Cultural robbery, the carceral system and the settler coloniality of multiculturalism in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara

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Cultural appropriation or exploitation in Settler Colonial Studies occurs when a settler group adopts the cultural practices of the Indigenous group. Appropriation often compounds the marginalization and silencing of the Indigenous group, and therefore overlaps with, and facilitates, the settler colonial tactic of cultural domination. The latter seeks to eliminate the Indigenous group by way of forced assimilation into the dominant settler culture. In this paper, I focus on the purpose and intended effect of the parallel pursuit of cultural exploitation and cultural domination. I argue that the side-by-side enactment of such settler colonial strategies amounts to cultural robbery: the settler state ensures exclusive use or possession of Indigenous cultural practices, markers and heritage. It adopts the latter as its own while simultaneously prohibiting – through the carceral system - the use and practice of the culture by the Indigenous community. Using the case of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, I focus on the evolution of Morocco’s settler colonial strategies in the cultural realm from its 1975 invasion of Western Sahara until today. I argue that Morocco’s policy of cultural domination over the Indigenous Saharawi population, initially enacted alongside other settler colonial genocidal policies, has made way for cultural appropriation alongside domination. This is, I argue, part of a wider Moroccan regime effort to mobilize ‘multiculturalism’ to quell political opposition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-244
Number of pages20
JournalState Crime Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2024

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