Textiles, Craft, and Precarity in Colonial and Post-Colonial Morocco
This paper explores what it means to be a "traditional" textile artisan in a modern, globalizing economy. The discussion examines three discourses that converge on artisanal textile production in colonial and post-colonial Morocco: fair trade and development-motivated representations of "craft"; colonial administrative and scholarly analyses of the Moroccan craft sector; and the words and biographies of contemporary artisans. The argument draws on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco, research in the archives of the French Protectorate (1912-1956), and analysis of published colonial scholarship, post-colonial handicrafts policy, and representations of "traditional" crafts and their makers in today's global marketplace. While these discourses partially align in their mutual ambivalence towards capitalism, the ways they cast the relationship between artisans and their labor differ substantially. This research explores the concept of alienation within these various discourses, and troubles its relevance to scholarship on contemporary craft in non-Western contexts.