Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

North Africa's Desperate Regimes

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

North Africa's Desperate Regimes

Article excerpt

North Africa's Desperate Regimes The Performance of Human Rights in Morocco, by Susan Slyomovics. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. ix + 204. Notes to p. 243. Bibl. to p. 262. Index to 268. Acknowl. to p. 271. $55 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Searching for a Different Future: The Rise of a Global Middle Class in Morocco, by Shana Cohen. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. χ + 144 pages. Notes to p. 161. Refs. to p. 168. Index to p. 177. $74.95 cloth; $21.95 paper.

La memoire du temps, Maroc, pays de l'inachevé [A Memoir of the Times, Morocco, Unifinished Country], by Lahcen Brouksy. Paris: Editions Publisud, 2004. 204 pages, n.p.

Le Développement Asiatique: quels enseignements pour les economies arabes? Eléments de stratégie de développement: le cas de l'Algérie [Asian Development: What Lessons for the Arab Economies?], by Abdelkader Sid Ahmed. Paris: Editions Publisud, 2004. 204 pages. 136 pages. Appendix to p. 137. Bibl. to p. 169. n.p.

Bouteflika: une imposture algérienne [Bouteflika: An Algerian Deception], by Mohamed Benchicou. Algiers: Editions Le Matin and Paris: Jean Picollec, 2004. 222 pages. Bibl. to p. 223. Bios, to p. 238. Index of names to p. 245. Contents p. 247. n.p.

A History of Modern Tunisia, by Kenneth J. Perkins. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xvii + 212 pages. Maps. Illust. Notes to p. 226. Suggested readings to p. 240. Index to p. 249. $70 cloth; $24.99 paper.

Science et pouvoir dans la Tunisie contemporaine [Science and Power in Contemporary Tunisia], by François Siino. Paris: Editions Karthala and Aix-en-Provence: IREMAM, 2004. 376 pages. Appends, to p. 391. Bibl. to p. 397. List of tables and contents to p. 405. n.p.

Le mal arabe - Entre dictatures et intégrismes: la démocratie interdite, [Arab Evil Between Dictators and Fundamentalists: Democracy Prohibited], by Moncef Marzouki. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2004. 181 pages. Appends to p. 190. n.p.

Regime change seems less of a priority for the Maghrib than for America's more favored stomping grounds in the Near East and Persian Gulf, but all three of the Western Mediterranean regimes that gained independence from France face mid-life crises as they turn 50 or try, in Algeria, to recover from an earlier suicide attempt. They are all desperately "performing" human rights for angry audiences at home as well as for overseas governments and investors, for whom they are also brushing up on the latest trends in "governance." This collection of recent books about Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia conveys some of the popular rage against these desperate regimes as well as educated observations about them.

Susan Slyomovics, a distinguished anthropologist at MIT, weaves an "unusual discursive formation" (p. 3) from her interviews with Moroccan victims of torture and documents their popular performances of human rights activities. She is less interested in the political gymnastics of states, but the title of her eloquent book has added punch in the context of this review: regimes, too, "perform" human rights, that is, they make a show of respecting them rather than actually enforcing the rule of law. That they have to pay some lip service to human rights, however, is already a measure of their desperation in the face of widespread outrage. The late King Hassan II, whose police services were reputed to be the busiest and cruelest of the Maghrib, created an Advisory Committee on Human Rights (ACHR) in 1990. His skeletons were already out of the closet as early as 1986, in the form of testimonials published in France (Abraham Serfaty, cited p. 22 n35), and even in Morocco, before the censor stopped Abdelkader Chaoui's book, The Unachieved Past (1987), after it sold 1,000 copies (p. 81). The king perhaps also anticipated that the end of the Cold War was diminishing Morocco's strategic value and hence making his regime more vulnerable to international criticism.

As they express themselves, creating new public spaces for civil society, Slyomovics' informants also document the limits of Morocco's newfound concern for human rights. …

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