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Culture as Soft Power in Morocco


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Honours College Humanities Lab.
Students in the first year of their bachelor's programme who achieve good academic results and are very motivated, may apply for a place in 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 some attention to other foreign actors 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 LUCAS and in several other 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, partly concentrated in a one-week programme with Moroccan students in the Netherlands (dates to be announced), followed by an intensive one-week visit to Moroccan sites (such as Rabat and Fes), dates to be announced. 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 the dates designated by NIMAR for travel. Students who wish to travel earlier to Morocco, 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.

  • If you need financial compensation to be able to participate in this course, please contact the Humanities Lab coordinators:

  • Insurance: Each student will need travel insurance; its number will be communicated to the Humanities International Office, Educational and Student Affairs.

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.


  • Preparatory meetings in Leiden during block 4 (specific dates to be announced)

  • A one-week programme with Moroccan students in the Netherlands (dates to be announced)

  • A one-week visit to Morocco (dates to be announced)

The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Excursion

During block 4 materials 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.

Assessment method


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


To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the lecturer in 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

Provisional 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 participating in this module will be enrolled in MyStudymap by the Education Administration Office of Humanities Lab. Students can register for the Humanities Lab modules about two to three weeks before the start of the module through an online form provided by Umail. On this form students indicate the modules in order of their preference. The coordinators assign students to a module based on their preference and bachelor’s programme, in order to create a diverse group of students and equal amount of students per module Usually students get assigned to the module of their first or second choice.
General information about MyStudymap 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.