Governing Poverty: Moroccan poverty mapping in the margins

By Mona Atia
Submitted to Session P4807 (Frictions of Governing in the MENA, 2017 Annual Meeting
Development; Maghreb Studies; Political Economy;
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In 2004, the World Bank worked with the Moroccan government to create a poverty map at the commune scale. The results formed the basis for King Mohammed VI’s
National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), a highly politicized and high profile national poverty campaign. Situated within the Ministry of Interior, the INDH is a neoliberal and top-down initiative aimed to reduce poverty in 403 rural communes
and 264 urban quarters by improving basic infrastructure and access to services.
The INDH eventually became an important public image tool for addressing citizen grievances as well as the international communities’ reports on inequality in the
Kingdom. This paper discusses the INDH and the poverty-mapping-network associated with it
as a technique of governance. While the technocrats who produce poverty maps argue that the tool is an objective, apolitical and efficient way to allocate resources, I argue that that the map and its associated interventions are highly politicized. I examine the contextual aspects of poverty hidden behind poverty maps and aggregate indicators and the spatial patterns associated with the poverty map as an
Focusing on villages in the south of Morocco, I use interviews, participatory mapping workshops and ethnographic methods to analyze how the geographical targeting approach maps mask layers of scaled politics regarding the poor. Recognizing the map as an actant in a network, I trace the ‘life” of the tool, its effects on villages and villagers, and the frictions between poverty policy and practice. In contrast to most
research on poverty mapping which focused on methodological issues, this research is concerned with the forms of measurement, the nature of knowledge and expertise
mobilized, and the scalar and political impacts of poverty mapping as a mode of governance. The INDH symbolizes the attention of the King to marginalized and peripheral villages and yet enables the governing of formerly ungovernable spaces. I discuss how security-development and governing intersect across the poverty mapping network.