Moving Away from Polygamy in Morocco

While studying and living in Morocco during my junior year of college, I was confronted by forms of marriage which I had not previously considered, marriages between first cousins, marriages between people with age gaps extending decades, but most new to me, marriages between multiple partners.  Through my studies of the Quran, I came to know of passages in which the marriage of up to four women by one man was condoned and seemed encouraged (in certain interpretations). This seemed absurd to me and unfair to women since the men made choices on who they would marry and women didn’t have much of a say.

I questioned my host family, my Moroccan friends, professors and texts especially after meeting Moroccans who were involved in polygamous marriages.  Through my inquiries I came to realize that polygamy is slowly starting to lose popularity in Moroccan culture. Women scoffed that their children should never have the need to be in a polygamous marriage, young men scoffed that more than one wife would be too expensive and stressful, young women scoffed that they weren’t willing to share their lover. Books illustrated stories of miserable, lonely co-wives, and stressed out husbands.  People mentioned that there was no longer an economic necessity and spoke of education and professional jobs for women.  I found myself wondering what the function and so-called ‘necessity’ of polygamy was in the past and how priorities are different today.

According to Functionalism, all elements in culture have a function that is related to the other elements of the culture and when put in context, the acceptance of polygamy was beneficial when the Quran was written and the acceptance of this form of marriage was related and balanced by the economic privation of many women in the society.  A main function of polygamy was for men to marry and therefore care for multiple women and their children, who otherwise had no means of economic support.  After centuries of changes, and specifically speaking of Morocco, this institution of financially supporting women through marriage is being replaced by giving women an equal chance to education and jobs as a means for self-sufficiency.

As the current king, Mohammad VI seeks to move towards ‘modernization,’ he is seeking improvements in the rights of women and the opportunity for them to care for themselves monetarily.  It is possible to interpret the king’s changes through the lens of Cultural evolution in which more than one group finds a certain institution in society to be more efficient in one culture and held in higher regard on a spectrum connecting the cultures. In this case, the abolition of polygamy could be seen as what Moroccan culture is ‘evolving’ towards, modeling itself in some ways after current western models of marriage and women’s rights.  The king has started instituting laws against polygamy and giving more rights to women especially with regards to marriage and family.  This is a testament to the fact that culture as a whole is a process, it is ever-changing as are the functions of the institutions that compose each culture.

— Jordan A.

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40 Responses to Moving Away from Polygamy in Morocco

  1. Irina Vagner says:

    That’s a very interesting topic.
    I am not quite familiar with Moroccan culture, but I assume Islam is a dominant religion in Morocco. So, according to Quaran polygamy is not required, nor encouraged, but merely tolerated. Strictly speaking, the prophet would refer to the polygamy as a way to help orphans and widows (Surah 4, Verse 3). However, it is a fact that it is widely practiced (and according to your discussion it is now less popular in Morocco).
    I was wondering if we could think of the fact it is getting less and less popular as one of the aspects of fundamentalism in Islamic cultures which is on the rise. In this case, would the Cultural Evolutionists say that the Islamic communities are evolving, or on the contrary regressing?

  2. Kate Barry says:

    I had no previous knowledge of Morocco and this is a very interesting topic. Do you think that any neighboring countries influenced the peoples values on polygamy? You pointed out that it was no longer economical or necessary for the men to have multiple wives, but was the decision to move away from polygamy also influenced by the people in Algeria?

  3. Holly Zink says:

    @Irina Vagner
    I like your thought about fundamentalism and cultural evolution! While the approach has largely been dismissed by the professional community, cultural evolutionists would note the increasing appearance of “civilization” in places like Abu Dhabi [quickly becoming the cultural hub of the Middle East] with the appearance of Western-style laissez-faire economic practices and men’s Western business attire.
    I think Cultural Evolution proponents would note Islamic fundamentalism’s attempts to bar Western influence from influencing traditional culture as a sort of ‘brick wall’ between a more ‘civilized’ and more ‘barbaric’ culture.

  4. Katherine Caldwell says:

    Jordan, I love this topic. I’m personally very interested in polygamy because it seems so foreign, yet can be found so close – just a state away. I think its interesting that polygamy is becoming more prevalent in the US media. Books, such as Middlesex, and tv shows like Big Love and Sisterwives are bringing an often hidden topic to the light. I wonder if the increased media attention will allow for a more positive light to be shed on polygamy in the United States. I’m also curious if polygamy is only a trending topic because it is something many of us will never come into contact with- making it easier to believe any narrative provided to us. Or is it that polygamy is becoming more accepted and more common?

    • Rebecca Oliver says:

      Katherine, I think it’s interesting what you said at the end of your comment about interest in things that most of us will never come in contact with. Most of the attention I’ve seen shed on Polygamy has been pretty negative and I think that it is definitely easier to believe things about what we haven’t come into contact with. Another big example of this would be the mutilation of female genitalia in some African countries. Our culture is extremely opposed to it because of what has been said in the media, and our basic treatment of that kind of thing is extremely different here. Many people simply fear what they don’t know. American cultural ideals end up being projected through the media rather than explaining the original cultural advantages and disadvantages. Papers like this one allow for a well-rounded opinion versus an extremely biased one.

    • andersca316 says:

      Good points Katherine. In my opinion the recent prevalence of polygamy in the US is not because it is becoming more accepted or a more common practice. I think that we have seen so many things on television that when a new show comes on that is a completely foreign concept to most people , we gravitate towards these shows because we are very interested and sometimes shocked at the way other people live. I am almost sure the the polygamous practice will never come close to a common practice in the United States. I think it will remain something that people like to watch simply because of its foreign nature.

  5. Everett Warner says:

    I like how Katherine brough up polygamy in the U.S. I think most people are discouraged by polygamy because we view it as a foreign topic that we are unfamiliar with, yet it’s happening right here. I feel that polygamy has gained a lot of attention in the present time and is becoming much more acceptable. I feel that more people are aware of the existence of polygamy in the U.S. today, than they were ten years ago. There have been movements for the equal rights of women and races in this country and we have moved into a society that is much more acceptable of all lifestyles. There is a fight going on today for gay rights and gay marriage in the united States which is just another example of our movement into a more accepting society. It sounds like in Morocco women have gained a lot more rights and respect as well, which makes me think that they are moving in the same direction of the United States. Morocco is moving into a society that accepts women as self-reliant people that not longer need the use of polygamy.

    • Morgan Spyker says:

      I think that polygamy is an extremely interesting subject. With Everett’s example of gay rights and gay marriage going on in the United States today, I understand that it is a movement to a more accepting society. Yet, on the scale of polygamy I feel that many are still turned off to the idea. Yes, there are shows like Big Love and Sisterwives that are starting to open up our minds to the idea, I feel that the majority of Americans are not comfortable with polygamy. It feels like a very closed culture, where as gay rights are out and literally parading down our streets. Media has taken a pretty accepting approach (especially through tv and films) through the past few years but there are just a few positive examples of polygamy in main stream media today. There of course are negative examples of polygamy (in Texas a few years ago, for example) yet I don’t think that many of the families that practice it today would be looked at as unhealthy. Rather than, living a different lifestyle choice.

    • carsonhughes says:

      Yes, people don’t like what they don’t understand. I feel that modernization brings a mindset that all walks of life should be respected, and no dogmatic views be imposed on society. With this freedom comes the ability to practice polygamy, as well. I feel that people need to be aware of the cultural pros and cons of their neighbor’s practices, and instead of discouraging them, seeing them for what they are. When we can understand each other, we can respect each other, so it’s good that the topic of polygamy has been brought out the dark and into the public eye.

  6. Brenna Hokanson says:

    I love how you mention the historical context of a religious text. Many people forget that religious texts were not just written as guides to spirituality, but also guides to living happy and healthy lives. The passage in the Qur’an regarding polygamy is ostensibly about polygamy, but the underlying value is charity.

    While the two theoretical approaches you use to guide your paper are obviously relevant, I would be interested to discuss the Feminist Anthropologist’s perspective, especially in terms of how the decline in polygamy correlates to the rise in self-reliant women.

  7. angie larson says:

    Wow, I have never thought of polygamy in this context, that it may have originated for the care of women in hard economic times. I guess I’ve never know what the roots or origination of polygamy were but I assumed it was power or male domination for the most part. It actually makes a lot more sense to think of it in this way, that the men were taking care of multiple women. Then, it would also make sense why it has died off with the right of women growing rapidly (in most countries), so the need to take care of more than one woman would not be needed. The only time I have really ever heard of polygamy is in the LDS religion (which the religion does not recognize any longer, but the polygamists call themselves LDS), I didn’t realize it existed outside of what I knew of it in the states. This is a very interesting topic and I’m glad I chose to read this essay specifically; I learned something new!

  8. Kylee Smith says:

    Based on the lecture on marriage, I’ve come to understand that the forms of union that seem bizarre in our society are often based on economic reasons. In addition to polygamy, I am referring too sororates and levirates where groups of sisters or brothers marry together. These are generally economic marriages when a sister or brother can not support themselves. Also, I am curious whether the polygamy in Morocco is only polygyny, or if there are instances of polyandry as well?

  9. Halle Bennett says:

    It is fascinating to know that culture has such an impact on our love life. Although I know close to nothing about Moroccan culture, I can still say that it is amazing to watch how a culture develops with its environment. As the world advanced and namely Morocco itself- as it was introduced to the 21st century with the rest of the world- the culture advanced with its women’s rights movement. A feminist approach would be interesting to analyze both in how women’s rights have affected the approach to polygamous marriage, but also how the power dynamics in a polygamous marriage work in Morocco, and if they vary by culture. I know that the TV show, “Big Love,” portrays it like a democracy where each wife has a say and the president (the husband) will sign off on the ideas- however, is that kind of approach the same in Morocco? Do they share their children? Do they address themselves as a group? As one family? Are the children tied to the mother or the father? These could vary with culture, and, honestly, most likely do. I am a skeptic of polygamous marriage in the fact that humans are selfish creatures and sex bring a rush of hormones that promote attachment towards the mate (especially in the case of women), so I am surprised that women would be ok sharing a lover. Although, they might have had no choice because being in this marriage was a financial stability issue in their culture. It would be interesting to conduct field work in areas that allow and practice polygamous marriages and ask what their lives and family dynamics are like, and it would also be interesting to see if women in a polygynous marriage care less or more than a man in a polyandrous marriage.

  10. Zack Parrinella says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I have known that polygamy happens around the world for a while now, but I have always assumed the people involved in the marriage had no problem with being a second or third wife, or having multiple wives. It is crazy to see how people have finally stood out against polygamy. After looking around on the internet, polygamy currently has practically disappeared from Morocco because the country has set up laws that force the husband to split his things up with his wife if he divorces her. This has worked successfully as it has scared a lot of men into not marrying multiple wives. I think it is very interesting that Morocco has dealt with this religious tradition by means of a law.

    Also, I am interested as to whether or not there is typically a hierarchy of the women in a polygamous marriage. Does the first wife always have more power or act as if she does or does it change with every marriage? And how are children dealt with in a polygamous marriage? I’m sure these things are all different with every family but I would very much like to read journals or texts about a few different polygamous families in Morocco to learn about this.

  11. Robin Fiore says:

    I thought the comments on polygamy being tolerated by Islam were interesting. I’ve always been very interested in religion so it made me think back to our religion lecture and how polygymy ties into modern Islam. In particular, if many Islamic nations discontinue their practice of polygamy and beging to look down on it, will this cause a change in the attitude of Islam toward polygamy? We know that religions change over time and between cultures, and some of that change must come from the people who follow that religion. Their needs must be met by it. If Islamic people no longer approve of polygamy I think it’s possible Islam will also stop to approve. This could cause a revitalization movement or a split in the religion in countries where polygamy is practiced and where it isn’t. But I think if people’s attitudes toward marriage are changing it necessitates a change in the attitude of the religion, since control of marriages is a key way that religion maintains social control.

  12. Carly Korbecki says:

    I agree with Brenna that it would be interesting to consider a Feminist Anthropologist’s position on Polygamy. They could explain the cultural reasons for low female status, which led to women needing to be taken care of by men, this problem solved by plural marriages. The essay mentions the depletion of multiple spouses because of the rising economic status of women, but the gender roles in society involving the marriages would be a big topic for Feminist Anthropologists.

  13. Cristina Gannon says:

    I found this to be a very interesting topic to write on. I really enjoyed reading it as I know nothing about Morocco or the Quaran, and have given little thought the the importance of polygamy in any culture. The biggest thought this invoked in me involved the religious side to polygamy. As stated by a few different people polygamy is discussed in the Quaran and was practiced by many Islams, but is not fading and even be condoned. This makes me wonder about how our interpretation of religious writings changes over time and how or why do we accept such writing/beliefs as “true or devine”.

  14. Adam Sammakia says:

    I wonder if part of the reason for the decline in the popularity of polygamy is the diffusion of western culture and values to other areas of the world. It would be interesting to ask both women and men in Morocco what their perspectives on polygamy are compared to their parents and grandparents. It would also be interesting to see how women in polygamous marriages feel about the subject. The fact that there is now legislation against polygamy is also very interesting and I wonder what the political climate is regarding legislation such as this.

    • Amy Austin says:

      I would like to point out a variety of theoretical approaches that could be applied to the questions raised by Cristina in her comment. In response to asking both men and women their perspectives on polygamy within this society, this would require the use of a Feminist Anthropological perspective. The reason that this data presently does not occur, I would presume, is primarily because of the subordinate role of women within that society. I would guess that it would not necessarily be appropriate or welcomed within that culture to ask women their perspective on polygamy, and even if you asked them I don’t know if you would get a response that wasn’t influenced by societal pressures and expectations.

      In response to your comment about legislation it would be interesting to look at this topic through both a Political Anthropologist and Post-Structuralist approach, looking at political activity within the culture as well as power structure. The reason I thought this would be particularly relevant is due to the fact that many Muslim countries operate under theocracies, meaning that the theology and doctrine of Islam plays a large role in the structure and execution of politics. Examining the hierarchical structure within Islam would lead to an interesting analysis of the hierarchies present within politics, legislation and individual cultural expression.

  15. Courtney O'Rourke says:

    In the very first paragraph of this essay, the author states “[polygamy] seemed absurd to me and unfair to women since the men made choices on who they would marry and women didn’t have much of a say.” This statement struck me as extremely interesting because it emphasized how at first glance, many judgments can be innately ethnocentric, especially when westerners observe foreign cultures. Just in the first paragraph, that author has already displayed their own held ideals about the position and role of woman in society, specifically in marriage. However, I think this statement actually adds to the paper, rather than takes away from it, since the paper goes on to explain how a first glance rash judgment can be considered a misconception when the idea of polygamy is explained using Morocco’s cultural and historical connection to Islam.
    I also think this paper, at some level, can be paralleled to the ethnography, “Invitations to Love” in its observation of a shift in marriage practices and attitudes. Like the love letters in Nepal, the shift out of polygamous marriage seems to be affecting more than just marriage, but ideas about the economy and gender roles as well. It would be interesting to examine whether this shift is causing a change in the idea of ‘agency’ that Ahearn discusses in her ethnography.

  16. Lyndsi Wisdom says:

    The thing I loved most about your essay over all the others was that it was based off your own observations and fieldwork. When you’re the person that was actually there and experienced it, you can have a much better way of explaining it than if you were explaining someone else’s work. You really pulled me in when you were talking about how in the Moroccan culture, the reason they are stepping away from polygamy is because women are beginning to get equal opportunities and rights. What I don’t understand is why the King making laws against polygamy. Here, in our own culture, women have equal opportunities as men but we still value polygamous relationships. I don’t think that it should really be something they aren’t allowed to do.

  17. Amy Austin says:

    I find this topic of polygamy very interesting from a Cultural Evolutionary perspective, examining how societies have adapted their marriage practices to changing circumstances within the society. It is interesting that the author mentioned how these practices are no longer necessary within this society. An interesting parallel I would like to draw would be to examine a similar phenomenon within early Mormon populations in the United States. It is my understanding that early Mormons were allowed to practice polygamy in order to increase their population during a time of immense persecution. My Mormon friends certainly attest that polygamy is no longer endorsed within mainstream modern Mormonism, despite certain fundamentalist sects who continue the practice.

    I find this phenomenon particularly interesting from both a diachronic and synchronic perspective. Diachronic meaning examining a particular society, be that Mormons in Idaho or Muslims in Morocco, as well as a synchronic perspective by comparing the practices of each group within a certain unit of time. It appears that many distinct parallels between these cultures exist within the realm of marriage practice and its purpose; it would be interesting to explore this topic further

  18. laine smith says:

    I recently read a narrative about a woman in a Mormon society in Utah. When she was 18 or so, she falls in love with a man who wasn’t part of her religious community. So, she has to choose between leaving her entire life, heritage and beliefs behind in order to run away with him, or, stay with her religious values and marry a man who already had 4 wives. She ends up choosing to marry into a polygamous marriage with a man she doesn’t love, living in the middle of nowhere in a rundown shack with something like 14 children between the wives. Starving, freezing, worn down…all this, in order to keep her spiritual and religious beliefs. I do agree polygamy is mostly seen in a negative light, and this book only pushes that further, and in many cases it is mostly negative. In other cases I wonder sometimes if we hear stories about this lifestyle without thinking about what life is like there in day to day for non polygamous families. Yes, in a polygamous lifestyle we hear a lot about poverty and unstable family lives, but is it possible that that polygamous relationship actually gains a better life for the woman than a monogamous marriage would? Maybe our american standards for what makes a good life is different to another country…for example a third world country. Perhaps there, the daily life of a monogamous marriage is so much worse that a polygamous one, but all in all the community they live in is run down and poor, therefore we hear about the terrible living situations of polygamous families but don’t realize that that is the living standard of that particular community.

  19. Jessie Kronke says:

    Its funny that polygamy is explained as a way to help women who are struggling financially, as this gives off the idea that the system is all about aiding women, when it really seems to just further oppress them. If a woman were struggling with the finances left to her by her family, why not allow her to work, earn a living for herself, rather than rely on the dependence of male income, which is the case in other countries such as Saudi Arabia. Technically, law allows women to be employed but there are strict guidelines that go along with said law, such as that women are not allowed to work if their job would get in the way of their number one priority of raising the children and tending house, and that their jobs should not place them in “excess” contact with men. These rules make it hard for women to make a living, and essentially force polygamous marriages onto them as the only solution to their troubles.

    • Clair Trousil says:

      This essay and comment together really reminded me of evolutionary anthropology. Its interesting to me that some of the comments on this blog are so negative toward the Moroccan practice of polygamy. Although I completely agree the polygamous practices are very degrading and oppressive to women, they may have made more economical sense to Moroccans when polygamy was at it’s height. After all, a man could raise a larger family with the support of more than just one woman, and for the women it may have also been beneficial to have other women around to help raise children. I think an evolutionary anthropologist would study this concept of polygamy from his cushy armchair and be convinced that these are primitive people, much like we Americans often do, when in reality they may have had the best of economic intentions.

  20. Megan Long says:

    The only knowledge that I have of polygamy(previous to this essay) was among the Mormons. The reasons that you give for the Moroccans to have multiple wives, actually seems to make sense. I had always thought of it as being done for a religious purpose rather than an economic one, so this essay was very eye opening. Very interesting topic, great job!

    @ Laine Smith

    I absolutely agree. It is hard for people who grew up in a society with monogamous relationships to understand why someone would choose to join a family with multiple wives and a large amount of children. According to the essay there were some hardships that came along with a marriage with multiple wives, but there were also reasons for why it started and why it has lasted as long as it did. I don’t believe that the intention of helping the women out economically was meant to imply that they are not able to take care of themselves. In Morocco at the time when monogamy was popular it may have been necessary for the women’s survival and so they appreciated it rather than resented it. But seeing that I am not Moroccan, nor am I informed of their history, I can only assume that it was advantageous to the women.

  21. Alexis Bell says:

    I’ve studied Islam to some degree, and often been told that when you look at polygamous marriage in Islam, it’s important to understand the cultural history of Arabia. I’ve always been taught that before Mohammed and the Koran, there was no limitation on how many woman a man could marry, and how he had to treat them, and that the limitation to just four wives, and admonition that they all be treated equally was liberalizing for women at the time. What’s interesting is not just that we should look at the cultural context of how the current form of polygamous marriage developed, but how it’s explained today. I’ve often found there’s an apologetic tone to how it’s explained that shows some ethnocentrism, and even some cultural evolution that Islam was a movement away from a less evolved form of marriage and is continuing to move closer to monogamous marriage.

  22. Rosa McAvoy says:

    I think this is a very interesting topic. I have never known much about Morocco but I do think it is interesting to see how the views on marriage have changed throughout its’ history. It is clear that the decreased practice of polygamy is due to a western influence, where many do not take part in a polygamous relationship, and this new kind of relationship could be seen as a way to modernize Morocco’s society. It also goes to show with less polygamous relationships how women may be changing their views on their place in society and being more active to gain power in Morocco. In Invitations to Love, a similar effect is seen with the agency of the people of Junigau and their views on marriage influenced by bigger less rural cities and how it can mean a step towards success in the modern world.

  23. Catherine Molnar says:

    Considering that I never really understood the purpose of a polygamous marriage until now, I thought that the connection to functionalism and it having a purpose to benefit society and the economy as a whole was really insightful. This was a really interesting essay to read and it answered a lot of questions I had before about polygamy. I also found it really interesting when you discussed the different reasons for why it was becoming unpopular that the women wanted out because it wasn’t fair to them and the men wanted out because they were stressed and it took a toll on them financially. This was a really well written paper and it had a lot of strong points.

  24. Ben Perkins says:

    I found this to be one of the most interesting topics on love. The functionalist view on polygamy was very interesting and surprising to me. I never considered how a functionalist would view polygamy, yet you explain the social and economic reason clearly. I have problems in the paragraph about cultural evolution, specifically when you say, “(Moroccan concept on marriage is) ‘evolving’ towards, modeling itself in some ways after current western models of marriage and women’s rights”. In saying this, I’m left feeling as if the evolution of this culture and practice is more about the modeling of other cultures, instead of the evolution and change with in their own culture. In fact, claiming the Western world as a model for Moroccan polygamy is not entirely accurate as there a sub cultures with in the societies that have such practices, Utah being one. I believe that cultural evolution should relate back to functionalist ideas, emphasizing that the evolution of the women’s role and freedom with in that culture has de emphasized the function of polygamy.

  25. Meghan McFarland says:

    I would be curious to examine the links between the Anthropology of Development and the decrease in polygamous marriages in Morocco. You mentioned in your essay the recent attention to education, economic independence and the increase in professional employment for Moroccan women; to what effect have these changes decreased polygamous marriages? The 2000 Millennium Development Goals aim to improve women empowerment and, although the MDGs may not have direct impact on Moroccan women, it brings to light the impacts of women empowerment. Was this a purposeful movement in Morocco (to empower women) or is it just a natural sign of cultural evolution/modernity? You mentioned that men are benefiting from the decrease in polygamous marriages, mostly of economic purposes, so what role have males played in enacted women’s empowerment and to what ends?

  26. Tim Baker says:

    This was a very interesting essay to read as I think most people here are unfamiliar with the marital practices outside of our own country. A cultural evolutionist and functionalist standpoints are definitely good ways of looking at the transition happening in Morocco. Another good theoretical approach to look at this issue could be either applied anthropology or feminist anthropology. Applied anthropology would look for ways to better integrate women into the work force to better support themselves financially and the feminist perspective would probably look for ways to create more equality for women who were now granted more freedom.

  27. Tess Porter says:

    I really enjoyed this essay. Before reading, I had never really considered the economic factors that may influence entering a polygamous relationship. I had always looked at the relationships in relation to love and how all partners would feel about sharing. I also thought what Laine said about monogamous relationship conditions in comparison to polygamous conditions was interesting.

    It would be interesting to look at Polygamy through a historical particularism point of view, and compare how the reasons different cultures came to accept, and and possibly reject, polygamy.

  28. Kelli Peterson says:

    I love all the comments about polygamy in the US having a sort of ‘coming out.’ Yes it is interesting to note the ‘evolution’ of societies from plural marriages in so-called developing nations to the more widely accepted Western ideal of single marriage. Yet as our lives continue to get more scheduled and hectic, I wonder if the cultural evolution will come full circle?
    As a professional woman who worked 60 hours a week, was married to a working man, and trying to raise two children, I often said, “I need a wife.” It is very hard to hold down all the demands of the household and business single-handedly. Sure, my husband pitched in some, but really the women’s movement left American females with all the duties of a 1950’s housewife AND a career.
    It will be interesting to see if polygamy in the US makes a resurgence. I think it is quite possible it will, as women who want to stay at home team up with women who want to work. There is nothing ‘anti-womens rights’ about negotiating relationships and marriages outside the American dominant cultural script. I find the prospect empowering, actually.

  29. sean kelly says:

    I was unaware that polygamy is practiced in Morocco until I read this essay. I work closely with a few moroccans that have recently moved to the United States. I asked two of them what they thought of polygamy. They said that polygamy is almost unheard of in morocco. They also noted that some of the outlining “desert people” practice polygamy, they made these people out to be bucolic and simple or hillbillies if you will. Some which are nomadic or establish small villages, a comparison can be made to the Mormon polygamist compounds in the American southwest that are very much alive today. In the non-urban communities in morocco, a large family would be useful to share the chores of daily life, not a financial burden. I agree that outlawing polygamy is the cultural evolution of the moroccan society to be more modern and “civilized”. Just like when the Mormon church was forced to ban the practice in 1890, in order to be ratified into the United States.

  30. Tanya Fink says:

    I love this topic because it has recently become a curious and more public subject in US popular culture. As many people have also noted– shows like Sisterwives and Big Love have come into the public eye and brought a “taboo” topic into the spotlight.

    My mother works at a hospital typically catering to lower income families and individuals as a chaplain. My family lives in a “Boulder-esque” neighborhood in Boise, so I am not necessarily familiar with the people coming from the surrounding, more conservative towns. While watching Big Love one night, my mom brought up the fact that she’s met multiple women involved in polygamist relationships at work. This was absolutely shocking to me, because 1. I didn’t think that polygamist relationships really existed much outside of Utah (stereotypical i know), and 2. I have never met anyone from the Boise area who has multiple spouses, or anyone who knows anyone with multiple spouses.

    This says a lot about taboo topics in culture. My mother meets people when they are vulnerable, and need counseling, so she is more likely to hear about things in their lives that wouldn’t usually be shared. Polygamy in US culture is a private matter, and usually not seen as modern or acceptable. But it does exist. And what’s interesting is that we really only see it through our “pop-culture lenses.” I’m curious to see what the next step of polygamy is going to be in terms of cultural acceptance.

  31. Jack Teague says:

    I liked how you ended the paper with the idea that culture is not static. When we read about cultures in books, it seems as though practices are set in stone, when in reality they are always in flux. At this point in time the idea of polygamy is falling out of favor worldwide, but it was beneficial in the past, and who knows it could be beneficial in the future. The fact that you got to interview people who were involved in a practice that is on its way out of social acceptance is fascinating.

  32. Ruth Harrell says:

    I really enjoyed how this topic connected the U.S. and Morocco. I found it interesting how Sean described his Moroccan friends talking about polygamy, almost as if the “hillbilly” desert people were backwards when it has only recently started disappearing from main stream culture. It was also interesting to think that while polygamy is dying out in a sense in Morocco it is thriving in communities in the U.S. And yet there seems to be no movement here in the main stream news of America to change or “modernize” the practice of these people as there is in Morocco. I would be interested to hear anyone’s views on why our culture seems very accepting of the practice.

  33. Ariane Robertson says:

    This is a really interesting topic. From my limited study of the Quran, I was taught that polygamy was encouraged to offer protection to as many women as possible because many of the men had be killed in holy wars. From my understanding, polygamy was a reaction to existing structural violence (women having no means to provide for themselves) so could it possibly be considered a form of agency?

  34. Brian Cortese says:

    It seems that in many Western stereotypes of Islamic culture we are constantly exposed to this idea of a Sultan with his heram of beautiful women at his disposal. While this may have been true for Sultans. It is not true today. The quote about the man not being able to afford it. This gets rid of this stereotype of beautiful women with one man. It shows that it is about economic stability and not about sex. Interesting how living there can bring out the truth.

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