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Moroccan Households in the World Economy

Labor and Inequality in a Berber Village

David Crawford

Publication Year: 2008

In the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, far from the hustle and noise of urban centers, lies a village made of mud and rock, barely discernible from the surrounding landscape. Yet a closer look reveals a carefully planned community of homes nestled above the trees, where rock slides are least frequent, and steep terraces of barley fields situated just above spring flood level. The Berber-speaking Muslims who live and farm on these precipitous mountainsides work together at the arduous task of irrigating the fields during the dry season, continuing a long tradition of managing land, labor, and other essential resources collectively. In Moroccan Households in the World Economy, David Crawford provides a detailed study of the rhythms of highland Berber life, from the daily routines of making a living in such a demanding environment to the relationships between individuals, the community, and the national economy. Demonstrating a remarkably complete understanding of every household and person in the village, Crawford traces the intricacies of cooperation between households over time. Employing a calculus known as "arranging the bones," villagers attempt to balance inequality over the long term by accounting for fluctuations in the needs and capacities of each person, household, and family at different stages in its history. Tradition dictates that children "owe" labor to their parents and grandparents as long as they live, and fathers decide when and where the children in their household work. Some may be asked to work for distant religious lodges or urban relatives they haven't met because of a promise made by long-dead ancestors. Others must migrate to cities to work as wage laborers and send their earnings home to support their rural households. While men and women leave their community to work, Morocco and the wider world come to the village in the form of administrators, development agents, and those representing commercial interests, all with their own agendas and senses of time. Integrating a classic village-level study that nevertheless engages with the realities of contemporary migration, Crawford succinctly summarizes common perceptions and misperceptions about the community while providing a salient critique of the global expansion of capital. In this beautifully observed ethnography, Crawford challenges assumptions about how Western economic processes transfer to other contexts and pulls the reader into an exotic world of smoke-filled kitchens, dirt-floored rooms, and communal rooftop meals—a world every bit as fascinating as it is instructive.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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pp. c-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Preface: Notes on the Practicalities of Growing a Book

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pp. xi-xviii

This ethnography examines the transformation of a village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, one hundred kilometers south of Marrakech. The village is called Tagharghist, though in the text I refer to it as “Tadrar.” The reason I do so is that English speakers tend to...

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pp. 1-22

This book is about the changing lives of Berber-speaking farmers in the mountains of Morocco—the way people living in one village organize themselves to meet the challenges of changing times. This kind of inquiry in a place like highland Morocco necessarily invokes the crude...

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pp. 23-47

From the air, Marrakech seems to throb in the summer haze of the brown Haouz Plain like an agitated neuron, thin asphalt tendrils winding out from it. Oddly shaped turquoise splotches ring the better suburbs of the city: the swimming pools of the rich and fortified tourist...

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pp. 48-68

This chapter moves from an evocation of the spaces of Tadrar to a discussion of households, the fundamental social units that build, rebuild, and live within those spaces. Households are not the same as houses, and in Tadrar households are not the social realm of leisure, people...

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pp. 69-88

In the previous chapter I made the case that households are configured in many different ways, travel different trajectories, and are embedded in an array of larger social dramas and dynamics. Households within a village are not, in other words, like so many potatoes in a sack (Donham...

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pp. 89-111

At this point I hope to have established that households are the most significant social unit operative in Tadrar. It should be clear that there are marked inequalities of authority within households, and significant inequalities between households in terms of property. Property...

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pp. 112-144

In this chapter I address some of the ways that Tadrar is engaged with the world outside of the Agoundis Valley, especially the relationship between the village and the state. I begin with some examples of the ways villagers experienced the political world beyond their valley in the past—...

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pp. 145-174

However significant the dynamics of state-guided development discussed in the previous chapter, by far the most important contemporary interchange between Tadrar and the outside world is migration for wage labor. The ability to access wage-paying jobs in the...

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pp. 175-196

At the beginning of 2007, I returned to Tadrar to gauge what changes had taken place since 2004, when this book was begun. I knew Mohammed Lukstaf was dead (his wife, Aisha, had cried with me over it in 2004), but now Aisha was dead, too. Fatima Id Baj was again left...


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pp. 197-206


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pp. 207-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780807134641
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807133729

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008