"The mosque and the satellite":
Media and adolescence in a Moroccan town

Susan S. Davis
Douglas A. Davis[2]


The exposure of young people in a semi-rural Moroccan town to a variety of Western, Middle Eastern, and locally-produced media increased rapidly during the 1980s, a period of rapid social change. Media images included economic affluence, relatively free sexual behavior, and nontraditional social roles for females. Data collected mainly in 1982 reveal relationships between media exposure and adolescents' use of media images in their social behavior, choice of mate, and career aspirations. Male adolescents were exposed to more Western media and were able to develop a more individual taste, but both sexes appeared eager to reconcile traditional Islamic and contemporary media-relayed values.
Our title was suggested by Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi's response to a question about how she dealt with Islam as a feminist. "As a Muslim woman living in 1993, I want to have two things: the mosque and the satellite, both at the same time (Mernissi 1993)." Her explanation made it clear that the mosque stood for her Islamic cultural heritage, and the satellite for access to western technology and its products. She wants, not one to replace the other, but to combine them creatively. In this she echoes the ambitions of many Moroccan youth who have similar goals, though perhaps less well articulated.

We have followed Zawiya residents' growing involvement with electronic media for 29 years, since Susan arrived in this rural town in 1965 as the first American Peace Corps volunteer and found nothing more than a few radios in the more affluent homes. When we returned from a year of fieldwork in 1982 to compare notes with the other members of the Harvard Adolescence Project, we were struck by the pervasiveness and manifest similarity of adolescents' media experience across developing countries. English-speaking Inuit (Eskimo) youth 300 miles north of the Arctic circle were sitting with their Inuktitut-speaking parents, watching "The Love Boat" or southern Canadian hockey; young men in an Aboriginal settlement in northern Australia were dressing like Afro-American teens and listening to reggae; and Moroccans were discovering Dolly Parton and arguing over who shot J.R. Ewing. These superficial similarities in media exposure suggested a universal experience mediated by Western television, films, and popular music -- but it proved difficult to establish that Canadian Inuit, Australian Aboriginal, or rural Moroccan youth were in fact using these media in similar ways -- taking similar lessons about lust and betrayal from J.R., or having similar fantasies to the romantic images of reggae or country music. Indeed, social scientists studying such aspects of popular culture stress the complex intermingling of different cultural productions (Abu-Lughod, 1989; Mitchell, 1989).

This paper reports our findings on the use of electronic media by a group of young Moroccans in the early 1980s, and follows some individuals up to 1990. It offers examples of their personal reactions to the images and emotions presented by an increasing range of television, radio, recorded, and printed material from the global entertainment industry, from the rest of the Middle East, and from Morocco itself. The rapidly-expanding array of media was used by adolescents in a period of rapid social change to re-imagine many aspects of their lives, including a desire for more autonomy, for more variety in heterosexual interactions, and for more choice of a job and of a mate. While male and female media consumption varied, they used media with similar goals. We also deal briefly with often overlooked orally-based media, including public storytellers, theater, and with gossip as the major means of spreading information beyond the household until the early 1960s in Zawiya. Much of the content of Western media images is difficult to reconcile with traditional Moroccan values rooted in Islam and a strong extended family. While the young people we interviewed and observed often seemed acutely aware of the apparent contradictions between traditional and modern ways -- between the mosque and the satellite -- they did not typically see these contradictions as irreconcilable, and most seemed eager to preserve core traditional values while hoping to reap the benefits of the affluent and exciting society promised by the media.

Adolescents and the Media

Recent discussions of media influence on adolescents in the US call attention to the large proportion of time young people spend with electronic media (Csikszentmihalyi, and Larson, 1984; Larson, Kubey, and Colletti, 1989). Sex differences in adolescent media use are of particular interest in light of the Moroccan data to be reported. Larson, Kubey, and Colletti reported a significant decline in the proportion of time 5th to 9th-graders (ages 9-15) of both sexes spent watching TV, and substantial increases in the time spent listening to popular music; boys spent significantly more time TV-watching and girls spent more time listening to music and reading (Larson, Kubey, and Colletti, 1989, p. 587). Commenting on the increased interest in popular music in early adolescence, Larson, Kubey, and Colletti suggest:

Rock music is popular with youth precisely because it is in harmony with budding adolescent concerns about independence, romance, and sexuality, and because it represents an alternative to adult concerns (Larson, Kubey, and Colletti, 1989, p. 596).
Cross-cultural discussions of media influence by anthropologists have made a similar point. Abu-Lughod (1989, p.9-10) asserts that Bedouin popular music functions to help youth challenge adult authority. Anthropological interest in the media has been spurred recently by the cultural studies approach, in which both class differences within a culture and outside influences upon a culture are attended to -- media obviously often fall into the latter category. Arjun Appadurai explains the anthropological view:

The imagination -- expressed in dreams, songs, fantasies, myths, and stories -- has always been part of the repertoire, in some culturally organized way, of every society. But there is a peculiar new force to the imagination in social life today. More persons in more parts of the world consider a wider set of "possible" lives than they ever did before. One important source of this change is the mass media... (Appadurai, 1991, p. 197).
Anthropologist Richard Condon provides a clear example of this expanded imagination, and of its cultural effects, in his work with the Copper Inuit in the small settlement of Holman in the Canadian Arctic (Condon, 1987). Inuit youth, traditionally a noncompetitive group, changed in a decade as a result of hockey games broadcast on satellite dish television from southern Canada. Adolescents began to play hockey daily, at first cooperatively, but becoming increasingly competitive (Collings and Condon, nd). Another effect of the externally-based media is to make youth aware of a standard of living higher than they can attain in their welfare-supported settlement, which few people want to leave. Condon posits that this leads to a general sense of frustration (Condon, 1990).

Media in the Middle East

Middle Eastern adolescents' exposure comes from a wide and changing array of media. One particularly vivid image of imported popular music as mediator of fantasy was presented in the 1976 Algerian film "Omar Gatlato" ("Omar, Whose Machismo Killed Him"), in which the narrator attends each new Hindi musical in Algiers so he can record the romantic songs that -- though he cannot understand the lyrics -- send him off to sleep each night with fantasies of love.

Algeria has in the last few years given the world music scene Rai, a heavily romantic (and lightly political) pop style, with Euro-American electronic beat and lyrics mostly in colloquial Arabic. The endorsement of non-marital intimacy implied has made Rai anathema to the Islamic movement in Algeria, even as its popularity has soared with the youth of Paris and New York.

Further east, among the Bedouin in Egypt's Western Desert, Abu-Lughod (1989) describes the uses of popular technologies like radio, television, and audio and video cassettes. Young women's desire for the romantic love and consumer goods they see on television are both a way of resisting the authority of their elders to arrange marriages, and an opening for Egyptian government penetration of their resistant Bedouin culture; holding jobs to buy consumer goods, Bedouin are increasingly integrated into the Egyptian state.

Zawiya: A Semi-rural Moroccan Town

Just across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain, Morocco is located on the northwest corner of Africa. In climate and size Morocco resembles California, with chilly wet winters and hot dry summers. Beaches on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts give way to plains and mountain ranges, and finally to desert in the far south. The population is Arab and Berber, and almost completely Muslim.

Most of our data was collected in Zawiya, a semi-rural town of about 12,000 in northwestern Morocco, near the city of Meknes. Although located on the edge of a rich agricultural plain, more of the population works in commerce or trades than in agriculture. Zawiya is near Kabar, a market town of about 50,000 on a main train line, and is thus neither isolated nor urban. There are a primary and junior high school in Zawiya, and a mayor's office, post office and police station -- but there is no bank, hospital, high school or restaurant. Government employees staff many offices and the schools, and offer a model of white-collar jobs to which many adolescents aspire. Parents, on the other hand, work mostly in blue collar service jobs, and many grandparents were farmers. Most residents live in concrete houses on unpaved streets, and until 1988 had no running water and had to carry their supply from seven outdoor taps. Nearly all households had electricity, however, and the majority had television in 1982. While incomes vary, Zawiya lifestyles are quite similar. Yet gender roles are quite different, and the ways this affects media use are elaborated below. In general, girls spend more time in household chores and boys have more leisure, so girls stay closer to home and boys go further afield. Girls may go to a girlfriend's house to visit or embroider, and boys may play soccer or go to a movie in town. Walking to the high school in town and running errands or collecting water in Zawiya give boys and girls a chance to meet and talk, but dating is taboo and a more serious offense for girls than boys.

In this "in-between" situation, Zawiya has much in common with the large number of growing small towns, comprised mainly of Arabic speakers, in northern Morocco. By the late 1980s, Morocco was nearly half urban and half rural (Royaume du Maroc), so the population studied was not atypical in that sense. Living in a small town has important effects on their lives -- they have somewhat less exposure to modern lifestyles and conveniences than city-dwellers, and more than their cousins in isolated rural villages. We have a smaller amount of qualitative data from young married couples, collected both in Zawiya and in the capital of Rabat.

Zawiya's adolescents and their families live in a rapidly changing world. Grandparents farmed the land, while their children may work in France, and Morocco is now part of the world economy. Grandparents rarely saw a car, while adolescents take trains to the capital. Rural families lived in extended family groups, but now each family lives alone, so most young women do not have to serve an exacting mother-in-law in residence. Only a few parents attended school, while most adolescents attended primary school and many go on. Education also opens up white collar jobs for both sexes, and in cities one sees office plaques for women doctors, dentists and lawyers, something rare until the 1980s.

Most of the data presented here were collected in a year of field-work in 1982 as part of the Harvard Adolescence Project, in which post-doctoral researchers conducted parallel studies of young people in seven cultures. We gathered anthropological, sociological and psychological data on over 100 Zawiya adolescents and their families, living in the same neighborhood but of somewhat varied economic status. We lived in a house in the neighborhood we studied, and the data include participant observation of adolescents and their families. Since we had maintained regular contact with Zawiya from 1965, when Susan first arrived there, by 1982 we were seen almost as aunt and uncle to several local families.

Our research included young people from 9-21, and a few slightly older neighbors. While in the US the ages 13-19 are often used to delineate adolescence, in Morocco the social changes we associate with this phase begin later and last longer. We weighed, measured, and completed sociological questionnaires and school and family histories for each of the young people. We gave psychological tests of cognitive development (D. Davis, 1987) and gender identity (S. Davis, unpublished) to about 60, and conducted open-ended interviews with a group of about 20 with whom we had especially good rapport. Susan returned in 1984 and updated these interviews. Our more general statements are based in observations of and interactions with families over a period of 20 years. In 1989-1990, Susan began research on Moroccan women's relationships with their husbands and with female friends and relatives around the time of marriage, in Zawiya and also in Rabat. These data suggest current and future trends for media and gender relations.

The Moroccan Media Context

Most readers will be unfamiliar with what types of media are available in a small town on the northwest corner of Africa, so we present an overview in order to help understand the media context. We will describe the several types of media, including the increasing availability and thematic content of each and the context in which it is used, and will highlight the influences of gender and education.

Most young people in Zawiya watched some television daily by 1982. They also listened to music and news broadcasts on the radio in Arabic and/or French, and many males saw at least the occasional motion picture. Cassette players were owned by most families, and some older male adolescents spent many hours by themselves or with like-sexed friends listening to popular recordings from the Middle East, France, and the US. The majority of both sexes said they read as a leisure activity.

Gender and Education. Before presenting specific information on the various media, we want to stress that exposure to media is strongly influenced by gender and education in Zawiya. Male adolescents have greater access to family resources, including use of the family's cassette player, money to purchase tapes, and sometimes a room of their own. They had the mobility to go to the cinema, where they were often exposed to more sexually explicit material, but female attendance is considered shameful.

Educational level determines whether one can understand the foreign languages--most often French--used in television, films and music. Both sexes were entering elementary school in Zawiya by the 1980s, but twice as large a proportion of males (48% vs. 23%) attended secondary school, where they became adept in French (Davis and Davis, 1989, p.62).

Television. Television is the most-used of the mass media by local people, and youth are avid consumers. The first set appeared in a Zawiya cafe in 1967, and by 1982 a majority of households had one. The most prosperous families had color sets. There has always been one government channel which initially broadcast only evenings, but now has expanded coverage. In the late 1980s a cable channel became available, and in the early 90s satellite dishes began to appear on family rooftops in cities. By 1994 some dishes appeared in Zawiya, giving access to over 90 channels with programs from France, Italy, Germany, England (including an Arabic channel) and CNN.

One might imagine that the content of television programs has changed from local to international with the wider range of channels, but it has been international from the start. Since it is much less expensive to buy than to produce programs, at first a majority came from France. News has always been broadcast by local anchorpersons in literary Arabic (not widely understood by the uneducated, who speak the colloquial form) and in French. Even if it was difficult to understand, television's visual aspect opened up new worlds to viewers: people who had never seen snow suddenly were familiar with it, and world political and entertainment figures became recognizable. Other early programming included French dramas, soccer matches, and a popular Saturday night feature that still exists: the local variety show. Each week a particular town is featured and filmed with a live audience, and one hears about local characteristics and sees typical dances and songs, often with a nationally-popular singer as special guest. Television evolved to include more American programs (dubbed in French) like Little House on the Prairie, the Incredible Hulk, and Dallas.

An important change by the early 1980s was more Arabic programming, primarily Egyptian serials or evening soaps, often with a romantic theme. Although the Egyptian and Moroccan dialects of Arabic differ, the Egyptian is much more widely understood than French, so a larger part of the viewership could follow the plots. Another innovation is the dubbing of a Japanese-produced cartoon show into literary Arabic; this popular program probably helps children learn the literary language. The cable channel and satellite access make available programs with more explicit sexual interaction than one usually sees -- on the broadcast channel an extended embrace is felt to be risqué, let alone bedroom scenes. In fact, the only example we saw of parents restricting media use was that some discontinued cable service because the European and American films embarrassed families watching in mixed sex groups.

Television was the most social of the media: the family usually gathered to watch in the largest room of the house. In the past, especially in the largely-French program period, few people paid close attention, and conversations went on around the set, with an occasional pause for an adolescent who understood the plot to explain it to the elders. Most Zawiya adults understand little French, since in the colonial period few rural Moroccans attended even elementary school. Adult family members often described interesting alternative plots they had elaborated while watching; sometimes there were active family debates about which character would do what, and why, based on these different understandings. As comprehension has increased, television watching has become less interactive. Teens especially will pay close attention to a program, while the older generation converses around it, with pauses to watch. The exception is when programs are in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic and thus understood by everyone. Then all watch raptly. There was usually at least half an hour of such locally-produced programming weekly by the early 90s. One such program followed a day in the life of a city cab driver, with social satire including a demanding bourgeois man who wouldn't tip and a country bumpkin who thought the debris of urban renewal was caused by an earthquake. These programs were instantly popular; the first that appeared in the 70s was discussed for weeks.

Radios and Cassettes. Radios were the primary access to the mass media when we began to work in Zawiya in the mid-1960s, and not all families had one. Since then nearly every family acquired a radio, but they had been replaced by cassette players as the medium of choice for adolescent males and many females by 1982. On radio music was the main attraction, although news, soccer games and audio advice columns were popular. Cassette players were also mainly used for music, although there were tapes of Moroccan comedians and Quranic recitation. An indication of the popularity of cassettes could be seen in Meknes, where one original cassette was being simultaneously re-recorded on twenty linked recorders arranged around the periphery of a shop. Even in Zawiya, an entrepreneur in a six-foot-wide shop made two tapes simultaneously.

There was wide variety in the content of both radio and cassette music. In Arabic one heard Moroccan, Egyptian, Lebanese and Algerian singers and musicians, in classical and popular styles. In Morocco, where Berber is important, there were also Berber genres of music and song. A favorite radio station nationwide was Tangier-based Medi-Un which played Arabic, European and American music, classical and popular, with the patter between songs in the appropriate language. Requests to us by young men in Zawiya for copies of albums have over the years included Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Kenny Rogers, and Emmy Lou Harris. Parents did not generally attempt to control the content of their children's listening, and in any case the French or English lyrics of imported Western music would be incomprehensible to most adults. The main adult use of radio was women listening, often with daughters while doing housework, to "Miss Laila," the Moroccan version of Dear Abby, who answered listeners' questions on relationships in Moroccan Arabic.

Since radios and cassette players are portable, the context of listening varied more than that of television-watching. These media, especially cassette players, were more often used individually or in groups of peers. This was truer for males since they had more free time and preferential access to the radio or player. Males were also more apt to have their own room where they could listen uninterrupted, either by mother's calls for assistance or the noise of siblings playing. Teenagers and young adults borrowed these tapes from each other constantly, and we heard of several friendships strained by the non-return of a prized tape.

Films. There were three movie theaters in Kabar, two kilometers away, which showed risqué films as well as spaghetti westerns, police films, and Indian romances -- all imported, and dubbed in French or literary Arabic. While young women attended films in the cities, those from Zawiya rarely did since cinemas full of rowdy young men were seen as unsuitable for them. An interesting new trend was the 1994 film in Moroccan Arabic "Searching for the Husband of My Wife", a satire which was immensely popular with both sexes in cities. It demonstrates the market for local-language (and local-culture) works.

VCRs. This new technology did not appear until after our 1982 research, but we mention it to highlight the rapid spread of media technologies. Videocassette players were still rare in Zawiya at the end of the 1980s. The local video-watching we heard about was often by groups of young men and involved soft core or X-rated movies. Hannah Davis (1989) reports that multigenerational groups of women in a larger nearby town preferred videos with a romantic theme, and also joked while watching risqué films. We heard of no systematic VCR watching by groups of Zawiya women; however, even local weddings are now often taped, and girls and women occasionally enjoy watching these lengthy celebrations (see Ossman 1994).

Print. We enter into another realm with print media, one which was nearly non-existent in Zawiya in the mid-60s but which has become increasingly popular as literacy rises. Young peoples' reading included newspapers, poetry, stories rented from teachers, and magazines. The most popular magazines were photoromans, which are like comics, but with photos and word balloons telling the often-romantic story. L'Opinion, one of Morocco's major French-language newspapers, had a special section, Opinions of the Young, to which youth submit poems, jokes and personal dilemmas; by the late 80s it appeared three times a week because of increasing interest.

Live Performances. There were also many types of live performances. Traditionally, public storytellers, comedians and musicians provided popular entertainment; all still perform at Jamaa el Fna in Marrakech, and at weekly markets and annual fairs throughout Morocco (see Schuyler 1993), including in Zawiya. A modern version of these public performances is theater; in fact Early describes a Syrian actor who works in theater, television and film as a "modern storyteller" (1993). Some Zawiya youth participated in a theater group which gave local performances with an educational message, mostly to schoolchildren.

Adolescent Use of Media Images

Media Exposure. In terms of the media preferences of adolescents (between 64 and 101 responded to different questions), significantly more girls than boys preferred Arabic to Western language entertainment on radio, cassettes and television. For radio, 83% of the girls preferred Arabic programs compared to 35% of the boys; for cassettes (mostly music) 85% of girls and 56% of boys preferred Arabic. On television, 44% of girls and 12% of boys preferred Arabic programs. While boys on the average were more educated than girls (and thus more comfortable with non-Arabic languages), even among the more educated youth, girls tended to prefer Arabic media.

The two sexes in Zawiya had a very different exposure to cinema. Of girls, 80% had never been to a movie, while 40% of boys went occasionally and another 40% went weekly or more often. An important influence on male gender relations was the soft-core European films (and videos), portraying interpersonal behavior that is banned on television. This may lead young men to have certain physical expectations of their future spouses -- or it may be so different that it will not be assimilated beyond fantasy.

We also asked about whether youth read in their leisure time: 64% of males and 61% of females said they did. This is surprising since nearly twice as many females as males were out of school at the time of the research (47% vs. 26%), and females' educational level was generally lower. We could not evaluate differences in terms of what was read because we lacked detailed enough data.

One 18-year-old boy said he enjoyed French films on TV, but not Egyptian ones, because in the former you "see some of the world," while the Egyptian films only allow you to see "inside the house." He also expressed a preference for French news broadcasts, because they're shorter and have more pictures, whereas the Arabic broadcasts are long and dull. On the other hand, his cassette listening was mostly to Moroccan bands, and his leisure reading was primarily in Arabic magazines and poetry. He said he went to the cinema 1-3 times per week (one of the highest reported rates), and preferred "boxing" and French films.

The only Zawiya girls who reported regular trips to the cinema were sisters aged 15 and 17 when interviewed. The younger said she went 3-4 times per month, and that she liked Indian and Arabic films. The older said she went about three times a year and that she liked Indian films and karate. Both said they liked to listen to Moroccan female singers on their family's cassette player, and the older sister also mentioned liking Indian popular music.

One consequence of increased school attendance was to make more contact between the sexes possible (Davis, D., forthcoming; Davis, S. and Davis, D., forthcoming; Davis, D. and Davis, S., 1993) and the media played an important role in shaping the expected results of this contact. Marriages in Morocco were traditionally arranged by parents, based more on familial than individual compatibility, and with economic support more important than emotional attraction. After meeting potential spouses in school, young people had more idea of what they wanted in a mate. While most of the about 100 Zawiya youth we asked "Who should choose the spouse?" answered "the parents" (64% of females and 55% of males), about 25% of each sex wanted to take part in the decision. The number saying they wanted to be involved increased significantly as youth increased in age and in level of education (S. Davis, 1984). Interestingly, Naamane-Guessous found that 56% of her more-educated urban Moroccan female sample would accept arranged marriages and 25% wished to choose a spouse themselves (Naamane-Guessous, 1987, p. 68-69).

Use of Media Images. Since dating was still taboo in Zawiya, how did one learn about interacting with the opposite sex and choosing a spouse? Young women discussed these topics intensely but their experience was limited, and like the American adolescents described by Ward, by Brown, and by Arnett (this issue) an important source of such information was television programs. Many Moroccan programs originated in Egypt, the largest producer of Arabic-language media. A recurrent theme was the love match opposed by parents, who preferred a rich older man for their daughter; the love match usually triumphed. One young woman from Zawiya described how she saw the role of television:

Girls today learn a lot from television films; they learn how to lead their lives. Those films show the problems of marriage and divorce and everything - television explains a lot. Television has made girls aware: boys too, but mainly girls -- they watch films. Girls didn't used to know; they were like our girls in Zawiya now. In Zawiya there are no cafes for them to go to, no parties, nothing - but now they see all that on TV, how girls behave with their friends. One is going to the university and her fiancé asks her to go to a cafe with him. They talk, and then they marry. Some don't marry; they talk with one and then go off with another. See? They learn and don't give a damn.... It is the woman who is in charge, because TV shows that women have progressed like men: they have projects, they work at the post office and at stations, they do everything, business-- that there is no difference between men and women.... Life has progressed. People did not used to know [many things]. They didn't travel or watch TV. But now you have old men living in shantytowns who have TV sets. TV shows [things to] the young and the old. If I ask [my eight year old niece] about something, she'll know. It is TV that has caused girls to progress. Even country girls visit their relatives in town and they don't want to go back to the country. People have progressed.
This statement exemplifies the kind of complexity explored by cultural studies. The content may sound positive to westerners in its evocation of increased awareness and progress. Yet this young woman's emotional tone shows she is critical of the main result of these changes, which she sees as increasing freedom in single women's interactions with men. She implies that the old-fashioned girls who don't go with men are more virtuous - but also that they don't get married. As a single woman who would like to be married, her position is in fact ambivalent. Her traditional culture is at once moral and often ineffective; the modern style is not respectable, but produces results: those girls get married. Whatever the moral judgment, it is clear the medium of television is playing a role in people's re-imagination of gender roles, providing examples from several cultural milieus. An urban man in his twenties, interviewed in 1989, supported this view of the expansive effect of television: "Personally, I think that today a 20 year old girl can have more experience than a 40 year old woman of the previous generation. She can have more experience than my mother, because there is television and she goes out."

In at least one case, a Zawiya youth made use of images borrowed from the media in creating a drama of his own. The young man we called "Sa'id" in our book on Moroccan adolescence (Davis and Davis, 1989) was a troubled 18-year-old when Susan interviewed him in 1984. Among the roughly 100 adolescents we questioned about leisure activity and aspirations, Sa'id stood out for the frequency of his visits to the Hindi, Arabic, and Western cinema of Kabar -- one to three times a week during the Summer of 1982. We were struck by the grandiosity of his career plans and by the extent to which he seemed enthralled by TV and film scenarios.

When we were back in Zawiya in 1987, we had several occasions to talk at length with Sa'id, then 21. By this time he had dropped out of school after several failures, which was not uncommon in Zawiya, and he was living at home and unemployed. A major preoccupation during this period was drama: Sa'id had joined a drama group in nearby Kabar, and had recently completed a short play of his own, titled "If the Crazy One Spoke Up" (Davis & Najmi, unpublished). The setting is a mental hospital ward, where eight "crazy" inmates are interviewed by a visiting "psychological researcher" and act out the stresses that have driven them out of their minds. Sa'id's years of attendance at the cinema and his countless hours of watching Egyptian soap operas and listening to popular music have given him an excellent ear for the typical dialogues in which the Moroccan double standard and the economic difficulties of young couples are expressed. The play offers a set of vivid satirical anecdotes about contemporary Moroccan life, making use of short poems, song lyrics, and dialogue in the language of the suq or the street. The script makes explicit and effective use of references to imported media as a model for, and perhaps a partial source of, the life problems faced by the characters. One of the inmates characterizes his problem as "like one of those films that they show on TV," and at the conclusion of his portrayal the interviewing psychologist agrees, saying, "All we need is the Indians, and we could make a Western film." When a jilted girl tells her boyfriend that they should struggle to overcome poverty and social barriers to their wedding, he cynically says, "Are you influenced by Egyptian movies?"


What do these media preferences and uses mean? One might interpret girls' greater preference for Arabic programs to mean being more traditional, to espousing traditional gender roles. Yet this preference included Moroccan Arabic, Egyptian, Lebanese and Berber songs or programs, many of which had themes of love and "modern" interactions of couples. One could argue that "Western" programs devoted a higher proportion of their time to "modern" relationships, or presented more variations and more extreme violations of traditional norms (e.g. embraces instead of flirtatious glances) -- yet much of what adolescents see and listen to deals with romance and couples. It is also interesting that for television viewing, about half of both boys and girls said they preferred both Arab and western programs. Many of both sexes seem to want to see what is going on all over the world. The visual character of television makes language differences less important.

The literature on US adolescents' use of electronic media suggests that the explosion of opportunities for selection and private experience of video and music allows these to form a crucial part of individuation and self-definition in the middle and late teens (Larson, this issue). Adolescents seem to select material created for, if not by, other adolescents and young adults, and to use these in highly personal ways as they separate their experience from that of parents and younger siblings and re-identify with peer groups and intimate friends.

Moroccan male adolescents share the American tendency to prefer more individualistic and teen-focused forms of media as they get older and spend more time with music tapes. Young women, unlike their American peers, spend more time watching television in family groups and probably find it more interesting than their American counterparts. They too enjoy music tapes, but their brothers have more access to them, and to private space in which to listen. While we have nothing like the detailed experience-sampling data collected by Larson and his colleagues, it seems likely that popular music -- and, for males, imported video-tapes and commercial movies -- provide a more subjectively-relevant vehicle for the fantasies of later adolescence than does standard television fare. Males can select among the many tapes and films available to them, and thus develop a more individualistic taste in media. Females usually have to settle for the more limited programming on television and radio.

Both sexes in Zawiya are using media to gain new perspectives on their roles, especially regarding heterosexual interactions. In this they resemble American adolescents described by Arnett, by Brown, and by Ward (this issue). In a culture in which heterosexual interactions were quite limited, the media are an important source of socialization (cf. Arnett, this issue). Moroccan television portrays both eastern and western couples in romantic relationships, and movies and videos often contain more risqué images. Popular music is listened to in several languages, and nearly all laments a lost love or celebrates a new one.

Others working in Morocco have noted the involvement of media with social change, especially changing gender roles. Personal letters, first used on the radio and later in a newspaper, sought advice on new dilemmas. Fatima Mernissi's first book (1975/1987) explored changing male-female dynamics by combining interviews with examination of over 400 letters written to a religious counseling service in the 1970s which broadcast daily on the national radio network. While not all were from youth, many exploring new gender relations were. More recently, Seckinger used letters and responses written to the special youth section (ODJ) of one of Morocco's newspapers. She was searching for a way to explore young women's self-concepts, and concluded that "the ongoing ODJ dialogue is a medium for the forging of new ideologies. The page is a meeting ground for dialogue among voices which have never communicated so freely before (Seckinger 1987, p. 30)." Further, she sees these newspaper letters and responses, while they come from both sexes, as a new space for public discussion by women. Thus the newspaper not only presents new ideologies, but helps to form them, in dialogue among the readers. Also note that the earlier broadcasting of letters was compatible with a less literate audience, and the newspaper excludes part of the population.

Based on her study of both French and Arabic primary school texts, education professor and researcher Aicha Belarbi feels print media can also limit change in gender roles:

[O]ne can say that the school actively participates in maintaining a "traditional image" of the woman, an image which deprives her most of the time of an active participation in political, economic and cultural life. (Belarbi, 1987, p. 66; author's translation).
These uses of media are not limited to Morocco: Abu-Lughod saw young Bedouin women in Egypt similarly enthralled by radio and television programs about romance, using them as bases for desiring marriages of their own choice. Yet she notes that these young women are "caught between several worlds whose borders the new media technologies can cross but most individual lives cannot" (1989, p. 47). While adolescents respect much of traditional culture, and some restrictions remain, a major use of media in Morocco is in the re-imagining and redefinition of the culture's rapidly-changing gender roles.


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