Contemporary French Civilization

The 5th Lawrence R. Schehr Memorial Award Winning Essay

Orientalist legacies and photography in contemporary Morocco

Contemporary French Civilization (2018), 43, (2), 133–154.

Abstract

During the colonial era, visual representations of Morocco were controlled by the French, who exported imagery of Morocco as an exotic and backwards locale in need of intervention and modernization. While many Moroccans rejected colonial imagery in the immediate aftermath of independence, in the 1980s Moroccan scholars and institutions began reappropriating these images and reinterpreting them as a means of reclaiming the colonial past. This article analyzes the legacy of colonial imagery in post-colonial Morocco through the 1928 and 1956 publications of French photographer Marcelin Flandrin, Casablanca de 1889 à nos jours: album de photographies rétrospectives et modernes montrant le développement de la ville, subsequently reinterpreted and republished in 1988 by the Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur Casablanca (GREC) as Casablanca retro. Through the intersection of imagery and inscription, these scholars avoid the uncritical and nostalgic view of the past that affect other reprints of colonial imagery. Instead, GREC situated these images within a Moroccan history of resistance and opposition to the colonial regime, and highlighted Moroccan perspectives on colonialism. At the same time, however, just as Flandrin’s images were divorced from the social and political reality for Moroccans when they were produced in 1928 and 1956, GREC’s reprint established an exclusionary history of Casablanca that omitted contemporary challenges to the state and the abuses of the post-colonial regime.

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Goldsworthy, Patricia