Friday, November 14, 2008


In the interest of literary style and a little ethnographic weight, I’ve been talking a fair amount about “Moroccans” as a general population in this blog. And in a sense, what I am trying to do here during these three months of pre-fieldwork is to establish a basic understanding of the general characteristics and dynamics of this society and its citizens. I am trying to create a base of general comprehension, before I begin to focus very specifically on a small part of this society (that being mental healthcare, of course).

I think it is important to get a sense of the larger dynamics and characteristics of a society, because without knowing those, it will be impossible to come to know its smaller sub-components. But I have also been worrying lately that I may be generalizing a bit more than I should, and I may be referring to “Moroccans” in general, a bit too easily. Generalization has been on my mind lately: Noureddine’s anti-West campaign, more intensive sharing of experiences with fellow foreigners, and the past week’s debate at the Nimar have made me a little more aware of what I myself am doing.

I don’t want to be a generalizer. I don’t believe in generalizing, and I think that if anthropology stands for anything, it is for the richness of human diversity, both between and within cultures. I remain focused on establishing a general understanding of Moroccan society, but I want to do so without losing sight of its internal heterogeneity.

Because if there is one thing one could generalize about when it comes to Morocco (and even here one should be careful), it’s that nothing is as simple as it seems. Morocco cannot be described in a few words, because there are too many histories, ethnicities, languages, traditions, and beliefs that come together here. As I have written in earlier posts, there is a duality that runs through nearly every facet of Moroccan society. This duality means that for every characteristic of society, every identifiable social dynamic that I write about, there is a large group of Moroccans to whom it does not apply, and for whom things work in an entirely different way. There are many others who write blogs about Morocco, and their observations are often completely different from mine. This does not mean that either of us has it wrong; it simply means that we are observing different sides of this complex society and drawing different conclusions.

And so when I write about Moroccan attitudes about marriage, I do not mean to claim or even imply that there are no Moroccans for whom this may be different. The same goes for what I’ve written about medicalization, the practice of Ramadan, masculinity, the psychological importance of the Western Sahara, and so on. I am recording my observations and indulging in my own analytical pleasure – and I will keep doing so. But I may, from now on, stress this perpetual presence of heterogeneity a little more, and try a little harder to avoid suggesting that any of the theories I devise applies to all residents of this country across the board.

I also may begin to revisit a few of the issues I’ve been writing about. I often write my posts early on in my thinking process, enthusiastic as I am about getting to know a new facet of Moroccan society. But – because nothing is ever simple in this country – as time passes, my analyses of these issues deepen, I discover deeper complexities, added factors, exceptions to the rule, and I begin to wish I could go back and edit all my posts; in my efforts to avoid generalization, I want to highlight these complexities. Suddenly my posts begin to seem a little superficial, as though they are only scratching the surface. A surface I desperately want to see right through… but that always takes time, I guess.

No comments: