Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date



Artisans of traditional crafts in Morocco face extreme exploitation from middlemen/resellers and are unable to make a living by producing their crafts. As a result, these strongholds of Moroccan and Amazigh (Berber) culture face extinction as artisans are forced to leave the craft fields to pursue other job opportunities. While the economic structure of the traditional craft sector plays a large role in perpetuating this exploitation, these structures stem from French colonial policies. Previous research addresses the direct impacts of French colonialism on Moroccan traditional crafts but fails to address the legacy and continuing impacts, or coloniality, of colonial policies on today’s artisans. I employed document research, and informal and semi-structured interviews, conversations, and participant observation with female artisan weavers at the Anou Cooperative in Fes, Morocco, and Fatima Oulad Thami, a Moroccan-Dutch henna artist, to illuminate the connection between the French colonial recategorization of Morocco’s traditional crafts and the exploitation of artisans and stagnation of craft development in Morocco today. My argument is threefold. First, the French colonial recategorization of the Moroccan craft sector led to the disempowerment and marginalization of artisans as creative forces. Second, a transfer of power within the “coloniality of being” hierarchy facilitated the exploitation artisans face at the hands of middlemen/resellers. Third, artisan-run initiatives, such as the Anou Cooperative, act as decolonial forces that grapple with ideas of preservation and innovation while creating a sustainable future for the Moroccan craft sector.

Hamilton Areas of Study

Government, Middle East and Islamic World Studies

Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Kira Jumet