Moroccan panic: negative group image leads to uncertainty, stigmatisation and discrimination

Dutch people with a Moroccan migration background are increasingly successful in areas such as education, the labour market and housing. At the same time they experience a negative group image, because of a small group that excels in social problems and crime. In his dissertation, criminologist Abdessamad Bouabid studies the negative social reactions to 'Moroccans' and the impact of these reactions on various Moroccan-Dutch youngsters in the Netherlands. Bouabid will obtain his PhD on Thursday 27 September 2018 at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Based on 'classical moral panic theory', Bouabid investigated in his dissertation 'De Marokkanenpaniek. An integrated moral panic approach to the Moroccan stigma in the Netherlands' is the social response to incidents in which Moroccan Dutch people play a role. He made a qualitative analysis of the media discourse and had conversations with dozens of Moroccan-Dutch young men.

Threat to Dutch culture
From the analysis of the social reactions he concludes that these reactions - in which 'the Moroccan' is always constructed as 'the problematic Other' (the 'folk devil') - focus on specific incidents, but are actually aimed at a latent concern in society with regard to 'the Moroccan'. This would pose a threat to the core values of 'Dutch society'. The incidents and the reactions to them are only acute manifestations ('signifiers') of this underlying concern: the socio-cultural and moral changes in the Netherlands and the ontological uncertainty of the majority culture on which the reactions actually focus. By characterising this 'misplacement', these social reactions to 'Moroccans' can be described as a 'classical moral panic', in other words, as 'the Moroccan panic'.

Bouabid also did open interviews and (participatory) observations about the way Moroccan-Dutch young men deal with these negative social reactions to 'the Moroccan' in daily life. They indicate that they experience these social reactions to 'Moroccans' - despite 'habituation' - again and again as painful and derogatory. This negative image in the media discourse regularly leads to uncertainty and experiences of stigmatisation and discrimination in their daily lives.

Living with it
Nevertheless, they mainly use relatively mild, accommodating and harmonious strategies to deal with this (mass) stigma, such as: ignoring the stigma, refuting the stigma, hiding the stigma by adapting to 'the Dutchman' or avoiding certain situations or places where stigma could occur. Relatively radical and/or conflicting strategies such as: fully conforming to 'the Dutchman', resisting stigmatization, completely isolating 'Dutchmen' or fully internalizing the stigma (secondary deviation), are not or hardly used.

Finally, a theoretical and empirical revaluation of the moral panic theory in this dissertation leads to the development of the more holistic 'integrated moral panic theory' with which other contemporary moral panic can also be understood and explained.

  • About Abdessamad Bouabid

    Abdessamad Bouabid studied Criminology at the Erasmus School of Law from 2006 to 2010. After completing his bachelor and master studies, he worked as a research advisor at the Institute for Security and Crisis Management. During his work there he wrote a research proposal together with René van Swaaningen and Richard Staring, for which he received the NWO Mosaic Grant in November 2011.

    Foto van Abdessemad Bouabid
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