Spring of Morocco

Mohammed Maarouf, Paul Willis


Adapting a famous Weberian metaphor, we explore cultural dimensions of the 2011 social uprising in Morocco. The latter seems to usher in modest political change and some lifting of consciousness, but it has the potential promise of much more to come. The crucial point we make in this study is that no change, institutional or other, takes place in a cultural vacuum except just possibly in wholly revolutionary times—during which old rules, guidelines and meanings no longer apply—which these circumstances are not. Essentially, the new potentials are lived out and experienced in old cultural patterns. In this respect, we examine the role of maraboutic and Islamist cultural forms in the current conjuncture in Morocco. For most subalterns, meaning and action do and will take place in and through these local cultural designs, but whether such local traditional cultural structures will crystallize and calcify so as to freeze and reverse progressive developments or mollify and adapt, within their own vectors and logics, to accommodate change and aid a specifically Moroccan coming into modernity is a matter for careful cultural analysis allied with culturally sensitive modes of politics, influence and interventions on the ground. In this context, the activities of the 20th February movement and their use of new media are also examined. We conclude that new revolutionary cultural forces may not be at play in Morocco today but imagining and building believable counter-hegemonic cultural struggles which can lay the groundwork for really fundamental change are a possibility.

Keywords: Arab Spring, subaltern consciousness, popular Islam, Islamism, maraboutism, saints, Morocco, the 20th February movement.

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