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Asien-Orient-Institut UFSP Asien und Europa (2006–2017)

Negotiating Land Rights: Gender, Law and Political Change in Morocco

Responsible for the habilitation project: Dr. Yasmine Berriane
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: Since November 2013
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


In the current context of an intensified neoliberal trend for large-scale land acquisition in the Global South, struggles over accessing, owning, and exploiting resources such as land or water have increased dramatically. This research project that was started in November 2013 in the framework of the URPP Asia and Europe studies the political dynamics set in motion by such large-scale land deals in the MENA region, using the negotiation of women’s rights over collective lands in Morocco as the main unit of analysis. More particularly, this project will address the three following key questions: How does the current commodification of land impact on gendered inequalities in terms of land use rights and access to resources? How are these inequalities contested? How do these contestation practices transform legal frameworks and social and political relations?

By focusing on actual practices of contestation over resources in Morocco and by providing a gendered approach to social and political transformations triggered by these practices, it offers new perspectives on property issues and their negotiation in the MENA region, female grassroots activism in peri-urban settings and specifically its relation to changes in women’s property rights. Taking an interdisciplinary and multilevel approach, it will address the following connected sub-themes that emerge out of the three main questions tackled by this research project:

  1. The impact of the intensified commodification of collective land on gendered community-based tenure regimes in Morocco.
  2. Strategies used by grassroots’ women to negotiate land use rights, including informal forms of resistance, organized women’s movements and legal actions (court cases).
  3. Legal, social and political transformations set in motion by these contestation practices.

Through these questions, the project aims to show how the commodification of collectively owned land, which has intensified since the late 1990s in Morocco, has triggered ambivalent transformations of gender roles, legal norms and forms of political expression. It highlights processes of hybridization that are both emancipating and subjugating, and that are co-produced in the interactions between universals and particulars.

Published first results

“La fabrique de la coutume au Maroc: le droit des femmes aux terres collectives” (with Karen Rignal), Cahiers du Genre, 62, 2017, p. 97-118. URL:

“Bridging social divides: leadership and the making of an alliance for women’s land-use rights in Morocco”, Review of African Political Economy, 43:149, 2016, p. 350–364.

“Inclure les 'n’ayants pas droit' : Terres collectives et inégalités de genre au Maroc », L’Année du Maghreb, 13, 2015, p. 61–78.

“Droit à la terre et lutte pour l'égalité au Maroc: Le mouvement des soulaliyates” (mit F. Ait Mous), in H. Rachik (Hg.), Contester le droit. Communautés, familles et héritage au Maroc, Casablanca : Ed. La Croisée des Chemins, 2016, p. 87–173.