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Masculinities, Youth and Violence in the Moroccan Underclass: Young Men and Their Future Selves.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MoroccoMasculinities (Masculinities, Youth and Violence in the Moroccan Underclass: Young Men and Their Future Selves.)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2019-04-30

MoroccoMasculinities examined the construction of the masculinities of disadvantaged young men to understand how gender, class, space, and ethnicity (‘Urubis as opposed to long-standing urbanites) intersect in juvenile moral and cultural formations in today’s Morocco.

The research project focused on the emergence of juvenile subcultures and especially on the masculine subculture called tcharmil. This culture created an important moral panic because of its specific aesthetic extolling assertive masculinity and violence. Confined to a minority, violence, however, does not define the whole cultural movement. This is one of the questions MoroccoMasculinities raised and responded to clearly.

The tcharmil culture we observed is one mainly based on the display of non-observance of religious norms. The demonstration of alcohol consumption, premarital sex and tattoos are explicit and valued. The emphasis on this aspect, the most important one for this subculture, has allowed us to question the state of religiosity in a country where religious prescriptions were never challenged and opposed so clearly and openly in the public space and less by representants of the working classes. Therefore, one of the main goals and achievements of the MoroccoMasculinities project was to study and analyse the expression of opposition toward religion in a country that has been mainly understood these three last decades through the lens of social Islamisation.

The expected final results will bring to light new evidence with regards to our common understanding of Muslim societies as societies only religious. MoroccoMasculinities opened a new direction in the sociology of Morocco’s society by looking at it as non-religious as much as religious by adopting an approach analysing the rise of “disenchantment of the world”. By focusing on the use of social networks - the main platforms for disseminating this youth culture of moral dissent - it was possible to show the extent of the digital impact on the lives of individuals and in the decline of religious practices (and beliefs ?). Such knowledge is primarily important for Morocco as it can highlight the diversity of a social landscape essentialised to its religion. As the fourth largest partner-country in the European Neighbourhood Policy, Morocco’s ongoing social changes are of high importance for the European Union. The Moroccan youth, which number reached its peak, and its transformations of norms in terms of sexuality, intimacy, gender relations, individual freedoms, etc., represent crucial challenges for the future of Europe and the Mediterranean. MoroccoMasculinities is enriching with new knowledge worldwide literature on youth cultures, gender and social class in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
The project had four key Research Objectives:

• Research Objective 1: analyse the elaboration of masculinities from three points of view: historical, sociological and criminological.
• Research Objective 2: assess the transformation of gender relations and the process of decline or reaffirmation of gender inequalities and patriarchal-authoritarian models.
• Research Objective 3: understand the role of social position in the construction of masculinities and the quest for respectability
• Research Objective 4: focus on the role of digital technologies in shaping the transformation of moral order.

For achieving each Research Objective, a respective set of Work Packages with different tasks (fieldwork, literature review, press archives, data analysis, analysis dissemination in scientific articles and public events) were planned and completed (see details below). So far, all the fieldwork, literature reviews and press archives’ tasks have been completed. The knowledge dissemination was an integral part of the research work carried out in the project. However, and though articles have been already published and submitted in/to peer-reviewed academic journals, the analysis of the data is ongoing to produce a monography on Moroccan masculine youth cultures. The three countries in which I was residing or staying during the fellowship (UK, France, Morocco) beneficiated from the results of this research. There, I gave talks for researchers but also for student associations with an interest in gender issues, the MENA and the Global South at large. In addition to teaching, I supervised postgraduate students on their research assignments.

Besides the ROs, Work Packages concerning training activities were carried out (see details below). These WPs concerned the researcher’s career and her skills acquisition (specifically digital skills applied to humanities and social sciences). Through three training work packages, I was able to follow trainings in research and teaching at Edinburgh University and in France (LAMES-CNRS). During the research, I was able to develop new career and collaboration opportunities, to benefit from what the institutions provided in terms of training and acquisition of experience (teaching and supervision experience) and to transfer knowledge.
MoroccoMasculinities is at the intersection of two major societal and scholarly issues: the interpretation of cultural practices in an increasingly differentiated society, and the contribution of the study of Global South societies to disciplinary debates in social sciences. The study of social classes in Morocco and the MENA has been handicapped by the rigid connection between class and material conditions, a trend illustrated by the insistence on defining the middle classes by focusing on consumption. By contrast, this study helped to conceptualise the transformation of the underclass (Objective 3) in the region by bringing together questionings about culture, gender elaboration, male identity, heteronormativity, lifestyle, violence (Objective 1 and 2) and the material base of class structure, that is, unemployment, inequalities, and social (im)-mobility. Taking advantage of an unprecedented multi-sited ethnography, this project developed new paradigms and methodologies for the sociological analysis of inequality among the youth in Morocco. I aimed to disentangle concepts such as “precariousness”, “inequality”, “marginalisation” and “exclusion” by connecting personal biographies and ethnographied individual trajectories to broader transformations of mass education, employment, and apprenticeship, and cultural transmission of (non)- work. Looking beyond work did not amount to leaving unquestioned the (non)-working condition of the youths, but to heuristically relate it to the set of sociocultural forces generated, for instance, by information technologies (media, Internet, social media) (Objective 4) and mobilities (migration, transnationalism, markets).
Illustration of the project