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During the 1960s and 70s, Morocco be- tension that was in some respects in-

Hassan Rachik: came what Mohamed Tozy has rightly

called “the last anthropological conces-
formed by tools and concepts from fields
of study such as Orientalism, ethnocen-
“Le proche sion.” The phrase could not be more fit-
ting given the anthropological scramble
trism, and Eurocentrism as well as Subal-
tern Studies. However, due to an interest-
et le lointain: for the country during this period. In- ing generational effect, this tension has
deed, this anthropological interest in been defused to a certain extent.
Un siècle Morocco, which dates back to the late In his latest book Le proche et le lointain,
nineteenth century, became a trend in a Hassan Rachik analyses and interprets a
d’anthropologie brand of anthropology directed at re- century of anthropological discourse on
mote geographies. Morocco, and chooses to defuse the ten-
au Maroc” There are, however, structural factors that sion through the lens of the sociology of
could explain this anthropological fascina- knowledge. He mainly examines the long
tion with Morocco. Moroccan traditional twentieth century as an object for his eth-
practices survived the Jacobin colonial ad- nographic investigation in order to ana-
ministration, arousing further anthropo- lyze how anthropologists observed Mo-
logical curiosity about the country. Be- roccans. As an anthropologist living in
sides, Morocco, unlike other sites, was a Morocco, he aims to “interpret, […] what
country where anthropological investiga- has been written about Moroccans, their
tion could be conducted without much character, their soul, their mentality, and
political restriction. their ethos.” He thus considers how for-
Ever since the 1980s and more specifically eign anthropologists as observers have
the 1990s, the academic scene in Morocco built general propositions, attributing
has witnessed the emergence of “local” common traits to Moroccans as a whole.
anthropologists who read, reread, and Much of the book is devoted to the an-
scrutinized anthropological knowledge thropologists and travelers during the pre-
produced on Morocco, thereby triggering colonial (De Foucauld, Mouliéras, Salmon,
Fadma Ait Mous a debate on the status of the “local anthro- Michaux-Bellaire, Doutté and Wester-
pologist” and his/her interaction with marck), colonial (Laoust, Montage, Brunot,
Book Reviewed those anthropologists who produced Hardy and Berque) and postcolonial peri-
Marseille: Parenthèses/Maison Méditer- scholarship on Moroccan culture and so- ods (Gellner, Hart, Waterbury, Geertz). Ref-
ranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme; ciety. This interaction of the observed with erences in the book draw upon close
2012; pp. 272; ISBN 978-2863641583 the observer gave rise to an underlying readings of their published works.

Middle East – Topics & Arguments #04–2015

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As the title of the book suggests, in Le theoretical contribution; it is a notion acterized by bargaining, as is the case with
Fadma Ait Mous proche et le lointain, Rachik shuttles be- which carries several dimensions such as traditional souks, conclude that the Mo-
tween what is ‘close’ and what is ‘distant’ fieldwork duration and proficiency in local roccan is a negotiator.
is an Assistant Professor at Hassan II while positioning himself as a Moroccan languages. The author does not try to pri- Unlike some postmodernist researchers,
University in Casablanca, Morocco. anthropologist based in Morocco. He oritize or single out the best ethnographic Rachik does not reject generalizations. He
Her research is mainly focused on clearly points out that a ‘native’ position situation, but instead to see what any such warns of binary oppositions and extreme
nationalism and social movements, could sometimes constitute a constraint in situation could possibly allow for in terms positions, whether these relate to cultural-
gender and socio-political the study of one’s own culture and society. of the degree or range of observation. For ist generalizations or denial of any gener-
transformations, history and memory, By describing the conditions affecting the instance, a traveler who does not speak alization, for that matter. Rachik is in sup-
social media, citizenship and migration. processes of knowledge production by local language would interact less with port of a conditional generalization; that is
She recently published (with Driss Ksikes) these authors, Rachik further asserts that people but would be more inclined, given to say, a generalization which explicitly
Le métier d’intellectuel: Dialogues avec the production of the anthropological dis- the situation, to favor external description outlines sociological and cultural condi-
quinze penseurs du Maroc (2014). course depends mainly on academic stan- of housing, clothing, weapons, and other tions of its relevance.
email: dards rather than political factors. This par- accessories. This book goes beyond the limits of a
ticular insight is, in itself, a deconstruction Le proche et le lointain also examines an- country to be part of a comprehensive his-
of the essentialism that informs both colo- thropological generalizations with regard tory of anthropology as a discipline. It is a
nial and nationalist approaches in dealing to mind, character or soul. Rachik shows theoretical contribution to the under-
with the anthropological legacy. how these generalizations are constructed standing of the evolution of anthropolog-
As such, Rachik’s work has much to offer and what their limits are. Geertz and other ical perspectives on the culture of the Oth-
scholarship in a variety of ways. The notion American anthropologists, for example, in er, a reflection on the near and the distant.
of “ethnographic situation” is a substantial their descriptions of some situations char-

Works Cited

1 Albera, Dionigi and

Mohamed Tozy. La
Méditerranée des
anthropologues. Fractures,
filiations, contiguïtés.
Collection L’atelier
méditerranéen, Maisonneuve
and Larose-MMSH, 2005.
ISSN: 2196-629X

Middle East – Topics & Arguments #04–2015