Moroccan Noir: The genesis of the Arabic police procedural

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

Although extremely popular in diverse national literatures, the police procedural—a novel in which a sympathetic cop-hero uses real-world forensic techniques to investigate a believable crime—has appeared in Arabic only in Morocco. In this dissertation, the first in any language to treat the Arabic police procedural, I argue that the genre, with its hard-hitting social critique, demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability of the Arabic novel as a literary form. I show how the cultural and political environment of Morocco during the past forty-five years created a specific environment that led to the birth and development of the genre. Although countries such as Egypt and Lebanon have typically pioneered modern literary innovation, the Arabic police procedural stands as an important example of how Moroccan authors are now at the cutting edge of genre experimentation in the Middle East and North Africa.

In this work, I first explore why the police procedural has not emerged in Arabic outside of Morocco and how canonical Middle Eastern authors such as Nagīb Mahfūz and Ghassān Kanafānī incorporated elements of the genre into their novels without ever placing a sympathetic cop in the role of the protagonist. I next trace the emergence and development of the genre in Morocco, from 1961 until the present, treating the police short stories that were published in the government issued Majallat al-Shurta (Police Magazine) and the fiction of Muhammad ibn al-Tuhāmī and Ahmad 'Abd al-Salām al-Baqqālī. Although little police fiction appeared in Morocco during the 1970s and 80s, a period of grave human rights abuses known as the 'years of lead,' the genre reemerged in 1997, thanks to the birth of crime journalism and the wide-scale political liberalization that accompanied the end of Hassan II's reign. Finally, I examine closely the works of Mīlūdī Hamdūshī and 'Abd al-Ilāh al-Hamdūshī (no relation), showing how their police procedurals dialogue strongly not only with the international form of the genre, but also with large scale changes in Moroccan society, such as the disastrous local effects of globalization, the vibrant new crime journalism, and profound human rights reform in the country.

Indexing (details)

Middle Eastern literature;
0298: Literature
0315: Middle Eastern literature
0627: Criminology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Arabic; Baqqali, Ahmad `Abd al-Salam; Hamdushi, Miludi; Hamdushi, `Abd al-Ilah; Moroccan; Noir; Police procedural; Tuhami, Muhammad
Moroccan Noir: The genesis of the Arabic police procedural
Smolin, Jonathan
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 68/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Granara, William
Harvard University
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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