I am a native of Morocco, where I was trained and worked as an architect. I also studied mountain geography at the University of Montana, under the mentorship of Professor Jeffrey A. Gritzner—a student of Marvin Mikesell, Karl Sauer, Clarence Glacken, and the Berkeley tradition of genetic study. I infiltrated the department of history at Princeton under the guise of ‘environmental history;’ a new field only nominally, since the aforementioned geographers have been doing just that for some time. Here I am most interested in learning from Professor Vera Candiani’s approach to reading landscapes by questioning the politics of its production. I would also be working closely with Emmanuel Kreike and M’hamed Oualdi.
My dissertation project is envisioned to revolve around the historical production (and reproduction) of space in the Atlas mountains, and the ways in which it impacted the reproduction of society locally and regionally. In contrast to the elitist, urban, arabophone/arabophile official historiography, this should offer a mountain view of the history of Morocco—concerned with the practice, knowledge and worldview of the Imazighen folk. I am looking to skirt around the bias of traditional historical sources about the infamous bled es-siba (literally: land of anarchy) by using vernacular architecture (and other environmental constructions) as a way to reconstruct the precolonial ‘paradigm’ of the mountaineers. Oral sources such as poetry and stories, and written sources from the mountain tariqat (sufi brotherhoods) may also inform landscape reading.
This ‘historical’ research endeavor is concurrent to a more practical ‘architectural’ research conducted by Salma Zerkaoui (who incidentally happens to be my wife). The latter is aimed at reactivating the reproduction of vernacular environmental construction know-how in the Atlas and Rif mountains; partly through the reimposition of disenfranchised local indigenous institutions.