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Occidental College

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

Morocco: Culture and Society

Abstract

Morocco has been described as a melting pot. While various ethnicities, religious beliefs, and languages merge and intermingle within the country, the language in the majority of Moroccan homes is Darijaa. The language itself is a mixture of the Amazigh language and classical and popular Arabic with some European elements. Additionally, Darijaa is the language through which the majority of Moroccans have come to understand the world and the people around them. It is also through this language that I will explore conceptions of blackness and black identity in Morocco. Through evaluating the words for “black” in Darijaa, I hope to reveal the ways in which language may affect social constructions of a black identity in Morocco. My interest in this project stems from my experiences walking the streets of Morocco. I am a black woman, and upon my arrival in Morocco, in Africa, I wore my hair in an Afro, which is a symbol of black pride. When I got to the country, I learned quickly through comments made towards me and mostly through stares, that I was an oddity here. Even when I wrapped my hair, the stares and comments continued. I began to wonder what people on the streets were calling me and also what the discourse on blackness is in Morocco. I certainly had preconceptions, as a black woman, of what coming to Africa would be like. I thought that black identity would be a point of praise throughout the continent. As a product of the African Diaspora, I thought that I was coming home, and while I have found home here, I had to look for it. Through my research and discussions with Moroccans I have found black to be synonymous in many social instances with dark skin/bodies, sexual vitality (for black women), poverty, famine, slavery, honesty, piousness, sub-Saharan, ugliness, difference, “like a Moroccan,” “them,” “they,” “the other,” and African. Many of the words I learned in Darijaa do not have exact definitions, but their connotation is what counts in terms of attempting to outline a discourse around blackness. Though I did look to history for a potential framework for the contemporary use of the words for black, finding the etymology of the words was not the goal. It would take much more time and linguistic training to establish the origins of the words and how they morphed into their current meaning. The purpose of this research is to discover the ways in which the words for black in Darijaa are applied contemporarily. And after much research and inquiry I have observed that black appears to be a term and an identity that many Moroccans can recognize but not easily define. I believe that the connotation of the words used to describe blackness in Darijaa creates a social context and discourse around the terms and indeed around those upon whom the terms are ascribed.

Disciplines

Personality and Social Contexts | Race and Ethnicity

 

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