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Representations of Black Migrants in the Moroccan National Imaginary
Kristin Hickman, University of Mississippi

Grant details:

A Black European in the Maghreb and the Racialized Stakes of 'Going Native' (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: A Black European in the Maghreb and the Racialized Stakes of 'Going Native'
Author: Kristin Gee Hickman
Abstract: This paper recounts the story of one particular Black European, a French citizen of Haitian descent named Jean Laraque, who circulated across French North Africa in the first part of the 20th century. Born in Paris to an elite Haitian family, Laraque was partially raised in Tunisia, completed his military service in Algeria, and briefly worked for a bank in Rabat, Morocco. Within three years of his arrival in Morocco, however, Laraque converted to Islam, moved to the Amazighophone Sous, married a local woman, and began working as a public writer who translated the complaints of disgruntled locals into the language of power: French. While Laraque was certainly not the only Frenchman to “go native,” in this paper I argue that the stakes for him were radically different for the simple fact that he was Black. Specifically, in addition to being subject to French anti-Black racism as a Black Frenchman, I argue that Laraque’s decision to live “à l’arabe” resulted in him accidentally “passing” for a Black Moroccan and thus being subject to Moroccan anti-Black racism as well. To make this argument, I bring recent literature on race, racism, and Blackness in North Africa (Becker 2020, El Hamil 2012; Scaglioni 2020) into conversation with literature on Euro-Mediterranean mobility in Afro-Mediterranean spaces. In doing so, I hope to show that stories like that of Laraque are important not only for the sake of “representation,” but also because they provide us with a deeper understanding of the social, cultural, political, and, ultimately, racial(ized) Afro-Mediterranean landscapes in which all Euro-Mediterranean subjects were circulating–including those who were “white.”
Date: 11/11/22
Conference Name: Mediterranean Mobilities: Between Migrations and Colonialisms, XIX-XX centuries (University of Bologna)