In the name of modernity: When urban expansion is synonymous with land grabbing in Morrocco

SORAYA EL KAHLAOUI
  sorayaelkahlaoui@gmail.com
  

Abstract

2. One-Day Themed Conference CFP: The Limits to Capital and the Limits to Nature
Radical social movements and ecological politics (feminism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anarchism, radical environmentalism)

Being committed to modernisation, Morocco is experiencing a high rate of urbanisation, like any other country in the Maghreb. The city, erected as a showcase of modernity, is taking shape under the auspices of international standards that are used as a pretext in order to privatise non-regulated land reserves i.e. slums, informal or communal habitats such as collective land. In this paper, I will start by the example of the privatisation of the Guich land that is situated in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, in order to show how the modernity rhetoric underpins an extension of colonial logics of grabbing and privatising communal agricultural spaces. The lands of Guich Loudaya tribe are collective agricultural lands that were initially estimated at more than 400 cultivable hectares. And today, there is nothing left. Coveted as a land reserve, their status has been made vulnerable with the arrival of colonial rule that dispossessed the Guich Loudaya tribe from their owner status, by reducing them to simple usufructuaries. Now that the bare ownership has been placed in the hands of the Ministry of Interior, the process of privatising the lands has been made easier. The Guich lands, which have been relinquished at nominal prices to private developers linked to the ruling elite, have been used since the 1980s to extend the city of Rabat, and particularly to erect one of the poshest neighbourhoods in the city: Hay Ryad. The tribal inhabitants found themselves dispossessed of their lands, under-compensated and relocated to social housing in the outer peripheries. Despite the various struggles that shaped the resistance led by the Guich Loudaya tribe, today their lands have entirely become concrete surface, erasing therefore any trace left of the existence of this peasant community. By analysing the mechanisms of dispossession put in place by the State, this paper seeks to show how the colonial logic - reconfigured through the discourse of modernity - has implemented a dichotomy between progress and nature, a dichotomy that contributed to and founded the process of destruction of communal agricultural spaces, in the service of defending the interests of the ruling class.

Colonialism - ecology - class inequality