This month, over at Talk Morocco, Hisham and I have proposed the topic of Moroccan citizen media. The subject has turned out a fascinating set of essays, some highlighting the history of pre-blogging citizen media, others highlighting the various blogger “coups” of the past ten years. I’ve written (and re-written, and revised, and I’m still not done) an essay on the importance of translation and bringing the mostly-Francophone Blogoma (Moroccan blogosphere) to English readers. It’s an exciting topic, and I’m looking forward to presenting it (yes, just in time for Hisham and I to travel to Bonn, Germany, to accept our BOB–Best of Blogs–award at the Deutsche Welle Forum).
In the midst of writing my essay, I paused in attempt to answer my own question: What is so important about blogging in Morocco, anyway? The answer isn’t complicated, necessarily, but complex. Front and center, in my mind anyway, is the sheer fact that “The Real Morocco” remains so inaccessible to your average American.
Without arguing over authenticity, allow me to explain: Morocco is, in the Western media, a land of mystical proportions, filled with bright colors and camels and souqs and snake charmers. Even India, historically given the same treatment, gets a more realistic picture nowadays, what with the development of technology and a slew of Indian-authored novels (no joke, and Indian readers take note: last semester, a visiting publisher told me that novels about India and the diaspora are the latest publishing trend, that everyone is clamoring to publish them).
Morocco, on the other hand, is practically stuck in time in the view of the Western media, and sometimes even in guidebooks. It’s nearly unfathomable to some that a Moroccan blogosphere even exists, let alone one over 50,000 strong (and that’s a low estimate). And though Morocco has a couple of contemporary novelists–most notably Laila Lalami, who writes and blogs in English–and a bunch more whose works are available in translation, that’s not nearly enough to reach an otherwise ignorant audience.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that those who would otherwise trust the New York Times‘ view of Morocco or ignore Moroccan literature would ever branch out into the world of the Blogoma, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try. Global Voices has, since its inception, provided (at least) a weekly look into the workings of the Blogoma. And now, with a strong team of three, we’re providing our best coverage ever. When I co-founded Talk Morocco last year with Hisham Khribchi, the idea was to go one step further and encourage conversation on a pre-determined topic each month. We’re growing–slow but steady–and this week will release our fifth set of conversations (previous topics include the status of women in Morocco, what it means to be Moroccan, and an outlook into the next ten years in the country). Eventually, it is our hope to expand into Arabic translation of our essays as well, creating a Westward- and Eastward-facing project inclusive of as many Moroccan voices as possible. The entire project is Creative Commons, our essayists come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we welcome virtually anyone to participate. So far, so good.