Performing the Nation in Anti-Colonial Protest in Interwar Morocco

Publication Date: 
August 2013


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This article applies a process approach to the study of nationalism, analysing anti-colonial protest in interwar Morocco to address how and why elite-constructed national identity resonates for larger audiences. Using Alexander’s social performance model to study nationalist contention, it examines how a Muslim prayer ritual was re-purposed by Moroccan nationalists to galvanise mass protest against a French divide-and-rule colonial policy towards Moroccan Berbers that they believed threatened Morocco’s ethno-religious national unity. By looking at how national identity was forged in the context of contentious performances and why certain religious (Islam) and ethnic (Arab) components were drawn on to define the Moroccan nation, this study offers a model for answering why national identity gets defined in specific ways and how the nation gains salience for broader publics as a category of collective identity.