Doctoral Project
Hydraulic Infrastructure: Ordering the City and Region of Meknes 1884-1956

Doctoral Project
Sara Frikech
2022
 

This dissertation examines hydraulic infrastructures in the city and hinterland of Meknes during the French protectorate. While studies on French colonial architecture and urbanism in Morocco are numerous, studies focusing on rural modernization are gaining momentum. However, spatial and material research on hydraulic infrastructures within a rural-urban continuum remains largely unexamined. I argue that the spatial and material form of these hydraulic interventions were not merely a technical matter. Yet, the ways in which flows of water were either redirected or enclosed - at various strategic sites - served a specific political, symbolic, social, and cultural purpose conducive to alter everyday life and reconfigure vast rural and urban territories. The colonial water regime enabled the transformation of power relations, disrupted communal networks and expropriated water resources thus playing a critical role in the process of pacification, counterinsurgency, and urban-rural modernization. Furthermore, emerging sciences advancing various water-related expertise, engineering, knowledge and tools, along with environmental imaginaries provided the impetus for a host of hydro-technical projects. The region of Meknes, located within the Sebou river Basin, constitutes a prime example to scrutinise the confluence of these processes, due to its strategic geographical location. This research, therefore, focuses on a series of case studies at three interrelated territorial scales: the regional, the direct hinterland and the city. Although these case studies have initially been conceived by military officials and technocrats, it will include local agencies. In order to question the multiple effects of hydraulic infrastructure and how this process has shaped the built environment. Thus offering a window into the entanglement between water, modernity, infrastructure, colonial policies and the construction of territory. This dissertation attempts to extend the discourse on French colonial architecture by including hydraulic infrastructural projects. This subsequently problematizes the urban-rural divide. The overall aim is to offer a different spatial reading of the French Protectorate, by shedding light onto a neglected region of singular importance in Moroccan history.