This is a page where we want to present our  projects by members from Germany, Morocco and Tunisia. All of them are part of Maghreb in Transition – Media,Knowledge & Power.

Ines Braune: The Body and the Urban Space. Parkour as a mediatized cultural practice in the Arab World

In this context parkour is understood as a set of cultural practices always related to social power, whereby the articulation of meaning is embedded in a circular process. The circuit of culture is made up of interrelating components – production, representation (distribution), appropriation (consumption), identification and regulation (see du Gay, Hall et al). The present project will discuss how parkour – a global mediatized culture – is produced, represented and appropriated in the context of Morocco.

Several aspects of Parkour seem to be particularly revealing. Parkour is not a single cultural product but rather a set of cultural practices that consists of manifold intertwined street and media practices. The circulation of Parkour-related practices is not driven by the economic interest of an international company but rather by a subcultural community. This fact shifts the attention to less obvious and more hidden power structures than one would assume for commercially oriented companies. The investigation from a North African point of view gives insight into structures and practices different from the settings in the global North but closely connected with the global community.

Parts of the project deal with ‘the Moroccan body’ the artistic history and its vulnerability, the radical right to the city, performativity and its visual representations and gendered public space.

While taking a cultural studies perspective, the project is based on ethnographic field research and participant observation and includes qualitative interviews conducted both online and in Morocco.

Ginan Osman, Jamie Michelle Sherab, Lukas Mellinger:

The objective of the research project is to analyze the news coverage of three different news outlets on the northern Moroccan Rif Movement, to find out how the news outlets frame and evaluate the movement and whether they expect the movement to be successful in prevailing its demands. The methodology used is Siegfried Jäger’s “Critcal Discourse Analysis” with the objective to disentangle the different discourse strands. An archive of articles was created by defining different crucial events for the movement. In a structural analysis the material was processed a first time to reduce its complexity with special focus on semantic aspects and so called collective symbols (a repertoire of collective images which trigger reactions and emotions within societies). At the current stage of the project the articles are being encoded. In a next step several typical articles will be selected for a fine analysis before the results are summarized in an overall comparison. We are considering to publish our article at the Moroccan Cultural Studies Centre in Fes in cooperation with Dr. Ines Braune and Prof. Bekkaoui. It is not clear yet if this publication is going to happen, but we are hoping to be part of this project. Otherwise we have the opportunity to publish our article with the journal META (Middle East Topics and Arguments) which is published by the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Marburg. We are going to sort this out in the next weeks. If this does not work for us, we are considering to create an account at the Journal for North African Studies.

Hafid Zghouli: 

My PhD project explores the strategies of resistance in postcolonial Moroccan novels. It investigates the representation of resistance narratives and reflection on authoritarian regimes and their impact on society from an aesthetic literary perspective. Due to violent political and social struggles during the course of Moroccan post-colonial history and the subsequent weakening of oppositional forces to a hegemonic monarchy, culture in general and literature in particular has become the most strident voice of socio-political critique. By examining the postcolonial Moroccan fiction within the socio-political context of its genesis as well as in the context of the ‘Arab Spring’, I intend to contribute to scholarship on the role of literature in the creation and consolidation of resistance narratives on the one hand and the specificity of literature in dealing with them.

Isabel Schatzschneider: Animal welfare movements in Tunisia as a form of resistance to hegemonic boundaries since the uprising in 2011

Social and political transformation in Tunisia cannot and should not only focus on the interrelation between humans but also should focus on the relationship between humans and non-human beings and the environment that humans share their life’s with. According to the religion of Islam, animals and nature have intrinsic rights and have the ability to feel happiness and pain. Though this perspective is embedded in the principles and rules of Islam, the welfare of animals is still a neglected matter in the Arab region. One of the biggest problem is the intolerant attitudes of society towards animals. Additionally, in Tunisia there is no independent section in the law which regulates the welfare of animals. However some animal welfare policies are embedded in other section of the law. Animal rights find consideration in food safety regulations (i.e. slaughtering) and species protection law. The criminal law penalises behaviour of abuse and torture.2 And also the codex for veterinarians is an important medium to protect the health and the wellbeing of animals. This still neglected field of animal wellbeing is tackled by veterinarians and friends of animals and environment which try to transform attitudes and behaviour towards animals. The four largest national animal welfare organisations are Protection des Animaux de Tunisie (PAT) and SOS Animaux and Association,Tunissienne de Protection de la Nature et de l’Environment (ATPNE) and the international organisation SPANA. All organisation offer medical treatments animals, involve in affairs of neutering and castration of street animals and engage in educational work. However the work of these animal welfare associations does not receive enough attention from the state. The government has until now no interest in enacting an independent welfare legislation neither does the state support these centers with enough financial support. The aim of this paper is to describe movements of resistance for the current situation of animals in Tunisia in the light of the uprising in 2011.

Fatima-Zohra: The Rif Movement-Hirak: A Struggle for Spatial and Social Justice in The Absence of Democracy

The Rif Movement or Hirak as called, raised social justice and democracy slogans and erupted in all of the Rif region for more than nine ongoing months, which has been an unprecedented event in the history of protests in the Moroccan state. The protests have had significance on both national and international levels. This work seeks to apprehend the socio-political and historical conditions that led to bringing about this social upheaval and what has distinguished this latter from two others (20 February Movement and current protests in Jrada city), in an attempt to demonstrate the conflictual center(State)-periphery(Rif) ratio to interrogate whether or not there is a new wave of protest dynamism growing, through analyzing socio-political and historical causes of the Movement based on field data, interviews, and a theoretical frame of a number of Moroccan sociologists and anthropologists’ analyses and reflections on the subject matter.

Manal Dao-Sabah:

Feminist voices in Morocco have been resisting different forms of disrimination. Protests culminated in the reforms of the Mudawana (family code) in 2004. Having instilled the culture of protest, the Arab Spring has given more energies to feminist voices to sharpen their demands. The objective of this paper is to study how the debate over the inheritance law in Morocco sparks a lot of controversy not only as a bone of contention divided between conservative voice and “feminist” demands, but also as a problematic that  the state has to deal with. Therefore, this paper raises the following questions: How can the feminist hermeneutics and the conservative interpretations come to a common ground for negotiations?; how do the contemporary religious figures react to the call for Ijtihad in reforming the inheritance law?; how does Morocco justify the inconsistencies of its political orientation? (i.e. On the one hand, the Moroccan constitution is based on sharia law and on the other hand Morocco signed international conventions defending gender equality). This study expects to provide an insightful study on the “disruptive techniques” that feminists are implementing to subvert discriminatory laws. It is interested in scrutinizing how women are shifting their voices and concerns from the periphery to the center of the debates about equal rights.

Nour-Sadate Benhima: Social Media in post- 2011 Morocco: An Alternative Public Sphere for Socio-political Activism? The Case of “Video Activists”

The post- 2011 media environment in Morocco has been characterized by self-censorship; that is “avoiding sensitive stories, glossing over them, decentralising criticism or balancing criticism with praise, conforming with the official narratives, or remaining objective and avoiding opinion.” This self-censorship is best understood as “an indicator of the demise of critical and investigative journalism in Morocco” (El Kadoussi, 2018, p. 14). Amid this situation along with the emergence of the Web 2.0 and social networks that have transformed internet users from passive consumers to active contributors, a wave of new aesthetic and alternative forms of expressing dissidence has risen up. In Morocco, during and after the 2011 uprisings, a wave of ‘video activists’: examples include Skizofren (schizophrenic) and Moul Lkasketa (the one in the hat), emerged on the social media scene. These video activists produce their own media content and distribute it through non-commercial avenues such as the internet: Facebook and YouTube to render their dissidence, protest, and resistance visible. In their practice, they give birth to new aesthetic forms of resistance, addressing issues ranging from political and economic corruption to the harshness of everyday life. Such aesthetic forms and creative practices deployed by these subaltern actors to render their dissidence, protest, and resistance visible have not – to the best of my knowledge – been subject to examination by previous studies. Hence, this paper aims at filling this gap in the literature by engaging with analyzing and describing these new forms of expressing dissidence. So as to meet this end, this article offers a netnographic analysis of a selection of videos produced by two main actors: Moul Lkaskita and Skizopherin. The rationale behind this selection is the big size of popularity of these two, numbers of subscribers and watchers on their YouTube channels. As to the publication of the findings of this article, v/blogs will be produced presenting case studies and the findings related to these case studies. The presentation of these findings will be made in a way that makes the information easily accessible and understood for a large section of the people and not only academics.

Taha Tayebi: Centre-periphery Interactions in Morocco: Popular Protest as an Organized Movement against Socio-political Marginalization

Since the independence and the unification of Morocco, the Amazigh region of the Rif has been clearly exposed to subordination and delegitimization of its cultural, economic, political and historic status. In this regard, this state’s disregard has helped to raise the awareness of Riffian society on the one hand, and local political elites that they come from a uniquely distinctive region that merits recognition and has a history of repression that must receive economic and political compensation, on the other hand. Nevertheless, the existence of this regional consciousness has been strongly reinforced over the last decade, paving the way to an unprecedented activism in the Rif. Thus, that activism has provided new dynamics and demands within the Moroccan structure of opposition throughout a multiplicity of organizations including associations attached to the Amazigh movement in the Rif, local associations involved in issues related to development and historical memory as well as political groups like the Movement for the Autonomy of the Rif, Northern Morocco Forum for Human Rights and local sections of certain national parties.

The state’s security approach in this region is highly oppressive. The regional consciousness and militancy became evidence once popular protest took place in Morocco in 2011. From that point, the Rif region reached its climax which made a hot contention in the Rif undergo a progressive localization, making political-territorial demands that concerned only the Rif region, and the symbolic resistance of the pillars of the Moroccan state, ranging from holding meetings with the image of Abdelkarim Al Khattabi, one of the well known Riffian nationalist leaders whose fights against the colonizer are still in memory, instead of the omnipresent portrait of the monarch to Riffian youth waving the Republic of Rif flag at demonstrations. Indeed, it was about breaking a complete taboo in the public sphere in the region, the Riffian flag has been constantly present during the second cycle of contention which is rocking the Rif since October 2016 as a symbol that reinforced the identity of protest and as an expression of communitarian identity.

My article’s primary purpose is to analyze the Moroccan new constitution as a contradictory and cosmetic text that has not succeeded yet in freeing its new progressive articles from the sacred trilogy (God, the land, and the territorial integrity). Thus, any attempts for social protests are doomed to brutality and violence for protesters are, according to the state, threatening the social order and the aforementioned sacred constants. It is also to analyze the way and to what extend peripheries are able to shake off the status quo and to contribute to the transformation and change of authoritarian forms of governance in the MENA region through the case study of the Rif region in Northern Morocco.

Aberrahmae Yaalaoui: The new forms of protestations  in Tunisia : the youth-led campaigns « Fech Nestannaw ?» & « Manich msameh »

The beginning of the 2018 year in Tunisia was marked by widespread  protests  as anger over the government’s austerity measures adopted in 2018 budget law. These countrywide demonstrations, closely resembles those of the  starting of 2011 revolution in Tunisia, which also occurred in January. However, there are significant differences between the two mobilizations. If 2011 protests were mostly spontaneous and unstructured, 2018 demonstrations were preceded and called for by a youth-led campaign against price and tax rises, campaign known as  « Fech Nestannaw ?» (what are we waiting for ?). But, it’s essential to remark that this campaign was not an isolated manifestation of the youth protests movements.  Last year, the reconciliation bill adopted by parliament, which pardons former public corrupt  officials under Ben Ali era, was opposed strongly on the field by  similar movement, called « manich msameh » ( I will not forgive). While protests against price rises or, more generally, about socio-economic questions, are very common in the world (in the same time as Tunisia January 2018 protests, others  countries faced similar unrests :  Iran, Jeradah in Morocco, Khartoum in Sudan…), it’s the reintroduction of an actor not seen in Tunisian activism for years :the young, combined to new aesthetics of protests , well prepared by organised campaign, that is drawing attention.

In fact, these innovative contention tactics  ( use of new aesthetics :  symbols, art, humour, social  media hashtag campaigns…) tackle a variety of issues that deserve to be studied, reflecting   the evolution  of Tunisian social movements in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising.  Does  the fact that youth plays a leading role in the mobilization, added to the increasing unpopularity of the political elite (confirmed spectacularly by the recent partial parliamentary election, with only 5% turnout rate), is signalling the gap between the elites in power and the youth ? In addition to that, does it demonstrate that youth are not  so uninterested in politics ? In this hypothesis, political consciousness and interest in politics could be materialised by the high level of preparation and organization of these highly innovative campaigns.

However, the impact of such campaigns is still not demonstrated.  Despite  support from some opposing forces, their demands were not met. But, at least, they presented an opportunity for the flourishing  of  youth groups and their commitment to civic engagement and activism. Utilising an in-depth case study of these two movements as it’s focus, this research will pay attention to social movements theory, but will be based essentially on the observation of these activists groups, through their  creative and spectacular forms of mass direct action as well as through their  social media and network-based organizational forms. Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this case study highlight the importance of collective reflexivity in these two leaderless movements, and the importance to recognize the socio-cultural and political significance of their practices and not to dismiss them as fleeting expressions of youth. In this sense, these two movements provide a model of innovative forms of social action, organization, and communication that may spread more widely.

Rim Kallel: Tunisian Women’s Ongoing Soft Revolution: Aesthetics and Epistemics

The role of women during the Tunisian 2011 uprising has been debated. However, what can be qualified as an ongoing soft revolution of Tunisian women against patriarchal social, religious and political hegemonic forces, from 2011 onwards, has been understudied. This research attempts to answer the two following questions: what are the aesthetics of this soft revolution, and what strategies are used by the actors of its contentious knowledge? Thus, two main parts are included in this work, each enclosing its own data and research methods. In the first part, focusing on the aesthetics of resistance, two main trends will be put under scrutiny: wearing revealing dresses featuring the Tunisian flag; and returning to modernized traditional outfits. Hypothesis1 states that these two trends came as a non-verbal response to fundamentalist claims associating the rejection of the full veil with a betrayal to the Tunisian identity and nostalgia to colonialism. The null hypothesis (H0) states that these trends are random. These hypotheses will be (dis)proved based on group discussions and/or questionnaires revolving around different representations of the studied trends.

The second part of this research tackles the epistemics’ axis. It focuses on a strategy deployed by feminist activists: integrating the hegemonic system and inflicting changes upon it from the inside. For this aim, the profiles of two prominent feminist activists in the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) and former political opponents who integrated the actual governing system will be examined. The choice of these two personalities emanates from their use of their new positions (as a presidential counselor and a head for a reformist committee, respectively) in proposing gender equality legislation, such as the newly adopted legislation allowing Tunisian women to marry non-Muslims and the project of equal inheritance. For this purpose, a discourse analysis based on a sample of their articles and interviews will be conducted. This research would potentially be carried out in partnership with the ATFD. Its results will be presented in two forms: an academic article targeted at an international readership, and a photo gallery offered to a local audience.

Yosr Belkhiria: Al Hirak Through so􀄐ial 􀅵edia: resista􀅶􀄐e i􀄐o􀅶s i􀅶 Zefzafi’s dis􀄐ourse

In a time marked by social movement and use of new media, the resistance forms have changed. The use of new social spaces has changed. The objective of this research is to study how Nasser Zefzafi􀍚s discourse about the Hirak on facebook was inspired from resista􀅶􀄐e i􀄐o􀅶􀍚s dis􀄐ourses. How did he construct a 􀍞national identity􀍟 based on old icons to play on the sensational part of his followers and how can new national icons reproduce terms and discourses of old icons to have more effect of audiences. My research will de􀅵o􀅶strate ho􀇁 )efzafi􀍛s dis􀄐ourse 􀇁as i􀅶spired fro􀅵 􀅶atio􀅶al i􀄐o􀅶s dis􀄐ourses to be more effective and more persuasive. On scientific level, this research will demonstrate how the reincarnation of national icons can help building social effective discourses.

I will proceed through a 􀄐riti􀄐al a􀅶al􀇇sis of )efzafi􀍛s dis􀄐ourse. I 􀇁ill a􀅶al􀇇ze different publications in the main fa􀄐e􀄏ook pages that 􀄐o􀇀ered the first period of 􀍞Al Hu􀄐ei􀅵a 􀅵o􀇀e􀅵e􀅶ts􀍟 till the arrest of Zefzafi. I will analyze the videos, written publications and reactions of followers on it. According to my hypothesis, Zefzafi used resistance terms fro􀅵 Khatta􀄏i􀍛s discourses to make his own discourse more legitimate and more persuasive. He played on the sensational part of those who watched the videos and read the publications. The first result is that Zefzafi used videos, audio and written publications using phrases i􀅶spired fro􀅵 religious dis􀄐ourse 􀍾Cora􀅶 a􀅶d Khatta􀄏i􀍛s dis􀄐ourses􀍿 to 􀍞􀇁i􀅶􀍟 people􀍛s s􀇇􀅵path􀇇. The 􀄐o􀅶te􀇆t􀍛s 􀍾geographi􀄐al 􀄐o􀅶te􀇆t􀍿 􀄐hoi􀄐e 􀇁as i􀅶 har􀅵o􀅶􀇇 􀇁ith the discourse. So far, I have identified the facebook pages and made the first list of publications that I􀍛􀅵 going to analyze. Nine (9) pages will be analyzed. I had also identified the theoretical framework about the social movement through new/social media.

Last 􀄏ut 􀅶ot least, I’ve 􀄏ee􀅶 fa􀄐ed with number of challenges. The main challenge, at this level of the work is to collect a theoretical framework about the employment of national icons in the construction of a new resistance discourse and about the construction of national icons through resista􀅶􀄐e dis􀄐ourses. The 􀄐olle􀄐tio􀅶 of Khatta􀄏i􀍛s discourse could also be a little difficult. The definition of the right a methodology could also be a challenge.