(Post)Colonial Lands: A Geospatial Approach to the Legacies of Colonial Land Policy in Rural Morocco

Benjamin Kaplow, Yale University

I argue that colonial patterns of settlement and land ownership endure long after independence and heavily impact states’ provision of public goods. Using geospatial methods to examine Moroccan landholdings at the locality level from colonization to decolonization, I argue that the cause of this persistence is based on the durability of land-tenure systems in the context of low state capacity. Both the French Protectorate and the independent state aimed to use clientelist relationships to bolster their rules and primarily used land redistribution to achieve this goal. However, as the early colonial and independent states lacked the ability to redistribute land en-masse, they were initially limited to categories of land tenure that were more legible and easier for state agents to manage. As their capacities increased, they broadened the range of lands they redistributed and the quality of benefits they provided, creating stratified geographies of clientelist localities. This process had the double effect of increasing clientelist benefits in regions with land more difficult to dispossess compared to regions with land easier to dispossess while changing the type of clientelist benefits in regions of lower colonization. The paper’s quantitative and geospatial approach centers on previously unused archival data sources to construct locality and property-level measures of colonial and postcolonial land use to provide a new way of examining the colonial legacy and understanding the causes of variable local development in postcolonial states.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 36. Land and Empire in North Africa