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Reimagining Morocco's Cultural Heritage for the 21st Century

Lecture | April 10 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 340 Stephens Hall

Ashley Miller, Visiting Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

In July of 2011, King Mohammed VI of Morocco (r.1999-present) endorsed a constitutional referendum that acknowledged his country’s plural identities and histories in an unprecedented way, describing a Moroccan national identity “forged through the convergence of its Arab-Islamic, Amazigh, and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic, and Mediterranean influences” (Royaume du Maroc [Constitution], pmbl., Morocco 2011). Subsequently, during the last six years the Moroccan state has embarked on a major campaign of identity construction supported by a gust of cultural heritage initiatives, including the construction of new museums dedicated to Morocco’s historical and contemporary arts, collaborations with foreign cultural institutions and international heritage conventions, and endeavors in cultural diplomacy reaching across the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, critics question the motives behind top-down efforts to consolidate an image of Morocco’s tolerance and diversity on the national and international stage: are such state-led activities truly oriented toward the local “democratization of culture,” or do they privilege global values over the cultural demands of the nation’s citizens? In this presentation, I approach these questions by examining the (re)presentation of Morocco’s artistic and cultural histories in a set of museum exhibitions recently appearing in Rabat, Morocco’s capital city.

Ashley Miller is a Visiting Fellow with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. Her research explores the intersections of artistic and cultural representation in Morocco with local and global politics of identity construction, historical memory, and heritage from the late nineteenth century to the present. She received a Ph.D. in Art History from University of Michigan in 2017, an M.A. in Art History and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from University of Michigan in 2013, and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2006. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation, the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and University of Michigan., 510-642-8208