Back to the Medina: State, Citizenship and Capital in Marrakesh
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This study is a qualitative research project on the processes of urban restructuring operating in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh and their implications on the local population. It is structured around two coterminous modalities of power: those of control and of resistance. To that end, the study is premised on the following propositions. First, institutions of the national state, private actors who invest in real estate and local enterprises, and media institutions are attempting to turn Marrakesh into a world destination for tourists and capital investment. To do so, they endeavor to construct, or “brand,” Marrakesh as a city that offers both a unique patrimony and heritage and a cosmopolitan culture of consumption. Second, Marrakesh has become a “contested terrain” in which local residents attempt to modify or resist policies and practices that favor external investment and gentrification over local priorities, social practices, and urban culture. The conflicts taking place in Marrakesh, which are expressed primarily through tourism, gentrification and correlative practices, create an urban dynamic that is altering the spatial and political dynamics of the city. An immediate goal of this study is to understand the degree to which city branding practices square with the often conflicting dynamics of state practice, real estate capital, media and advertising discourses and the residents’ responses. On a broader level, the significance of this study is to fill an important lacuna in the urban politics literature; exemplifying the relationship between political economy and markers of social identity in a way hitherto rarely studied; particularly in the context of cities of the Arab world which are currently experiencing significant political transitions.