David Crawford, Moroccan Households in the World Economy: labor and inequality in a Berber village.
Anthropologist David Crawford's book explores with remarkable ethnographic detail how a small Moroccan village in the High Atlas Mountains is interacting with global forces. Based on extended periods of fieldwork conducted in the Berber village of Tadrar between 1998 and 2007, the book offers an important and intimate perspective on imposing themes such as globalization, capitalist systems of production, and development, tracing how these are appropriated in different ways at local, village level. Crawford complicates the tradition--modernity dualism, taking pains to distance his writing from analyses that perceive the wage labour economy as a tide that sweepingly transforms an otherwise timeless and unchanging 'rural life'. Instead, he shows how in Tadrar 'a continuously reconstituted traditional order meshes with the (also continuously reconstituted) world of state power and capitalist wage labour' (p. 5). Crawford traces the different ways in which the world economy penetrates village life and its social organization--via labour migration to the nearest city, Marrakesh, or through state and international development projects in the area. He eloquently guides the reader through the village's complex power and kinship relations, which both inform and are informed by the contact with the outside world and often determine who is gaining what from globalization.
Contrasting his analysis to classic anthropological writings on Morocco, which traditionally focus on tribes, moieties and village assemblies, Crawford argues that the household, the takat, is the fundamental social unit from which ah understanding of larger social processes must start. In rural settings such as Tadrar, households are not only the place of 'food, shelter, love and security' (p. 50), but also the primary locus of work and the elemental form of labour organization. Crawford's perspective on the interaction between the village and the world economy thus begins, and is guided throughout the book by a deep and insightful analysis of Tadrar households' dynamics of production and reproduction. Crawford shows how marked inequalities within households, linked to both age and gender, and between households, linked to both imbalances between ownership of land and (ideally equal but de facto unequal) patrilineal descent groups, are reflected in the ways villagers engage the world economy.
Offering important insights into a largely unexplored aspect of migration, Crawford shows how young villagers, rather than choosing to work in the city, are often sent there by their fathers; their wages are then used to support the rural, patriarchal household, making 'the wage labour economy and the rural patriarchal household.., mutually sustaining' (p. 14). The book also shows how the village's interaction with outside agents, be it the Moroccan state or international NGOs, is grounded in power relations between households and conceptualized within the framework of patrilineal descent. Thus, the men of the village who invest in long-term interactions with national and international development projects are also the powerful patriarchs who own more land and belong to more favoured descent groups; having time for 'political work" (p. 110) and being able to benefit from it depend fundamentally on one's positioning within the village.
Adopting a fresh perspective on enduring anthropological debates on Moroccan deference to authority, Crawford extends the link between village social organization and its interaction with external forces by suggesting how, in Tadrar, the state itself is understood as 'something like a segmentary lineage' (p. 117), as a chain of men 'linked up one above the next in a hierarchy that leads to the king' (p. 13), perceived in terms of ancestral genealogical links connecting powerful fathers, more powerful grandfathers and deceased ancestors. But just as Crawford complicates the relation between rural and urban economic systems, he also complicates the relation between the all-powerful Moroccan state and the village of Tadrar, highlighting how submissiveness to and fear of the state is coupled with the carefully calculated appropriation of state resources and intimate acts of defiance.
Throughout the book, Crawford is concerned with the development of a specific theoretical framework for the understanding of globalization, based on the 'temporality of inequality" (p. 91). Crawford argues that the village of Tadrar operates with its own temporality of inequality, that of the patriarchal household and long-term dependencies between lineage members, while the city and its wage labour economy operate within another temporality of inequality, that of short-term cont(r)acts and the selling of labour for immediate returns. To understand social change, Crawford argues, one needs to understand how people are positioned in relation to these different, interconnected, temporalities.
Moroccan Households in the World Economy, offers important theoretical perspectives on the study of globalization and rural sociality. The real strength of this beautifully written book, however, is its powerful ethnographic insight. It is Crawford's ability to convey to the reader the nuances of village life and its interaction with the outside world that makes the book a compelling contribution to the study of both global processes and contemporary Morocco.
University College London
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2012|
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