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May 2022 Vol. 59 No. 9

Cornell University Press

The following review appeared in the May 2022 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
History, Geography & Area Studies - Middle East & North Africa

Rignall, Karen E. An elusive common: land, politics, and agrarian rurality in a Moroccan oasis. Cornell, 2021. 264p bibl index ISBN 9781501756122, $115.00; ISBN 9781501756139 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9781501756153 ebook, $19.99.

How do marginalized rural people cope with the challenges of global markets, government disinvestment, and environmental pressures? To answer this question, Rignall (Univ. of Kentucky) focuses on one rural area in the arid periphery of Southeastern Morocco. In her extensive, detailed ethnographic study, which includes a number of individual stories, she reveals the contradicting complexities of the transformations in livelihood and agricultural practices that inhabitants have experienced in this corner of North Africa. Her research illustrates the creative, often effective responses people have forged to meet new challenges. Though seeking to maintain traditional communal governance of village commons, villagers are actively engaged in the wider political and economic transformations taking place in their country. The author’s interpretive framework to assess the cumulative changes in rural Morocco over the last 10 years defies the earlier pessimistic narratives regarding the viability of small, independent farmers in Morocco, especially following their large-scale migration to urban centers and Europe to escape poverty, government negligence, and rigid social hierarchies. Those who remain actively assert a new role in their country's political and economic life.

--A. Rassam, emerita, CUNY Queens College

Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.