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Culture as Soft Power in Morocco


*Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus crisis, we cannot offer this class this academic year. If you were selected for this class and need to follow a Bachelor Honours Class in order to graduate this academic year, please contact *

Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.

PLEASE NOTE: Are you a third-year student and will you graduate this summer? Please check with the education information centre of your bachelor ’s programme what the deadline is for registering your bachelor and honours grades in uSis? If this does not conflict with the schedule of the summer school, you can apply for the summer school.

Key words:

Skills: (international) student collaboration, understanding policy processes and documents, writing report, presenting, visual documentation.
Topics: culture, cultural politics, cultural diplomacy, international relations, Morocco, museums, heritage (archaeology, architecture, intangible), nationalism, identity, art collecting, Islam art.
Disciplines: history, archaeology, anthropology, museum- and heritage studies, political science, international relations, urban studies.


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 tells 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 heritage politics 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, but might amount to approx. 200 euros).

  • Transport from Casablanca airport to the Nimar is provided by the Nimar only on May 31st and June 6th. Students who wish to travel earlier to, or return later are expected to arrange their own transport to the Nimar.

  • 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, before departure.

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.

Programme and timetable:

The program will look as follows:

During block 4 knowledge clips will be shared on Blackboard. Students will read the required literature and prepare assignments via blended learning. Students will meet in Leiden prior to the fieldwork week on the following dates:

15 April 2020 17:00-19:00 hrs
22 April 2020 17:00-19:00 hrs
29 April 2020 17:00-19:00 hrs
The location will be room C006 in the Old Observatory in Leiden.

This Honours Class includes a one-week stay in Morocco with excursions, lectures and student presentations, from 1 until 5 June (May 31st and June 6th are for transfer).

Sunday 31 May 2020

  • Flight Amsterdam – Casablanca

  • Transfer from Casablanca Airport to Rabat

  • To host families

Monday 1 June 2020: Rabat

  • Introduction to the program at NIMAR by Léon Buskens & Mohammed Saïd El Mortaji

  • Tajine Lunch at NIMAR

  • Afternoon: Rabat Museums (Mohammed VI and Archaeology) and city walk: ville nouvelle, medina, Oudaya

  • Dinner at host families

Tuesday 2 June 2020: Excursion to Salé

  • Visit to the city of Salé with Mohamed Krombi and neighbouring countryside (Musée Belghazi; Mehdia; Forêt de Ma‘mora)

  • Summing up and teamwork at NIMAR

  • Dinner at host families

Wednesday 3 June 2020: Excursion to Casablanca

  • Jewish museum

  • Synagogue and intangible Jewish musical heritage, lecture by Vanessa Paloma Elbaz

  • Lunch at Cercle juif

  • City walk studying architectural heritage (ville nouvelle and médina) with Lahbib El Moumni/Casamémoire

  • Summing up and teamwork at NIMAR

  • Dinner at host families

Thursday 4 June: Excursion to Fes

  • View from Merinid tombs

  • City walk, with Museum for Islamic art, synagogue, Qarawiyyin, Tijaniyya sanctuary and Madrasa-s

Friday 5 June 2020: Rabat

  • Presentations of team work

  • Culinary heritage: Couscous lunch at NIMAR

  • University Mohammed V: foreign cultural institutes

  • Summing up

  • Farewell dinner

Saturday 6 June 2020: Return to the Netherlands

  • Transfer from Rabat to Casablanca Airport

  • Flight Casablanca-Amsterdam


Rabat, Morocco.
Lectures and seminars at NIMAR and excursions and assignments in Rabat, Salé, Casablanca and Fes.

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.)

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • (Video) lectures and readings: 6 x 10 hours = 60 hours

  • One-week stay in Morocco with excursions, lectures, assignments and accommodation in host families: 60 hours

  • Final assignment: 20 hours

Assessment method:

The assessment methods will look as follows:

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



Registration process:

Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday the 4th of November up to and including Thursday the 14th of November until 23:59 o'clock through the Honours Academy. The registration link will be posted on the student website of the Honours Academy.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally after successful completion of the Bachelor Honours Class.


Prof.dr. Léon Buskens: