1Urban realities are at the heart of changes transforming the Maghreb. Over only a few decades urbanization has been massive, rapid and sometimes even brutal, profoundly disrupting lifestyles and social structures. Itself a product of social transformations, urbanization in turn produces its own social changes.
- 1 In this respect, see "Citadins en attente de la ville" (“Citizens waiting for the City”, Belguidoum (...)
2The cities of the Maghreb are not homogeneous. They are in fact, characterized by great diversity: diversity among the countries of the Maghreb, diversity among the cities within each country and even diversity of social geographies within urbanized areas. The diversities are such that it becomes quickly evident that the "right to the city", described by Henri Lefebvre in 1968 as a form of emancipation resulting from ease of mobility and the expanding choice of where to settle is not the same for everyone.1
3National or regional metropolitan centres, medium and small cities, cities undergoing change or reconfiguration, nationally planned cities (as part of planned regional development), new cities arising from a local dynamic, the cities of the Maghreb are multiple and diverse. Riddled with contradictions and rocked by internal tensions, they seek consistency and a policy framework for the coordination of joint efforts and the often contradictory policies of various public agencies with a stake in urban outcomes. This represents quite an array of challenges for Maghrebin societies who, in varying degrees and according to their respective social histories have adopted urban social construction processes which are quite different.
4The dynamics of these emerging urban societies are remarkable for the changes they represent, changes which operate on multiple levels including spatial, social organization and lifestyle. New urban processes emerge in the reflexive sense of being in the city and speaking of the city, within the context of the everyday social practices of different groups who make up the city. These are just so many new questions for urban research, for which changes a number of recent publications provide meaningful insights.
5By exploring different fields, this volume specifically seeks to better understand the dynamics of these processes. While the issues related to the construction and social representations of the city have long been central to scholars of the urban, the analysis of urban practices, of collective action and urban cultures represent an alternative and extension of these fields. This has required some epistemological displacements and led us to focus on original research or on research that, echoing the classic approaches, renews their vitality.
6More than exposing shifting political alliances, the perspectives opened by the “Arab Spring” and related collective movements, revealed the extent of socio-economic and cultural changes operating in local society. These popular uprisings raised the question of social linkages (alliances and urban sociabilities as opposed to fragmentation and ethnic communitarianism) as much as about the popular mobilisation surrounding the liberalization of public spaces until then marked by authoritarian control.
7By choosing for our title, “cities and urbanities in the Maghreb”, we have chosen to develop a perspective that continues the reflection begun in the 1990s in a context characterized, in the words of Isabelle Berry-Chikhaoui, as “a scientific turning point” brought about by research on Arab towns. The work undertaken has presented qualified “bottom-up” or “in-between” approaches which emphasize the interactions between institutional and local practices in constructing citizenship.” (Berry-Chikhaoui, 2009) These have given new depth to urban studies which until recently dominated discussion of the processes by which societies fabricate urbanity and integrate the outcomes in a process of urban acculturation.
- 2 Algeria is a good illustration of these points. Urban population has risen from 30% in 1966 to 65% (...)
- 3 Between 1977 and 2008, the number of urban agglomerations in Algeria went from 211 to 751. If the a (...)
8Since the turn of the 21st Century, the three countries of the Maghreb have entered new phases in their respective urban transitions. As home to almost 65% of the respective populations of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, urbanized areas have grown considerably to become denser with reinforced networks and urban hierarchies favouring the emergence of a metropolitan rationale. With the changing perspective, agglomerations continue to form.2 Large cities have continued a steady growth trend while small and medium-sized towns are experiencing particularly high growth rates.3
9Even before urban transition is completed (Escallier, 1995; Troin, 1995), indications are that it has entered a new phase. The various surveys clearly show that to varying degrees, the rural exodus is no longer the main driver of urbanization. Social dynamics and urban policies contribute to the endemic reconfiguration of cities, deploying, recomposing and remodelling themselves in response to local requirements. New spatial distributions appear as neighbourhoods age and decline, as new suburbs appear and as older neighbourhoods are gentrified. (Signoles, 2014) The complexity of the urban landscape and diversity of urban fabrics demonstrate the scale of this process.
10The first decade of the 21st Century was marked simultaneously by a densification of the urban framework and the reinforcement of the larger urban areas that, via a process of conurbation, have grown to become metropoles. The process was accompanied by a strong tendency to urban sprawl, a tendency that produced two different responses: an urbanism of anticipation, producing “urban projects” and scheduled planning (e.g., the creation ex-nihilo of new towns, the development of residential areas, the development of public infrastructure, leisure and recreational facilities and waterfronts, etc.) (Cattedra, 2014); and an urbanization which may be characterized as “of popular origin” (in the words of Agnes Deboulet 1994), i.e which responds to environmental contingencies as they arise. Both approaches are part of a process that is improving the housing offer. Housing demand is driven by claims of a right to housing for the most needy, by changes in the practice of co-habitation among extended families and increasingly, by the generalization of the practice of forming nuclear households. Housing supply has expanded to meet these demands through ambitious public resettlement projects but also by the explosion of unpermitted construction during periods of “official relaxation” by the urban authorities (Legros, 2014). New territorialities and new social practices have emerged and along with them, new divisions resulting from displaced polarities and the emergence of new centralities.
11The complexity which characterizes the North African city is exacerbated by a feeling of incompleteness, a sense of urban society undergoing change or emerging from one state into another. Cities often appear as ensembles with contrasting parts, discontinuous elements of a fragmented and disorganized whole. The hybrid nature of these cities “under construction” together with their social divisions and the fabric of their neighbourhoods are a testament to the “city in the making”.
12Evolving urban structures force upon observers a new critical approach to the city. Discussions that focused on a dialectic of urban space (the modern city as opposed to the traditional city, the master-planned city as opposed to the organic city) increasingly must account for urban fragmentation and new socio-spatial distributions (Belguidoum, Mouaziz, 2010). The integration of organic neighbourhoods into the urban fabric and the constant blurring of distinctions between the formal and the informal, between regulatory and non-regulatory contexts, has rendered ineffective the classical analytical approach and forced theorists to rethink the city as a whole infused with multiple and contradictory rationales. Indeed, understanding the urban phenomenon in the Maghreb requires a consideration of the compromises that result from the practices of appropriation of public spaces.
13In both local and globalized contexts, cities appear as living environments always in motion. They are contradictory places where the stakes are often presented in terms of access to material and symbolic goods. They are a context for the presentation of social relations and different means of spatial appropriation. At the same time, urban populations appear increasingly diverse and heterogeneous both in geographic origin and social condition. Needs and demands assume many forms. To understand and analyse these ways of being in the city is to plunge into the study of urban experiences in all their complexity and diversity.
14The fluidity and the volatility of these evolving urban societies today favour entry “from below”. Analysis of the design, construction and appropriation of urban spaces calls for enrichment in light of other perspectives. The present volume proposes a number of themes for reflection and enrichment: lifestyles, social practices and temporalities, social representations and the imaginary urban, social movements, demonstrations and protest modes, urban expression and art forms, the relationship between design intention (whether by designers, policy-makers, developers, builders or public users) and public use, the relationship between citizenship and the appropriation of public spaces, the daily management of living environments, and the reconstitution of socio-spatial arrangements, residential mobility and attachment. These are some of the substrates of urbanity and of the ways of being in the city that we wish to explore.
15For this volume we have approached the issue of urban processes stripped of normative or essentialist conceptions, which is to say, as "ways of living the city", as developed in the work of Michel Lussault, Pierre Signoles (1996) and Isabelle Berrry-Chikhaoui (2009), who, in a seminal article on the subject, provides a guide for navigating an “abundance of meaning”. Following the approach developed by Françoise Navez-Bouchanine (1996), which defines urbanity as being both a means of spatial appropriation and a set of processes that make up the city and constitute its agency, Isabelle Berry-Chikhaoui leads us to “overcome not only the idea of ruralisation but also of integration, reflecting either a normalized vision of the mystified historical city and urban ancestry, or a rational model of the legal and planned city.” Recalling the framework introduced by Rachid Sidi Boumedine (1996) which distinguishes between citizenship or a certain manner of “being of the city” reflecting urbanity and a system of representations, and a manner of “being in the city” which reflects social practices, we find ourselves compelled to understand the dynamic relationships between representations and practices allowing us to “build as citizens while acting on and within the city.” (2009).
16It is from a perspective which is both multidisciplinary and comparative we have developed this volume, and with special attention to making a contribution to the critical issues and high stakes of the urban issue for Maghrebin society.
17Rather than present bibliography of urban studies or an inventory of urban transformations, it seemed more appropriate to open new lines of inquiry and in so doing, examine the emerging aspects of the urban phenomenon: collective mobilizations, the comparison of old and new urban cultures, an historical study of which would provide invaluable insight. The study of movie attendance and territories where alcohol was available tells us much about the social practices of the past century, opening, at the same time, new fields for the study of contemporary practices. The time has come to open the field of urban studies to questions of everyday life that are insufficiently studied, and in whose light we will certainly better understand the issues confronting the city. Such practices rooted in everyday urban life are the subject of the first part of this volume. The second part of this volume offers a few illustrations as to how popular movements and collective action are transforming citizens, making them actors in their own urbanity. The third part of the present volume includes contributions that address urban culture, not as a constituent part or marker of one or another given city, but spaces for the expression of the tensions that run through them. Manifestation of the changes that are occurring within the framework and interstices of the built environment, these urban cultures are also an invitation to "read the cities."
18The three articles which illustrate this theme address how urban projects impact urban life and lead to forms of appropriation that characterize today’s urbanity. They shed strong light on a number of questions: How do individuals and social groups negotiate their social and urban attachments (social mixity and residential self-selection) and at what spatial scale: local (in terms of districts and cities), national and even transnational? How is the relationship between the designed space and the occupied space? How do government projects encourage daily practices of appropriation? What are the linkages between residential strategies and expressions of social identity (the nature of relations and criteria that formalize these linkages in the city and define membership)? How does one speak of one’s neighbourhood or residence and how does one choose one’s neighbourhood or settle into a neighbourhood? How are social bonds created, maintained or transformed given current forms of urbanity? How are forms of sociability maintained and how are they expressed?
19Considering the planned city, Ali Mendjeli as a laboratory of urban living, Ahcène Lakehal has worked extensively on the role local residents play in constructing and affirming residential identities. Over the course of 15 years, Ali Mendjeli near Constantine has grown from nothing to almost 200,000 inhabitants today. Lakehal shows how “inhabitants, employing skills from their everyday practices and playing out their own spatial representations, provide a relay for the public authorities, “rebuilding” the city, contextualizing its spaces and shaping its landscapes to give body and consistency to a shared urbanity."
20From an analysis of the profiles and residential histories of the people in the same way as J.C. Chamboredon and M. Lemaire (1970) were led to study large groupings in the context of group housing, Lakehal demonstrates how "the inhabitants will take centre stage in shaping spaces in new towns”. Depending on various social profiles and residential histories of the inhabitants (ex-slum dwellers, people relocated for sanitary reasons, beneficiaries of subsidized housing, first time buyers and property owners), a plurality of identities with varying degrees of community attachment takes shape according to a complex process by which attachment and rejection of the city are weighed and assimilated. From this new identitary space of reference for the ex-slum-dweller, from this place of non-engagement for those relocated from centre cities and space for multiple cross-appropriations for the new middle strata, there grew a city, with its attachments and contrasting identities.
21This plural and hybrid construction "reflecting ultimately on the ability of citizens to renew their vision of the city both generally and on the periphery, gives birth to and crystallizes a sense of belonging to a place (Ali Mendjeli) which was initially inaccessible, but which fosters a new urban identity that is fabricated by alteration or hybridization of an inherited identity (in this case of the historical city, the Vieux Rocher) or built up symbiotically as coexistent with the historical centre."
22The author notes that that which is at stake in the new town, augurs profound changes for Algerian urban society. "New forms of urbanity which are now being invented far from the traditional sources of urban habitat appear as fast as urbanization consumes peripheral lands. This sprawl cannot be understood as a reproduction of "the city of yesterday." The new urbanity is characterized not only by the large number of actors who contribute to its fabrication but also by the ability of the process to invent or reinvent public spaces. "
23Jean Marie Ballout wonders about "the social acceptance of urbanization and the processes which are creating the new urbanities". J-M Ballout’s field work has also focused on the new town, Ali Medejli, by comparing it to Tamansourt, a planned town founded near Marrakech some fifteen years later, in 2004. For the author, the relevant question is whether, “for the inhabitants, these ‘new towns’ are really cities."
24These two large-scale planning town experiments show contrasting results. One may conclude that Ali Mendjeli is "an emerging city", but that is far from reality in the case of Tamansourt. Ballout’s approach to the new city however, reinforces what Lakehal highlighted as a territorial basis from which multiple figures emerge in an ongoing process. At Tamansourt, there rises over the new town dynamic, the spectre of the dormitory town. The reason for these differences lies primarily in the underlying logic for each project. Tamansourt has benefited "from urban promotion…" that aimed for "…a fabricated geographic identity and imagery in lieu of what happened in the case of Ali Mendjeli, where geographic identity was built in practice."
25Another dimension of urban practices generated by structural urban projects is addressed by Tarik Harroud who shows us how the creation of a “new” shopping experience in Rabat can lead to the articulation of patterns of sociability and consumption practices previously unknown in the Maghreb. Harroud’s line of questioning leads directly to important insights on the emergence and appropriation of urban infrastructure and public spaces (squares, streets, cafes) especially in relation to identitary issues (anonymity, and social mixity).
26Harroud’s article deals specifically with the spatial and socio-cultural recompositions induced by the proliferation of shopping centres on the outskirts of Rabat, providing interesting insights into a recent phenomenon which extends to all major cities in the Maghreb. A product of globalization, this new form of urban consumption impacts lifestyles and sociability. From a first centre in Rabat in the 1990s, the construction of shopping centres has proliferated to become a leading source of urban attractiveness for the Moroccan capital.
27Noting the specific forms of social mixity and comparing these with a growing disenchantment with public spaces as centres for attraction and meeting places, the author invites us to ask ourselves "whether it is not in private and globalized public spaces where we will invent completely new forms of sociability." His study shows that such spaces when they are "well presented and offer commercial diversity" and "a plurality of non-market uses recalling the ambulatory practices of public streets" are "increasingly preferred by a broadly diverse public".
28Thus, the city produces new distinctive territories that challenge the old urban centralities. This phenomenon was also observed by Ahcène Lakehal in his study of the planned town, Ali Mendjeli. Here he observed the popularity of the El-Ritaj mall with the middle and upper social groups who seek "the support of distinctive brands in a space where the purchase act is the reflection of a strong desire for individuation and status differentiation".
29What are the forms taken by collective action and mobilization in cities? Associations, social movements, collective or corporatist struggles and urban riots, local power and electoral contests, are thee forms of mobilization that go beyond the prevailing "urban order"? Are they modes of integration?
30Any discussion of collective protest must acknowledge the almost daily reality of protests and the increased frequency of public protests over the past decade, particularly in Morocco, which is the primary focus of contributors to this volume. These contributions should be read in the light of statistics published by the Department of Interior and reprised recently (2014) by Abderrahmane Rachik: 700 sit-ins in 2005, 5000 collective actions in 2008 and 17,000 in 2012. If half of these protests occur in big cities, the entire national territory is concerned with 32% of protests occurring in medium-sized towns and cities and 18% in rural areas. Social protest is expressed every day through sit-ins, marches, petitions and reflects all segments of the population excluded from development, feminists, critics of globalization, Islamists, the Amazigh... The coming to power of the new king has been marked by reformist movements (for reform of the labour code, the family code, the Equity and Reconciliation commission, for laws protecting human rights and the creation of programs to fight poverty...) who have touched deeply the partisan and administrative systems still dominated by royal authority. Myriam Catusse (2010, p 18) detects three trends shaping the contours of public action and collective mobilization under Mohamed VI: the dividends of a neo-liberalisation (in governance and privatization...); a tendency to apply false pretences and technocratic conception of power, and finally, the emergence of a protest space that is transforming the terms of obedience within the regime. These trends reveal that changes within the regime can no longer be qualified as simply "authoritarian" or as "undergoing democratic transition" when describing actions directed from the “top down”. To account for the complexity of the interaction process between the state and the newly opened protest space, one should deconstruct the space and consider the protest dynamics in the interest of highlighting the gaps and margins of manoeuvre available to the different urban actors.
- 4 Work, employment: 291 cases (43%); Housing: 48 cases (7%); Marginalisation: 40 cases (6%); Politica (...)
- 5 Theory of resource mobilisation, M. Offerlé (1994).
31The contributions collected in this issue deal with one aspect of social protest in the cities of North Africa, the collective mobilizations around the housing. In Morocco, the 2010-2013 database of social claims produced by Abderrahmane Rachik (2014, p. 66) shows the critical importance of work and employment (43% of cases, 30% of youth are unemployed), but it also helps to highlight the roll of housing in these claims.4 Public policies in this area have fluctuated (Iraki and Le Tellier, 2009) especially following the 2003 attacks and implementation of the program "Cities without slums". Public effort to relocate slum dwellers (leveraging the help of private developers) has brought its share of abandoned and marginalized people. In addition, this volume focuses on social mobilization and the choices for action in the specific contexts of urban marginality (slum dwellers, substandard housing, inhabitants of city centre medinas). Collective action remains well defined, in this case, by attempts among local populations to organize a residential collective of households experiencing the same or similar social and urban conditions. The common goal of these collectives is the improvement of living conditions through renovation and relocation. For these groups, collective action is a means to pursue concrete objectives. Mobilization options are evaluated through two prisms: the internal mobilization of group resources5 (nature of social organization, organizational capacity, symbolic capital, mass media ...) and that of the external policy environment that defines the action possibilities. This concerns both the nature of the political regime and the mode of political regulation of these spaces and the collective action taken by other collectives (who can project the action onto broader goals, giving the movement leverage and ensuring ownership of the movement). No doubt one must insist on "mobilizations under duress" as does Frederic Vairel (2014) in his study of protester practices and militant tactics (self-restraint of actors, adjustment and avoidance of anything that might lead to direct confrontation with the regime), but it must be seen as a change of objective situation of structural constraints since the late 1990s.
- 6 See O. Fillieule and M. Bennani-Chraibi (20003) who quote E. Wirth and A. Raymond for Cairo in the (...)
32Several chronologies (A. Abouhani, 2014, Mr. Tozy 1999 Rachik A., 2014) may be proposed to account for the changing political context in which the collective mobilizations have taken place. All of them however, emphasize the authoritarian political context (from 1960-1990) marked by an aversion to crowds and repression, making riots the only means of legitimate violence outside of the political process or unionization. Indeed, calls for a general strike were most often the immediate cause of riots (Abouhani A., 2014). The place for rioting in the Maghreb (Didier Le Saout and Marguerite Rollinde, 1999) and in the Arab and Muslim world (B. Badie, 1987) resulted from the lack of alternatives to a stark choice: submit or rebel; A choice between, on the one hand, a central power commanding both religious and secular authority, and on the other hand, an urban population living in community but largely disenfranchised with respect to that group’s authority. Without attempting to note the many authors who have challenged this approach,6 we will retain some characteristics of the riot as proposed by A. Rachik from whom the urban riot is an informal, spontaneous affair, largely attended by young people between 12 and 25 years and lacking bridging institutions capable of mediating unrest and flare-ups in tense situations. These elements in themselves presuppose the failure of a political authority in co-opting opposition. Riots however, are often little more than the failure of protest by other means as is shown by Wafae Belarbi in his contribution, “Social mobilization in the peripheral area of southern Casablanca during the 90’s” and discussion of the riots in Lahraouiynes (a substandard housing area) in the Greater Casablanca area.
33If riots are spontaneous events in which seemingly independent events unfold as if by random coincidence, this is not to say that mob violence cannot be informally "organized" as was seen through the chemkara and the targets chosen by rioters in Lahraouiynes (the administrative seat of the municipality). This case shows the power of confrontation which is available to the general population in pursuing its housing objectives, even going so far as to use trickery. In this respect we can say with Olivier Fillieule, that there is a shifting boundary between the organized and the spontaneous, between revolution, riot and social movement as these are used in practice by protesters. At Lahraouiynes, the population, reacting to persistent unfairness, preferential treatment and administrative indifference took matters into their own hands, resorting to violence to redress the unfairness and ultimately to assert their right to build their own homes.
34This was, in fact, a breach of legitimacy in a clientelistic and corrupt system (between elected officials, agents of the state and the population). Al Fawda, a term used by the people themselves, means both, denial of illegitimate authority and desire for autonomy.
- 7 Between 2008 and 2010 the Interior Ministry recorded 8274 sit-ins (41%), 3335 marches (16%), 6209 m (...)
- 8 Article 17 of the Dahir 1-02-200 of 23 July 2002 stipulates, “any mass gathering in the public way (...)
35Beyond the debate over whether such populations are capable of articulating vertical channels of intermediation, and the more militant debate over whether such channels should be formalized through associative structures, it is clear that the populations of Lahraouiynes have, since 1996 succeeded in "negotiating the regularization of their neighbourhood" (Iraki, 2009) without passing through any neighbourhood association. Since then they have mobilized the same nonviolent actions (sit-ins, protest demonstrations…) that are seen throughout the country.7 This is a form of political participation available to ordinary citizens and a sign of the opening of a local political process which, while hardly democratic, seems to have its own operating methods including patronage, protection, and litigation. While these methods appear to be locally regulated, they remain under state control. Since the mid nineteen-nineties, sit-ins mobilizing small groups (tens of persons), have largely been excused from seeking administrative authorizations (Rachik, 2014). If the practice is broadly recognized, it remains subject to legal recourse8 which may, at any moment open the way to repression.
36Slum areas have not totally escaped this trend and with Habiba Essahel we review the emergence of these new modes of action, including petitions, sit-ins and marches on public buildings coupled with a certain sophistication in the organization of events (De Certeau, 1990): the prominence of women and children among demonstrators, instructions not to resist (passive resistance) and the staging of events intended to elicit emotional reactions.
- 9 In the 1980s and 1990s, residents of irregular neighbourhoods most of which had already been built, (...)
37A new fact, apparent only since the first decade of the new century, has been the use of the law and various protest modes to present demands for recognition of an urban status. In this, slum populations have been joined by citizens inhabiting undocumented housing projects (UHP).9 The illegal nature of property claims (whether squatting on private property or in the public domain) no longer carried the same political weight or economic risk (the constant threat of eviction) since the State (in the words of Muhammed VI) promised "cities without slums". The slum populations quickly understood their interest staking their claims for recognition on this promise. Recourse to the law has enabled citizens to identify shared objectives and so to unify the group. This new trend in mobilization, articulated around public policy, has also greatly affected the organizational context for mobilization. Thus, while researchers have often linked the lack of formal associations in the slums in Morocco, the poor skills of their populations, the pervasive nature of political patronage (read, protection) and traditional mediation practices of traditional leaders through informal structures (jmaa), the use of new protest tools (petitions, legal challenges and formal articulation of demands) have led to the proliferation of new forms of organizations, including and especially that of the neighbourhood association. These forms, while shedding new light on previously unknown skills, especially among young, often unemployed singles and graduates who are excluded from participating in resettlement programs, are simply a restatement if not a contradiction of the old forms. In this way, we see the emergence in the slum, of associative leaders who manage to transform local issues by integrating their own interests, recalling the rural cases described by Mohamed Benidir (2010). So long as the slum environment produces mobilization around collective goals (paved streets, education and access to public services—sewerage, water and electricity), the group remains focused. Interests diverge however when issues are identified with individual interests ( such as one dwelling per family) and mobilizations become categorial (enlarged families, exclusion of young couples…)
- 10 Like for the douars (slums) located on guich lands (a right of usufruct obtained through a contribu (...)
38We see then how slum mobilizations remain sporadic and ineffective against political governance and public operators charged with relocation (offer of differentiated access based on socio-economic category, relocation operations by successive waves and isolation of recalcitrant residents who then have to be evicted by force). At the same time, we should also note slum mobilizations that persist. These often involve a collective10 with a common goal (the defence of property assets in which they have an interest). The collective being united in a shared memory and a collective identity. Each individual participating in the collective shares an awareness that the group’s strength resides in the common defence of a shared heritage. The question of mobilization over time remains a function of the collective will to mobilize, and an expression of its aims and objectives. It is linked to the timing of concurrent events which may appear scattered but also to the involvement of other groups (D. Cefai, 2007).
- 11 The common saying employed during demonstrations and among associations clearly reflects this reali (...)
- 12 The Moroccan chapter of Attac the militant, anti-globalization NGO is very active against inflation (...)
- 13 “The commission charged with accompanying lodging at Sidi Moumen Lakdim”. This commission was const (...)
- 14 The INPBPM is an association which arose from the union in 2006 of various legal specialists wishin (...)
- 15 The AAVB was awarded via law no. 16-04 relative to the planning and development of the Bou-Regreg V (...)
39The social housing sector has seen the involvement of external actors in mobilizing residents. One may quote in this regard the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, which reports a new strategy for the radical party, Annahj Eddimocrati (heir to the clandestine Marxist-Leninist party, IIIa Amam of the 1970s) for guidance and mobilization around the right-to-housing issue.11 This association, and others [such as ATTAC Morocco12 or the Paris based, DAL (droit au logement) movement] have become key drivers over the past twenty years for increases in the number of housing rights claims. Slum-dwelling families address themselves directly to these associations who then create a Commission such as they did in Casablanca.13 Such new actors are reminiscent of policy intermediaries (Olivier Nay and Andy Smith, 2002), these "development brokers" promoting the development of African villages based on articulated demands (T. Bierschenk, J.-P Chauveau and J.-P Olivier de Sardan, 2000). As noted by M. Benidir (2010), "their basis for framing the local mobilizations seeks first to reinforce the legitimacy of their cause." They respond on the basis of "differences of interpretation between what may be considered ‘the public good’ and ‘the local collective interest’ by those who comprise the group “legitimate guarantors” (M. Benidir, 2010, p. 104). The case presented by Hicham Mouloudi is a perfect example. Basing itself on Hicham Mouloudi’s legal expertise, the National Authority for the protection of public property in Morocco (INPBPM)14 ended up taking upon itself the entire mobilization process against the unreasonably low compensation offers for properties expropriated by eminent domain for the development of the Bouregreg valley in Rabat-Salé: organization of awareness campaigns, sit-ins by neighbourhood associations adversely affected by the actions of the Agency for the development of the Bouregreg Valley (AAVB), the creation of a coordination committee to challenge the proposed compensation amounts... The INPBPM concluded by denouncing the exceptional legal situation in Morocco, that of the AAVB15, and recommending the revocation of the public agency’s authority, dismissal of all decisions the transfer of jurisdiction to the competent ministries and elected municipal councils. Extreme recommendations to be sure, but recommendations which were intended to reinforce the legitimacy of the Authority’s mandate to protect the public interest, a process which had been stalled by the impasse of negotiations with the AAVB.
40Finally, when in context and according to urban issues involved, the resources mobilized by the group to organize and sustain the mobilization are essential. The case of the Association Espace des Oudayas described by Hicham Mouloudi clearly demonstrates the role these skills were called to play in drafting a protest letter and press release, in authoring a petition for signing, and calling publicly for a sit-in. The mobilization as framed by medium or intermediate classes, benefited directly from cultural, social and economic capital assets sufficient to impose certain conditions upon the negotiations that followed.
- 16 We were able to confirm in 2015, ten years after the facts, the harsh words spoken by the agency wi (...)
41The three contributions of this part of the volume share a common challenge, how to place the collective mobilizations in territorial context. This context certainly concerns a collective, a collective memory, a population with given skills and mobilization resources, but it also concerns the representations of the territory. For in its territorial control (Iraki, 2014), the central government also has a memory of place, the result of successive layers of conflict, of attachments and protests in the area concerned. Thus, the symbolic weight of a territory such as that of Lahraouiynes, carries "in its genes" the riots of 1996 and for this reason, its regulation by the central authority will differ from other neighbourhoods of substandard housing,16 or of a small medina such as the Oudayas. As we have seen however, the demonstrations continue, with populations using the full range of tools at their disposal. This statement is all the more true when it comes to marginal territories of protest (M. Catusse, 2011) such as the Aït ba Amrane in Sidi Ifni (K. Bennafla, 2011) or in Dakhla (V. Veguilla, 2009).
42This discourse on representations and memory of a territory (see also Le Berre, 1992) reminds us of the contribution of Jacques Berque in studying the being of and the being in the cities of the Maghreb. In his seminal article, "Medinas, villeneuves et bidonvilles" (1958), he established a scientific perspective giving meaning to the tripartite structural division of the North African city in the post-war era, and for a long time conditioned North African urban studies. Taking into account the inertia of such a legacy, the cities of the Maghreb (provided that this categorization has some heuristic validity) can no longer be understood in that way. It would be better to understand them as moving aggregates, contradictory and fragmented. As Peter Signoles points out in his introduction to the Cahiers d’Emam issue devoted to "Urbanity and citizenship in the large cities of the Maghreb" (2009, p. 5), the inhabitants of these towns, "ordinary citizens" whether or not they refer to models of citizenship, continue to fabricate the city (...), and in all its dimensions – spatial, cultural, symbolic". Without entering into the scholarly debate on the difference between urbanity and citizenship (Signoles, Lussault, 1996; Berry, 2009), let us agree with Michel Lussault that citizenship, conceived as the relationship between a social actor (or group) and the urban world, is itself mediated by a system of signs in the broadest sense: words, speeches, icons, attitudes, specific uses of space, etc. so many paths, so many solicitations that consubstantially feed the urbanities that condition the towns and cities of the Maghreb.
- 17 See also the texts assembled by J.Dakhlia, 1998, in Urbanité arabe. Hommage à Bernard Lepetit (Arab (...)
43On closer examination, most of these topics are not completely new as regards urban studies on the countries of North Africa. For example, consider the possibilities raised 25 years ago in 1989, when issue 123 of the review Monde Arabe, Maghreb-Machrek, which, reporting on the debates of a conference held at the Arab World Institute in Paris, reprised the cross-disciplinary theme, "Space and society in the Arab World." Although neither the city nor urbanity was the focus of the study, it is clear that we will find in the same place, discussions of public spaces, languages, the use of space, the logic of spatial interconnections, limits and boundaries… A few years later the same review (Monde Arabe, Maghreb-Machrek, No. 143, 1994) hosted a special issue entitled “Arab World. Cities, authorities and companies” explicitly addressing the urban world. If urban practises were not evoked in the title, they were present in the premises of the debates, if only in the earlier formulation of the question by Mohamed Naciri, "success of the city, crisis of urban processes" published in a previous issue of Espace et Société (no. 65 1991) which he had coordinated and in which he insisted on the importance of a comparative approach to viewing the Maghreb.17
- 18 In a paragraph of his 1958 text entitled "a sign of urban planning," Berque expressed his belief th (...)
44In his 1958 article, Jacques Berque employed an original approach to the concept of urbanity, at least in its application to the study of cities in the Maghreb. If for him, the term remained proscriptive, making of citizenship a fixed paradigm,18 we should at least recognize his appeal to the power of symbolism and semiotics. It is through signs that one must observe and interpret the territorial and urban dynamics at work. This concern is reflected in the central chapter of the 1962 book, Maghreb entre deux guerres (The Maghreb between Two Wars), entitled, "Conflit de la chose et signe”(Conflict of the Signified and the Signifier”, in which he employed the elegant formula, "the colonial semantic adventure”. This detour through the colonial past is not entirely trivial. Consider that two of the three chapters in the present volume that address themes of urban culture, specifically adopt an historical perspective: one reviews the societal role of the cinema in Tunis and both consider the role of alcohol-permitted zones in both Tunis and Casablanca under the French protectorate (respectively authored by Morgan Corriou and Nassin Znaien). In the third cultural contribution, "Algiers’ Urban Spaces, an exploration in graffiti”, author, Karim Ouaras adopts a structural linguistics and semiotics approach to show that the graffiti found on Algiers’ public walls and spaces is a "practical language" which may be read as “saying out loud what society thinks deep down”.
45It is in “public spaces”, a linguistic formula now employed in everyday language, that the practices and urban lifestyles that we call “urbanities” find expression. Without wishing to repeat the history of this phrase, we should simply remember that public space is polysemous and polymorphous. Whether we participate in the purely urban or geographical, or in specific interactive or political considerations the notion of “public space” refers to a differentiated communication space (in the primary sense of a shared space) where opinions, values, practices and actions are negotiated and exchanged in a diversity of registers (urban, social, political, identitary, leisure and wellness, etc.), and where these may be contextualized in their urban settings (streets, squares, gardens, cafes, salons, shopping centres...). (Cattedra and Catusse 1998; Cattedra, 2002) More recently, the notion of public space has been extended to include virtual spaces on the web and social networks and forums, especially as these contributed to events that played out in the Arab Spring especially in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. (Najar, 2012)
- 19 We should note here that the word is voluntarily taken in its elitist sense, according to which the (...)
46We could however, just as easily add other shared spaces, including public transport, such as the recently completed Rabat-Salé tram, or new lines and public transport services recently opened in Casablanca, Algiers and Oran, where citizen practitioners of the city of different social and economic backgrounds are finding themselves obliged to mix and forced to learn new ways of socialization in full view of urban “others”. Thus Michèle Jolé (1999-2000, p. 209) was able to describe the centre of Rabat (before completion of the tram and before emergence of the “Arab Spring” movement). "The centre is ever more popular. One finds there the young and the not so young, men and women dressed in the traditional djellaba, wearing scarves, or in fashionable modern outfits. But it is not here where one will find the elite, the upper middle classes or intellectuals. The centre is for the masses. (...) “Nice people” are overwhelmed by the dysfunctions of the city, pervasive filth, sidewalks in disrepair with no sign of scheduled maintenance, intense and chaotic traffic. (...). As it is often the case, the wealthy city moves farther to the West, so it is there that are built the new ‘urban practices’”.19 The “well-off classes”, according to one knowledgeable person interviewed by M. Jolé, “have deserted the city centres which they no longer find attractive, not as an offer of public space and even less for shopping. City centres today have been usurped by the popular classes who find in these poorly maintained public spaces a feeling of citizenship." It remains to be seen whether public transport, in this case, the tram – to mention only this mode of transport – will influence or change these urban practices and representations.
47As shown in the web documentary, “At the centre of Tunis. Geography of a public space after the revolution” (http://webdoc.unica.it/fr/index.html#Home), reappropriation of the city centre after the fall of Ben Ali opened the way for a proliferation of public expression on all manner of subjects, ranging from calls for freedom of speech and the right to wear a veil20 to political protest, poetry readings in public cafés21 or protest gatherings in public places. This proliferation was accompanied by a liberalization of the acceptable modes of expression for individuals and groups that had previously been censored by the regime. The proliferation of forms of expression often presented a break with the traditional social, political and cultural life of the city. It was in this way that “otherwise neutral urban spaces took on new meaning for political and civic action, producing new discourses and engagement practices which for many decades had been impossible. This social and spatial transformation, arising as it did from an exceptional event, the Jasmine Revolution, highlights the potential for continuous reinvention of the public space."(ibid. “Project”)22
48Thus, in Algiers “in the total diversity that marks that city’s urban rhythms [and indeed, makes up the city] there exists a communications space where the normative and the transgressive confront each other” (K. Ouaras). It is a public space which takes the form of an urban wall transformed into an emblematic space for cultural expression in its broadest sense, through messages of a political, identitary or protest nature written in paint and expressed as graffiti.
49Public spaces, or rather "spaces for the public" is how we might describe the theatres studied by Morgan Corriou when asking, "What audiences attend screenings in this theatre?” or more to the point, “what projection rooms does this audience attend?” in the context of making a distinction (and not a separation, at least not in appearance) between the European and indigenous screening rooms that characterizes the city of Tunis under the French protectorate. These cinemas, "known markers of urban identity", closely follow in the Tunis modern quarters the areas where the larger cafes, pubs, theatres are concentrated and which, in turn often “give birth to new bars and restaurant which take their names from the old establishment and are frequently managed by older sites’ license holders." That memory is still alive, and we were able to gather recent testimony from the architect and urban planner, Jellal Abdeljafi. Basing himself on a history of the place names of the current Avenue Habib Bourguiba, known under the protectorate as Avenue Jules Ferry, Jellal Abdelkafi recalls that the “Tunis crowd” would attend a film at the grandly named Coliseum Theatre and then go for drinks at the Café de la Rotonde (for the testimony, see the web documentary http://webdoc.unica.it/fr/index.html#Av-Bourguiba, “Jellal Abdelkafi”).
50There are other "species of [public] spaces" (to borrow a phrase from Georges Perec, 1974), such as the spaces and territories of licit alcohol consumption in Tunis and Casablanca under the French protectorate presented in this volume by Nessim Znaien. An exploration that shows the differences between a normative rational usage and the regionalised practices of such uses, suspended somewhere in limbo, between “leisure” and debauchery. Here again, we present a web documentary by Mohamed Refai, a Tunisian student and cultural activist who speaks of the various patron groups (social, gender, political, leisure) in downtown Tunis cafes and bars in recent years, before and after the revolution: http://webdoc.unica.it/fr/index.html#Av-Bourguiba,"La Carte des Cafés" (map of the cafes) helps give a current insight to our present study.
- 23 Free adaptation of Ibn Khaldûn’s text, Al-muqaddima, Dâr al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, Beirout 1994, Book 1 (...)
- 24 Compare with the Colonna themes, Daoud, 1993.
51Urbanity as a lifestyle. Here is another classic reference for cross-disciplinary reflection on urban cultures suggested in this volume. A reference that follows in the path laid out by Louis Wirth, Chicago School of Sociology, in his classic 1938 article, "Urbanism as a Way of Life". Translated into French as “le phénomène urbain comme mode de vie” ("The Urban Phenomenon as Lifestyle") Wirth’s approach seems to anticipate a certain idea of urbanity, especially when the author insists on the “social heterogeneity” of the city arrived at through recognition of the "mosaic of social worlds" coexisting there. Even though this culturalist view has raised eyebrows among neo-Marxist geographers (such as those represented by Manuel Castells and David Harvey), it remains central to urban thinking in the region. If we look carefully, we can go much further back in time, to the very dawn of sociology as a field of study. That is to say – and this is not insignificant – if we go back to the 14th Century Maghreb and the work of Ibn Khaldun to find elements that highlight the “urban lifestyle” (declined in the singular). Ibn Khaldun believed that “sedentary culture” (urban culture) was essentially a knowledge of how to live in luxury and cultivate all the refinements that accompany it. And so, to Khaldun, living an urban culture consisted in living in such a way as to indulge in activities that lend a touch of elegance to the preparation of food, for example, or dressing, that we might consider “fashionable” or home furnishing that we might consider “interior design”. In short, an art of living that would be unknown to a Bedouin.23 Thus, like a subliminal reference to Ibn Khaldun, the “sedentation of entertainment” in cinemas in Tunis under the protectorate, as Morgan Corriou writes, can be understood as a form of leisure “related to the new urban lifestyle” (which none-the-less remains challenged by more conservative commentators). The cinema functions as a means of urban acculturation for newcomers, “encouraging entry into a compartmentalized society”. The prism of film, when functioning in the medina, demonstrates a cultural dynamism for this cultural space in the inter-war period that has been understudied. As urban society was cultivating a taste for talking pictures, alcohol consumption in cities such as Casablanca or Tunis, seemed to reflect a range of strategies on used by (Muslim) consumers who must somehow rely on their own more or less westernized skills: "Choosing one’s drink", “knowing with whom to drink” “knowing when to drink”. The consumption of alcohol, a practice which is prohibited in Islam is located somewhere between leisure and debauchery, between pleasure and disapproval, of the norm and its derogation.24
52The imaginary feeds urban practices which reciprocally lead to new urbanities. But urbanity (and the underlying imaginary) also finds ways to display images. It was mentioned – though not said specifically, the cinema is an icon of the city (in Tunis and elsewhere), while the city - do not forget - is imaged in film. Graffiti offers a track through the urban maze, capturing the dynamics of urbanity. According to Ouaras, the Algiers city walls abound with graffiti, messages and speeches in different languages and signifiers", Arabic fus'ha, Algerian Arabic, Tamazigh, French, English, mixed as languages and alphabet characters (Latin, Arabic and Tifinagh). The author adds that "graffiti testify to the Algerian collective imagination to the extent that they reflect the diversity of the social component and the multidimensional crisis that characterizes the Algerian daily".
53To get a measure of this imagination at work it may be sufficient to simply linger in the doorway of a shop in the medina of Fez, as suggested some 25 years ago by Mohammed Tozy (1990) where one will find "East and West" plastered on the wall, a motley palimpsest of images, themselves a product of political (and cultural, of course) imagination that three generations of babouchiers (cobblers of the Moroccan “babouche”) have managed to assemble: the faces of Lyautey, Mohammed V, Hassan II, Hassan al Banna, Nasser, Hitler, Arafat, Bruce Lee and Oum Kalthoum, with, next to the new map of Morocco (including Western Sahara), the views of Fez, Palestine , Andalusian Spain and Mecca ...
- 25 Picturing Casablanca: Portraits of Power in a Modern City, Chapter 1, “Urbanity as a Way of Move”. (...)
54It will be agreed, in the footsteps of Dominique Malaqué (2006), in his presentation of the 100th issue of Poltique Africaine on the theme “Cosmopolis, from the city, from Africa and from the world”, (“Cosmopolis, de la ville, de l’Afrique et du monde”) that "cities simultaneously present multiple realities; They are what they are, what they will be and might be, what we will see in them; They are the distance and time between them and the multiple experiences of those who take the road to reach them". So it may be appropriate to transform the idea of “urbanity as a lifestyle” to something more like “urbanity as a movement” (Ossman, 1994)25. The study of urban cultures and more generally of urbanity in the Maghreb through the texts collected in this volume invites us to probe the barriers of scale and disciplinary rigidity and in so doing, to transform the spatial frames of reference, improve exchanges and explore new approaches. Such a programme will allow researchers to explore the worlds which offer themselves for observation as citizens establish identitary anchors in urbanized spaces – neighbourhoods, city and metropolitan areas – or invoke constitutive elements of globalized local spaces which allow them, even oblige them to deploy strategies for negotiation and creativity of their practice of the city. Such considerations go beyond the local scale to implicate national and even transnational dimensions.