392 Claudia Cohen Hall
Concrete Futures: Technology and Decolonization in Morocco’s Urban Environment
Since the early years of the French Protectorate (1912-1956), Morocco’s political and environmental history have been entwined with concrete. Colonial engineers cast concrete as the quintessentially “modern” material—a means of securing hygienic forms of life in cities plagued by housing shortages, epidemics, and popular unrest. Cement production and colonial construction sites generated new forms of risk and exposure—from toxic gases to workplace accidents. Moroccan residents, artisans, and construction workers also repurposed new methods and materials in ways that troubled their smooth deployment within colonial modernization projects. During the urban uprising of December 1952, Moroccan protestors armed themselves with construction materials to combat Protectorate police in the streets of Casablanca. From its central role in stabilizing colonial labor relations to its disruptive potentialities in the hands of anticolonial insurgents, concrete tied Morocco’s urban environment to struggles over the possibility and the meaning of decolonization. This presentation will demonstrate how epistemic and political conflicts over who could intervene in the urban environment and how played a critical role in restricting the reach of decolonization—producing lasting forms of power and vulnerability in the process.