Moroccan Households in the World Economy: Labor and Inequality in a Berber Village


In the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, far from the hustle and noise of urban centers, lies a village made of mud and rock, barely discernible from the surrounding landscape. Yet a closer look reveals a carefully planned community of homes nestled above the trees, where rock slides are least frequent, and steep terraces of barley fields situated just above spring flood level. The Berber-speaking Muslims who live and farm on these precipitous mountainsides work together at the arduous task of irrigating the ...

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Moroccan Households in the World Economy: Labor and Inequality in a Berber Village

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In the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, far from the hustle and noise of urban centers, lies a village made of mud and rock, barely discernible from the surrounding landscape. Yet a closer look reveals a carefully planned community of homes nestled above the trees, where rock slides are least frequent, and steep terraces of barley fields situated just above spring flood level. The Berber-speaking Muslims who live and farm on these precipitous mountainsides work together at the arduous task of irrigating the fields during the dry season, continuing a long tradition of managing land, labor, and other essential resources collectively. In Moroccan Households in the World Economy, David Crawford provides a detailed study of the rhythms of highland Berber life, from the daily routines of making a living in such a demanding environment to the relationships between individuals, the community, and the national economy.

Demonstrating a remarkably complete understanding of every household and person in the village, Crawford traces the intricacies of cooperation between households over time. Employing a calculus known as "arranging the bones," villagers attempt to balance inequality over the long term by accounting for fluctuations in the needs and capacities of each person, household, and family at different stages in its history. Tradition dictates that children "owe" labor to their parents and grandparents as long as they live, and fathers decide when and where the children in their household work. Some may be asked to work for distant religious lodges or urban relatives they haven't met because of a promise made by long-dead ancestors. Others must migrate to cities to work as wage laborers and send their earnings home to support their rural households.

While men and women leave their community to work, Morocco and the wider world come to the village in the form of administrators, development agents, and those representing commercial interests, all with their own agendas and senses of time. Integrating a classic village-level study that nevertheless engages with the realities of contemporary migration, Crawford succinctly summarizes common perceptions and misperceptions about the community while providing a salient critique of the global expansion of capital.

In this beautifully observed ethnography, Crawford challenges assumptions about how Western economic processes transfer to other contexts and pulls the reader into an exotic world of smoke-filled kitchens, dirt-floored rooms, and communal rooftop meals -- a world every bit as fascinating as it is instructive.

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807133729
  • Publisher: Lsu Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2008
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,183,945
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Crawford is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

LSU Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2010

    Review Morrocon Households in the World Economy

    In the ethnography "Moroccan Households in the World Economy - Labor and Inequality in a Berber Village," David Crawford shares his detailed study of a Berber Village that is situated in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. This village is called Tagharghist. However, in the ethnography Crawford refers to the village as "Tadrar" since, "English speakers tend to pronounce "Tagharghist" ("the place of the steep gorge") as "terrorist" (Crawford, xi). The people that live in Tadrar are referred to as Berbers, because they speak the Berber language. Almost all of the Berbers are Muslim.
    The research for most parts in this ethnography was carried out in 1998 and 1999. In these years Crawford was collecting the material for his Ph.D. dissertation. For this research Crawford used the method of participant observation: "by which I mean eating, sleeping, talking, and working with villagers in Tadrar as they went about their lives" (Crawford, xiii). During his stay in Tadrar, Crawford spend time in three particular households. The household of Abdurrahman was the first one Crawford got to know. Abdurrahman is one of the wealthier people in Tadrar and his household is fairly formal. The second household whom Crawford spend a lot of time with are, "my neighbors, the Lukstaf family" (Crawford, 37). Compared to Abdurrahman's family, this family was much poorer. The third household of Mohammed Belaid and his wife, was the poorest household of the three.
    Overall, this ethnography was very clear and interesting. What I would like to know, however, is how the modern government officials will change the traditional structure of the egalitarian households. An idea for a next ethnography?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2010


    The village of Tadrar, Morocco in the Atlas Mountains has experienced changes, as the villagers attempt to break into the global market and become more economically successful and adjust to the changing times. Tadrar is made up of mud and rock, built along the mountain's ridges. "But most of the village houses are wound together into a central knot that rises precipitously fifty meters above the road in a three dimensional labyrinth of packed earth and precariously balanced rock.One never moves simply in or out from the village core, but always up or down, usually up and down along with more winding and turning."(Crawford 28). In the middle of Tadrar, there is a plaza, or assarag, with three streets leading out of it into the surrounding pastures, streams and storehouses. Most of Tadrar's land is dedicated to grain harvesting and the able members of the families will work to harvest these crops- managing the irrigation system, planting, and plowing. The fields, the ways of life for most villagers, are very important, as Crawford describes, "Sometimes fields are spoken of as families, such that a small field next to a larger one will be known as 'the son of' that larger one, the medium-sized one beside it the 'wife.' These families of fields support the human generations and flow through them, separating and coming together in ever-novel combinations as households arrange and rearrange themselves."(Crawford 32). This system of the larger plot of land being considered the father, is probably the result of the society's hierarchical system in the household, where the father completely controls the home, and his wife and children have no control. The Berber villagers are Muslim, and their devotion to the faith is evident in their daily life. Before meals, every person at the table recites the Bismallah, a short prayer in the Quran and the village mosque calls people to prayer. Because government schooling is only recent to Tadrar, a man that Crawford stayed with, only had schooling from the mosque in the village. From their Islamic faith, comes the village's sense of unity, that everyone should help out and take care of each other. "Combined with the Islamic requirement for assisting the poor(a portion of each household's harvest goes to the poorest in the village, for instance), households both care for their members and, to a lesser degree, take care of neighboring households. The people of Tadrar are boisterously litigious, but also deeply compassionate, exorbitantly generous, and kind. Selfless love and carefully calibrated labor exchanges coexist in the household economy of the village"(Crawford 68). Religion plays a large part in the lives of the Berbers, and some of the principles of Islam are shown in some of the policies in the village.
    Crawford's main mission is to show the transformation of Tadrar, and does this through comparing his early notes in 1994, to the experiences he had when he returned in the late 90s and 2000s. When Crawford returns to the village later, well into the new millennium, he sees that it has changed and developed, though he is not sure if the changes he is noticing are the product of the observer or the observed. Certainly, the observed, the village of Tadrar, has developed substantially since 1994, when he made his first visit. New houses were being built next to the village, out of cement and rebar, while older ones had been abandoned. Stone dams were no longer needed, as water

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  • Posted April 22, 2010

    changing Moroccan world

    Moroccan Households in the World Economy is a book that very eloquently depicts the way of life in a village in the Moroccan terrain. Different from other ethnographies of the time, this one goes deep within the activities of the Berbers to paint a clear picture of their day to day lives. Looking at their lives is like looking into a world completely different from ours and by looking into this very distinct society, we can better understand the way in which all societies function. Ibn Khaldun would consider these people as ones that live on the margins of society because they are so completely detached from the world we know. Even though they are not completely like us, they are necessary to know because doing so would allow us to extract different ways of doing things that might be better in the long run. Page 22 of the book states "this modest illustration of an obscure place may help us to trend more compassionately through the angry world we have inherited." I believe that this means that their way of life is so completely different from ours, from their ideas of supporting their parents after old age to their way of managing land to survive, that they can teach us in a way that we cannot teach them. They can teach us how to work together within a family and we can teach them how to function in a capitalist economy. The people of Tadrar are ones that might be considered to lead very secluded lives and are not affected by the greater world and vice versa. In reality however, as we will see, the shift that has occurred to a wage labor society in the city has allowed for globalization to spread to this small village. And with this change in the way of life, a change in the values of the society will also follow, as it is demonstrated in this ethnography. When the values change in a society we can see that the society changes in entirety, leaving nothing more than the memories of what it was.

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