Moroccan Noir

Moroccan Noir

Police, Crime, and Politics in Popular Culture
Jonathan Smolin
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/23/2013
Format: Hardback 20 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01057-5
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Winner, 2014 L. Carl Brown AIMS Book Prize, American Institute for Maghrib Studies

Facing rising demands for human rights and the rule of law, the Moroccan state fostered new mass media and cultivated more positive images of the police, once the symbol of state repression, reinventing the relationship between citizen and state for a new era. Jonathan Smolin examines popular culture and mass media to understand the changing nature of authoritarianism in Morocco over the past two decades. Using neglected Arabic sources including crime tabloids, television movies, true-crime journalism, and police advertising, Smolin sheds new light on politics and popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa.

Author Bio

Jonathan Smolin is Associate Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures at Dartmouth College. His publications include a translation of Abdelilah Hamdouchi's The Final Bet: A Modern Arabic Novel.


“[I]n every conceivable way a pioneering piece of research, one that is based on an enormous amount of digging in newspaper archives, and demanding the patience of Job in confronting any number of administrative hurdles and outright impediments. The resulting text is a triumph, one that combines a detailed account of the social contexts and profound changes in Moroccan society over the past half century with a series of astute analyses of examples of the sub-genre of police fiction. . . . Combining an analysis of the gradual liberalization of Moroccan government policy toward the press and publicity with astute discussions of reportage and fictional narratives both in print and on television, Smolin not only shows his critical acumen as a literature scholar but also offers a unique picture of social change in Morocco.”
 — Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania

“A very timely and well-framed book . . . opens up a new frontier of research in the domain of media and state. . . . fluid and successful in analyzing one of the most powerful institutions in the country since independence even without being able to enter its secret forts.”
 — Aomar Boum, University of Arizona

“Manifest[s] years of painstaking research that come to fruition at a time when its topic—cultures and practices of policing in the Arab world—could not be more urgent for students, scholars, and commentators. . . . Smolin fashions a new critical approach to the question of authoritarianism in the Arabic-speaking region.”
 — Hosam Aboul-Ela, University of Houston

“Moroccan Noir is impressively researched. Collecting the artifacts of popular culture in Morocco is no easy task. . . . Smolin’s years of dedicated work spent compiling these materials has resulted in a book that is, without question, an accomplished and valuable resource on a little studied topic.”
 — Journal of Arabic Literature

“Smolin’s research is impressive for its scope and attention to detail. Through archival research, interviews with key players, and media analysis, he has produced an invaluable study that will be of interest to anyone working on Morocco’s recent history of human rights abuses and moves toward reform, the role of fictional writing, media, and television in these reforms, and the way that the state both controls and reacts to the shifting terrain of security and human rights.”
 — International Journal of Middle East Studies

“Moroccan Noir . . . is a cogent analysis of the hegemonic process at work, whereby elite groups are able to reconstitute and reinvent themselves in order to preserve the overarching power structures sustaining their dominant status.”
 — American Historical Review

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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Style

Introduction: State, Mass Media, and the New Moroccan Authoritarianism
1. Police on Trial: The Tabit Affair, Newspaper Sensationalism, and the End of the Years of Lead
2. "He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery": Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop
3. Crime-Page Fiction: Moroccan True Crime and the New Independent Press
4. Prime-Time Cops: Blurring Police Fact and Fiction on Moroccan Television
5. The Moroccan "Serial Killer" and CSI: Casablanca
6. From Morocco's 9/11 to Community Policing: State Advertising and the New Citizen
Epilogue: "The Police Are at the Service of the People"