Representing modernity: The nationalist theatre in colonial northern Morocco

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Modernity cannot be just considered as a unidirectional process imposed from 'the West'. Rather, it is the outcome of an interaction with 'the West' in which different parts of the world like the Maghreb built their own versions of social change. During the colonial period theatre became one of the genres and spaces in which these political and cultural interactions can be clearly observed. In the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco, the young Moroccan nationalist movement promoted theatre associations and organized many plays from the end of the 1930s which permitted the spread of Islamic reformist ideas and critiques of colonialism. In this paper I analyse, from colonial sources and the memories of some of the protagonists, the political and cultural role attributed to theatre in cities like Tetuan and Tangier. The pieces played by nationalist associations were monitored by the Spanish colonial administration so that the performances became political events in themselves. At the same time, the plays were portraying the social changes experienced by Moroccan society and religion, particularly in relation to transformations of the family and the roles attributed to women. The theatre as a space also became the subject of political debates about the new public sphere and the presence of women in that sphere. © 2012 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-224
JournalJournal of Islamic Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


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