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Political Research Exchange - PRX

'They Are Not Us': Popularity of Turkish Drama Series and Their Impact on Identity Construction Amongst Moroccan Women

National Identity
Maja Dolinar
University of Ljubljana
Maja Dolinar
University of Ljubljana

Each identity is a fragile result of counter processes of appropriation and misappropriation, innovation and assumption of novelty and preservation of tradition. The term identity can be explained in two contradictory ways. Firstly, as an essentialist term, where it denotes an attribute or even a reified entity or something which and individual or a group “has” within or which it performs from itself. Secondly, we can make inferences about its existence in the context of oppositions and dependences. All identities are essentially differential identities, as each identity constitutes what it is on the basis of distinguishing from other identities. Although borders separate and discriminate one group from another, they enable, together with other cultural conceptualisations, the construction of relations. Borders and mistrusts towards others are cognitive models that accelerate stereotyping, wide collective actions and counter founded assumptions and judgements.

Turkish drama series entered the Arab media market under the assumption of cultural proximity to the Arab culture, on contrary to the culturally distant American soap operas or Spanish-language telenovelas. This cultural proximity relates to shared Islamic practices, historical experiences, as well as social aspects, for example the context of arranged marriages, respect for elders and big families living together. Some even argue that even when dealing with culturally sensitive topics (adultery, illegitimate pregnancies), these topics are respected within the social and political boundaries of the Islamic society. Despite the arguments for the inclusion of the Turkish drama series on the Arab media playlist, the Turkish series have been extensively submitted to censorship by the official authorities, claiming that some content is inappropriate and/or even offensive for Arab viewers.
The paper will deal with the influence of the political, social and cultural realities, portrayed in Turkish drama series, broadcasted in the Moroccan media, on the construction of the identity of Moroccan women. The paper is based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, carried out in 2013, and answers the main research question that is how the content of the Turkish drama series create, despite their high popularity among female viewers, a wide boundary between what is considered to be Moroccan Arab identity and Turkish (European) identity. The official censors denote that the way the Turkish media context deals with Islamic laws, strongly differentiates from the Arab, even though they are supposed to be sharing the same religious doctrine and some cultural traditions. The main argument I propose in the paper is that the Moroccan female viewers are attracted to the Turkish characters because of their unfamiliar attitudes, which they connect more with the European style of living, than Islamic ones, thus distinguishing and acknowledging their own Moroccan identity as something unique, purer and closer to the ultimate ideal of an Arab Islamic identity, embodied in the idea of the ummah. The Turkish identity is perceived by Moroccan women as closer to the European liberal identity, then to a culturally similar one.
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