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The Political Coherence of Educational Incoherence: The Consequences of Educational Specialization in a Southern Moroccan Community


Aomar Boum is an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religious Studies Program at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He received his Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 2006. He studies mainly the history and historiography of Jewish communities of Morocco and anthropological issues of ethnic and religious minorities in the Islamic world (


This article is based on an ethnographic study I conducted in southern Morocco during 2004. I explore the historical, ideological, and cultural background behind educational specialization among Moroccan university students. I describe how French colonial educational policies and postindependence Moroccan national schooling ideologies have created a national system of double standards that: (1) privileges French-educated urban middle- and upper-class students, (2) emphasizes the Arabization of the national education system, and (3) discriminates against Arabized, largely rural students, which have exacerbated regional educational and socioeconomic inequalities. I finally contend that educational specialization in noncompetitive degrees such as Arabic language and literature, Islamic studies, geography, and general law is the result of an ideological matrix I have termed political coherence of educational incoherence. Political coherence of educational incoherence naturalizes the reliance of certain disfranchised regional groups on a traditional preschool Islamic education that is largely based on memorization and inefficient pedagogy and is unsuitable for the modern educational requirements. [Islamic education, school ethnography, Arabization, school failure, minority education]