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Schmoll, Katharina (2019) Envisioning a Democratic Future : Voice, Gender and Citizenship in Morocco post-Arab Spring. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Building on conceptualisations such as voice and recognition, this research investigated the public inclusion of educated women from Morocco’s rising Islamic-oriented and urban middle classes from a media and communication perspective. At the intersection of Arab media and women’s scholarship, Arab women’s inclusion into the public has often been analysed within a pre-determined framing of self-empowerment and self-expression. This study used ethnographic research to examine what public participation and having a voice means to a group of Moroccan middle-class women affiliated with the ruling Islamic-oriented Party for Justice and Development (PJD) that is currently considered to be Morocco’s most democratic party. From a temporal perspective, the research centred on Morocco’s post-Arab Spring opening period, in which the PJD entered government for the first time. This opening period, which ended, one could argue, after a political stalemate and democratic setback following the 2016 national elections, saw heightened power struggles with Morocco’s deep state, the Makhzen, but also liberal feminists. I examined the complexities of what it meant to be in the public eye and the challenges the research participants faced with the party’s success. Concretely, based on nine-month fieldwork (2016/2017) between Rabat and Casablanca, and using narrative analysis as its main method, this research explored: a. the women’s daily lives in the public as well as their personal and sociopolitical aspirations and struggles, focusing on understandings of gender relations and family ideals, democracy, citizenship and development; b. the role of regimes of power (politics, media, patriarchy) as barriers to voice and recognition; c. the participants’ understandings of (mediated) voice and recognition, focusing on the ‘self’. This study argues that for the research participants, public participation and voice were widely framed in terms of democracy, citizenship and service for the country. The results suggest alternative perspectives on how media, women, and society in the MENA may be analysed and understood beyond empowerment and self-expression.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Dina Matar
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2020 09:47

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