An encompassing madīna: Toward new definition of *city in Morocco

Hassan Radoine, University of Pennsylvania


While the general notion of madīna is largely familiar to a broad audience, its central importance to the making of the modern city and its sustainability as a dynamic component of the process of urbanization is often overlooked and deserves closer attention . A close scrutiny of the literature and scholarship on the madīna reveals the narrow scope of most approaches to its study, often limited to the points of view of a specific discipline or limited in time span to a specific time period. In the specific case of Morocco, these limitations have led to a narrow, limited notion of madīna, as an urban model confined within walls. The present study revisits the concept of the Moroccan madīna and re-situates it not only in its proper historical context, but also within a functional theoretical framework that provides the necessary tools for understanding the critical transformations of the 19th century with the advent of the "Modern" city. I will argue that modernization was not the consequence of direct colonialist intervention alone, but also of the local notables and elites who endeavored to transform the body of the madīna to better suit the European notion of progress to which they were increasingly being exposed. Furthermore, the motivation behind colonial urban policies will be carefully analyzed beyond the traditionally accepted categories of military or political justification. This analysis is made possible by the accounts of professional designers at the time, accounts often ignored by postcolonialist studies. Many of these designers were very active in disseminating their views and ideas, often at odds with the colonial bureaucracy. Because of these actions, the dissertation will pay particular attention to the literature on 19th and early 20th century urban contexts in Europe, where concepts such as "urbanism", "historic city", "conservation", and "modern city", later used in urban practice in the colonies, were first developed. This attempt at discerning the subtle threads that underlie the encounter of the "native" and the "colonial" in the field of architecture and city planning goes beyond the mere description of a historic period or the glorification of a urban model, and aims instead at the deconstruction of the Moroccan post-colonial city. It offers the basis, or the necessary background, for understanding today's Moroccan cities in their chaotic state and with their overwhelming urban issues. It is expected, then, that the findings of this dissertation will help professionals in the fields of architecture and city planning to formulate practical strategies for the development of cities, both in Morocco and in other similar urban contexts.

Subject Area

Architecture|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Art history|African history

Recommended Citation

Radoine, Hassan, "An encompassing madīna: Toward new definition of *city in Morocco" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225523.