"Yours or Ours?" Muslims Performing Selfhood in Moroccan Jewish Cemeteries Open Access

Driver, Cory Thomas Pechan (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zw12z624s?locale=en


My dissertation asks how Moroccan Muslims use performance of affiliation with the former Moroccan Jewish community to create their social identities and develop their idealized moral selfhood. The subjects of my research are the men and women who serve as guides and guards to and at, respectively, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.

My ethnographic research took place primarily in cemeteries because they offer a material space where performers can mediate issues of loss, nostalgia, friendship, ritual responsibility, authority, authenticity and cosmopolitanism, along with negotiating financial, moral and spiritual capital. Performers and performances of selfhood creation by Muslim Moroccans depend heavily on the residual material presence of Jews in Morocco for the effectiveness of their acts.

My research argues that the guards and guides use performances of ritual and caring acts purposefully to create moral selves that separate them from other members of their now homogenously Muslim community. As a means of claiming an authentic alternative self that is profoundly Moroccan, but simultaneously undermines notions of a mono-ethnically Arab and mono-religiously Muslim Morocco, Imazighen stress their close ties with Jews. Amazigh respondents perform Jewish rituals, like praying for deceased Jews, cleaning tombs and celebrating Passover, to preserve ties that connected ethno-religious communities for hundreds of years, but have ceased since the Jewish mass-emigration from Morocco.

Other people with whom I work use their ties with Jewish sites to harness power and prestige in their communities. For women particularly, running a Jewish site that is frequented by tourists who bring economic capital to rural areas can be a valuable source of social capital as well. Guarding a Jewish site is an avenue for accumulating a position of authority that she may not have another means of accessing in a small village.

Lastly, and most importantly, many of the Muslim Moroccans take care of graves, and seek to preserve Moroccan Jewish traditions, because they had a close Jewish friend or adoptive family.

This dissertation is situated at the intersection of Jewish Studies, the Academic Study of Religion and Middle East and North African Studies.

Table of Contents


Introduction. 1

How to Pray. 1

Performance Studies, Practice Theory, Shaping Identity & Creation of the Self. 2

Identity Interdependence. 15

Situating Work on Muslim Performance of Jewish Affinity in Morocco. 22

Theoretical Issues. 27

Parasitism... 31

Dissertation's Contributions to Scholarship. 36

Ethnography, Reflexivity & Humanity. 39

Sites. 43

Chapter Discussion. 49

Chapter 1: Orientation: Arrival and Framing the Work of Ethnography: 56

Getting There. 56

Doing Ethnography as a Nus-Nus. 57

Immediate Failures. 61

Outside the Gate. 65

Lessons from an Unpleasant First Visit: 70

The Stakes. 74

Delimiting the Ethnographic Task. 78

Chapter 2: Moroccan Muslims Locating Moroccan Jews in Time and Space. 82

Pre-Islamic Morocco. 85

Arab Invasion and Islamic Morocco: 87

Legends of a North African Jewish Kingdom... 91

Exiles. 97

Saint Veneration. 99

Colonialism and Differentiation. 102

Exodus/Contraction. 105

Return. 112

Comparative Research: Cape Verde. 116

Comparative Research: Oman. 119

Comparative Research: Uzbekistan. 122

Chapter 3: Passover Professionals. 127

Matzah Expertise: 127

Passover with Hamou: 131

Passover with Toudert and Rebha: 136

Seders as Performative Acts: 139

Passover - A Performative Case Study: 144

Quasi-Objects, Subjectivity and Noise: 149

Chapter 4: Guards - Building Muslim Authority in Jewish Cemeteries. 152

Places of Contradiction. 154

Sefrou. 156

Repertoire. 168

Essaouira. 169

Authentic "Experts". 179

Timzerit. 180

The Heart of Performance: Recitation of Relationships. 187

Rabat. 188

Chapter 5: Using the Audience to Create the Self: Moroccan Muslim Guide's Performance of Authenticity 200

Defining "Self" through the Other. 202

Farming & Integrity. 204

Trading & Formalizing Ties. 208

Prosperity & Trust. 214

Persecution. 218

Contacts and Boundaries. 221

A Strange Dinner - Weirdness as a Defining Personality Trait. 223

To Aghbalou! - Rural Power, Repertoire and Ethnopoetics. 229

Arab Idol Interruption - Why do You Care So Much?. 236

Drinking the Milk of Trust. 242

Moha's Friend: Mimi 250

Chapter 6: Blessings and the Business of Cemetery Tourism... 259

Attractive Narratives: Prying Tourists out of Major Cities. 261

It's all About the Guide: Shaping the Experience. 266

Why Start a Grave Tourism Company?. 269

Authenticity and Authority. 272

NGOs, Cemeteries and Tourism... 281

The Blessings of Jewish Graves. 284

The Essaouira Project. 294

Rehabilitating the "House[s] of Life". 295

Chapter 7: Expectations and Feedback: What do the Tourists Say. 302

Inward and Outward. 302

Moroccans Love to Say How Much They Love Jews. 310

Last Jew of the Atlas. 318

A Land of Friendship. 324

One of Yours, or One of Ours?. 328

Conclusion. 333

Chapter 8: Conclusion: Changing Flavor of the Milk of Trust. 337

Jewish Ties as a Mechanism to Create the Self and "Otherness". 338

Performing Alternative Histories. 340

The Material of Jewish Sacred Spaces. 341

Recommendations for Future Research. 341

Significance of this Project. 343

What's Next?. 345

Bibliography. 347

Bibliography: Non-Print Sources. 369

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