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Culture as Soft Power in Morocco - The Poetics and Politics of Museums and Heritage


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab.
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma, or completed your first year, within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Morocco has witnessed during the last two decades a tremendous increase and renewal of cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, monuments, festivals, art fairs and theatres. The government, enterprises, and civil society are involved. The new institutions tell stories of local or national identity, are powerful expressions of conspicuous consumption, try to attract high quality tourists, and to forge strategic international relations. The Moroccan government has successfully lobbied for UNESCO recognition of heritage sites and cultural practices. Recently the Maghreb states managed to transform their rivalry about the recognition of couscous as intangible heritage into a regional alliance. Morocco uses culture in its claims for political and economic leadership in Africa. At grass roots level, local associations try to further their own interests through claims on tangible and intangible heritage, partly in the form of landscapes, nature and immovable property, also contesting official narratives.
These new developments make Morocco an interesting case study for a critical approach to museum- and politics studies from several perspectives. The course scrutinises cultural policies in relation to politics and economics. Recently the means for cultural cooperation between the Netherlands and Morocco have been greatly increased, aiming at the strengthening of bilateral ties and of Moroccan civil society. A comparison with Dutch policies is part of the programme, while we also pay attention to the presence of countries such as China, Turkey, France, Spain and the USA in Morocco.
The Netherlands Institute in Morocco (NIMAR) is both part of Leiden University and of the Dutch embassy in Rabat. It is a privileged place to study Moroccan cultural policies and international relations from many conceptual and disciplinary angles and disciplines, such as history, archaeology, anthropology, museum studies, political science, law, international studies and international relations, urban studies etc. NIMAR joins forces for this class with Leiden based initiatives in museum- and heritage studies grounded in several faculties and in the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS).
The programme consists of preparatory meetings in Leiden and the study of on-line material and literature, followed by an intensive one-week visit to Moroccan sites (Rabat, Casablanca and Fes). Students from Leiden will work together with Moroccan students on a specific case study, on which they will report in writing and in visual media. It encourages exchange and peer learning, confronting participants with the benefits of combining various disciplines. A major aim of this course is to study grand issues at a local level through a close look at specific cases.

Practical details & Finances

  • Students are expected to book & pay for their own flight to Morocco (the fare varies depending on date of booking etc,).

  • Transport from Casablanca airport to Rabat is provided by NIMAR only on Sunday June 26th and Saturday July 2nd. Students who wish to travel earlier to, or return later are expected to arrange their own transport from and to the airport.

  • All other expenses besides local travel and accommodation (i.e. meals, entry fees for visits not included in the programme, etc) are to be paid for by the students.

  • Insurance: Each student will need travel insurance; its number will be communicated to the Humanities International Office, Educational and Student Affairs.
    Please note that the course may have to be cancelled or changed due to COVID-19 regulations

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the class you will have acquired both specific knowledge on Morocco and generic skills, such as:

  • a solid understanding of cultural policies in Morocco and its actors, mainly focused on museums and heritage sites, aimed both at national and international audiences;

  • a critical view on cultural policies and processes of heritage formation, at international, national, and local levels, fed by multiple disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, through the application of key concepts and a comparative approach;

  • to collaborate at a case study together with fellow students from your own and a foreign university and to rework it into a written report accompanied by visual content;

  • an understanding of policy making and implementation which will be useful for students who consider to pursue a career either in cultural field, in cultural policy making, or in international relations.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

During block 4 knowledge clips will be shared on Brightspace. Students will read the required literature and prepare assignments via blended learning. They will meet in Leiden prior to the fieldwork week.
This course includes a one-week stay in Morocco with excursions, lectures and student presentations, from 27 June until 1 July 2022.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Preparatory assignments 20 %
In situ assignments 40 %
Final assignment 40 %


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the lecturer and/ or the Humanities Lab coordinatorsin advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of a resit. Contact the course lecturer for more information.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Baldinetti, Anna & Boutieri, Charis; 2018; National Identities after 2011: Interrogating the Politics of Culture and Relations of Soft Power in the Maghrib; in: The Journal of North African Studies 23(2018) no. 3, pp. 373-377. (5 pp.)
Harrison, Rodney; 2013; Heritage. Critical Approaches; London: Routledge; chapters 1-2, pp. 1-41. (41 pp.)
Herzfeld, Michael; 2015; “Heritage and the Right to the City: When Securing the Past Creates Insecurity in the Present,” Heritage and Society 8(2015) 3-23. (21 pp.)

Moroccan Politics and History
Becker, Cynthia J.; 2009; Art, self-censorship, and public discourse: contemporary Moroccan artists at the crossroads. Contemporary Islam, 3(2009) no. 2, 143-166. (24 pp.)
Cherti, Myriam & Collyer, Michael; 2015; Immigration and Pensée d’Etat: Moroccan Migration Policy Changes as Transformation of ‘Geopolitical Culture’; in: The Journal of North African Studies 20(2015) no. 4, pp. 590-604. (15 pp.)
Graiouid, Said & Belghazi, Taieb; 2013; Cultural Production and Cultural Patronage in Morocco: The State, the Islamists, and the Field of Culture; in: Journal of African Cultural Studies, 25(2013) no. 3, pp. 261-274. (14 pp.)
Hill, J.N.C.; 2018; Authoritarian Resilience in Morocco after the Arab Spring: A Critical Assessment of Educational Exchanges in Soft Power; in: The Journal of North African Studies 23(2018) no. 3, pp. 373-377. (19 pp.)
Medici, Lorenzo; 2018; The Promotion of Linguistic Rights before and after 2011: UNESCO’s Role in the Maghrib; in: The Journal of North African Studies 23(2018) no. 3, pp. 440-459. (20 pp.)
Pennell, C.R.; 2017; How and Why to Remember the Rif war (1921-2021); The Journal of North African Studies 22(2017) no. 5, pp. 798-820. (23 pp.)

Museums and Objects
Boum, Aomar; 2010; The Plastic Eye: The Politics of Jewish Representation in Moroccan Museums; in: Ethnos 75(2010) no. 1, pp. 49-77. (29 pp.)
Pieprzak, Katarzyna; 2003; Citizens and subjects in the bank: corporate visions of modern art and Moroccan identity; in: The Journal of North African Studies 8(2003) no. 1, pp. 131-154. (24 pp.)

Festivals and Fairs
Aït Mous, Fadma & Wazif, Mohamed; 2008; Summer Festivals in Morocco: International Influence and a Factor of Social Cohesion; in: Panorama (2008), pp. 295-299. (5 pp.)
Boum, Aomar; 2012;“Sacred Week”: Re-Experiencing Jewish-Muslim Coexistence in Urban Moroccan Space; in: Bowman, Glenn (ed.); 2012; Sharing the Sacra. The Politics and Pragmatics of Intercommunal relations around Holy Places; New York & Oxford: Berghahn; pp. 139-155. (17 pp.)
Boum, Aomar; 2012; Festivalizing Dissent in Morocco; in: Middle East Report no. 263 (2012), pp. 22-25. (4 pp.)
Kapchan, Deborah; 2008; The Festive Sacred and the Fetish of Trance. Performing the Sacred at the Essaouira Gnawa Festival; in: Gradhiva n.s. no. 7(2008), pp. 52-67; (16pp.)

Medina and Monuments
Berriane, Johara; 2015; Pilgrimage, Spiritual Tourism and the Shaping of Transnational ‘Imagined Communities’: The Case of the Tidjani Ziyara to Fez; in: International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage 3(2015) no. 2, article 4. (10pp.)
McGuiness, Justin & Mouhli, Zoubeïr; 2012; Restoration Dramas: Home Refurbishment in Historic Fès (Morocco), 2000-2009; in: The Journal of North African Studies 17(2012) no. 4, pp. 607-708. (12 pp.)


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered in uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab. Students register for the Humanities Lab modules through an online form, more information will be provided by Umail.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.