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Rural Rebellion in the Post-colonial Rif: Peripheralization and Political Tension
Starting in 1955 and persisting until the end of the decade, rural Morocco experienced a series of uprisings, even as colonial administration ended in 1956. This paper examines why uprisings in the Rif and Central Atlas Mountains occurred in the few years following independence, and additionally evaluates the application of theories regarding state formation and the center-periphery model to understanding the movement’s motivations. I argue that the uprisings challenged the state’s projection of authority in the Middle Atlas and Rif Mountains rather than the legitimacy of the state’s authority to govern there. Stein Rokkan’s writings on the center-periphery model inform the paper’s approach to peripheralization. The paper additionally uses the theory on peasant and highland uprisings developed by James C. Scott, though it argues that Scott’s theory of state evasion inadequately explains the outbreak of insurrections in rural areas following independence. Archived news stories from Le Monde and the New York Times from between 1956 and 1959 track the progression and evolution of the movements until their end. Diplomatic records and the writings of foreign observers provide detailed accounts of Moroccan politics and the military actions which shaped the movement’s trajectory and outcome. Writings produced by Moroccans during and after the uprisings, in addition to interviews collected by Tarik El Idrissi in his documentary Rif 58-59: Briser le Silence, reveal the perspective of the communities in which members participated in the uprisings. David M. Hart’s ethnography, The Aith Waryaghar of the Moroccan Rif, proved an invaluable resource for providing additional local perspectives. The paper discusses two conflicting perspectives on tensions in the Rif, one privileged political tensions, and one systematic peripheralization. I find that an amalgamation of the two perspectives is required to better understand the events between 1957 and 1959: both political tensions between royalists and Istiqlal party proponents, and increasing peripheralization of the Rif following independence, created the set of conditions that led to the uprisings. This paper contributes a nuanced approach to social movements and state avoidance in the immediate aftermath of independence and details the fraught position in which some in the periphery found themselves during this period.
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