Police, Crime, and Politics in Popular Culture
Publication Year: 2013
Facing rising demands for human rights and the rule of law, the Moroccan state fostered new mass media and cultivated more positive images of the police, once the symbol of state repression, reinventing the relationship between citizen and state for a new era. Jonathan Smolin examines popular culture and mass media to understand the changing nature of authoritarianism in Morocco over the past two decades. Using neglected Arabic sources including crime tabloids, television movies, true-crime journalism, and police advertising, Smolin sheds new light on politics and popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication
I began working on this book over a decade ago, when I lived in Fez. While shopping at a local bookstore, I discovered a wonderful new literary form—the Moroccan Arabic police novel. Modern Arabic literature is rich in narrative experimentation but there is little genre fiction. Considering the highly negative image of the police in Arab society, it should come as no surprise that novelists ...
I am grateful to many people and organizations for their support while I undertook this project. I composed the initial draft of the manuscript during a year of research in Rabat thanks to a generous Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. This year of research and writing provided me with the opportunity to reconceptualize aspects of this work and to collect source materials that were necessary for completing this...
Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Style
I use both French and Arabic transliterations of Moroccan words and names in this book. When an author writes in Arabic, I transliterate their name and the title of their work with a simplified transliteration system based on the one used by the ...
Introduction: State, Mass Media, and the New Moroccan Authoritarianism
On the morning of December 17, 2010, a vegetable seller named Mohamed Bouazizi covered himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. Just an hour earlier, the local police had harassed Bouazizi, demanding bribes to allow him to continue selling his vegetables. Fed up with years of abuse by the police, Bouazizi went to the local governor’s office to complain. After officials ignored him, Bouazizi, desperate to have his voice heard, went into ...
1 Police on Trial: The Tabit Affair, Newspaper Sensationalism, and the End of the Years of Lead
On the morning of February 3, 1993, two female university students entered the first instance court of Anfa, the most affluent district of Casablanca, to report a shocking and gruesome crime. They told the public prosecutor that a man claiming to be a police commissioner abducted them from the city streets the day before, held them hostage in his apartment, and videotaped himself and an associate...
2 "He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery": Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop
In September 1993, only months after the Tabit Affair, people walking down the city boulevards discovered a jarring new form of media awaiting them at the newsstands. Sitting next to the daily press and weekly magazines, which had returned to their stoic reporting style soon after Tabit’s trial, were large color tabloids spread out on the sidewalks boasting covers with grisly crime-scene photographs and shocking bold headlines. The words “He Butchered His Wife...
3 Crime-Page Fiction: Moroccan True Crime and the New Independent Press
The mid- to late 1990s was a particularly charged time in Morocco as the country continued moving away from the repressive authoritarianism of the Years of Lead. Not only did the media open up to new audiences and forms of representation but the state also initiated political, social, and legal reforms. Recognizing the need for more inclusive government, in 1993 King Hassan II launched the ...
Images Plates - Gallery 1
4 Prime-Time Cops: Blurring Police Fact and Fiction on Moroccan Television
With the emergence of Moroccan Events in 1998, the independent daily press became responsive to a mass audience and established a new prominence in the Moroccan media that has lasted to this day.1 Following on the coattails of Moroccan Events, other independent newspapers emerged and imitated many of its features, such as a sensational depiction of sex and true-crime narratives. These...
5 The Moroccan "Serial Killer" and CSI: Casablanca
Between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, fictional narratives of the police spread through Moroccan society. They first appeared in the form of a novel, The Blind Whale, and then moved to the country’s first independent newspaper, Moroccan Events, which appropriated the novel’s narrative strategies to invent true-crime reporting in the press. This new form of cultural production not only bolstered the newspaper’s circulation but also disseminated a...
Image Plates - Gallery 2
6 From Morocco's 9/11 to Community Policing: State Advertising and the New Citizen
From the tabloids to Moroccan True Crime, the state had only indirect input on the construction of police images in the new mass media. Starting in early 2001, the state became more proactive, welcoming television camera crews, directors, and actors into the formerly closed world of the police stations in order to make new and daring cop movies that blurred the lines between police fact and...
Epilogue: "The Police Are at the Service of the People"
The same words, prominently displayed on a banner or plaque, can be seen at the main entrance of police stations across Morocco: al-Shurta fi khidmat alsha‘ab, or, “The Police Are at the Service of the People.” Every time I see this slogan, I ask myself how many different meanings it could have. How can we understand not just the phrase but also the key terms “police,” “service,” and “people”? ...
About the Author