Human Rights and Forced Migration Initiative schedules inaugural event

March 08, 2021

An inaugural event for the Human Rights and Forced Migration Initiative based in the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State on March 24 will feature a scholar discussing how the Moroccan monarchy has used the “rule of law” to boost its legitimacy and impact the freedoms of Moroccans and Sahrawis.

Andrew Smith will present “Dys-Ruptures: Protest, Rights of Speech, and the Consolidation of Power in Morocco and Western Sahara” at 12:30 p.m. March 24 on Zoom. Smith, a professor of rhetoric and communication at Edinboro University, also holds an appointment as an adjunct professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, and co-supervises Fulbright doctoral dissertations under the auspices of the Moroccan American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange.

Smith will explore how Morocco, under King Mohammed VI, has made promised reforms that seem appealing at first glance. However, they have also consolidated power even further and bolstered a perception of monarchical legitimacy under the “rule of law.” Drawing from Moroccan and Continental cultural theory, his presentation will reflect on how the oppressive Moroccan “makhzen” government apparatus impinges on freedom of speech in Morocco and holds serious implications for the disputed territory of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco. Significantly, Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco as its southern provinces but also by the Sahrawi as a nascent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic sovereign state that seeks greater international recognition. 

Smith’s talk is sponsored by the Human Rights and Forced Migration Initiative and by the Department of African Studies.

Penn State faculty members Yael Warshel, assistant professor of telecommunications and media industries, and Desiree Lim, assistant professor of philosophy, both research associates of the Rock Ethics Institute, lead the initiative, which critically examines conventional models of refugee protection with an interdisciplinary lens, particularly with regard to the premise of a Westphalian world order. Drawing from Warshel’s global fieldwork with Sahrawi refugees and Lim’s specialization in the ethics of immigration, the initiative combines shared interests in the protection of refugee human rights, and a moral duty for the international community to better respond to forced-migration.

Last Updated March 11, 2021