Professor Mohammed LAAMIRI
The Prize will be given at the Opening Ceremony
of Performing Tangier, 20 May 2009
As the fifth conference on Tangier expands beyond the specific themes related to the city, we would like to seize the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the work and lifetime achievement of Professor Laamiri, who has significantly impacted the city as well as Moroccan literature and university education in many ways.
For over three decades Professor Laamiri’s academic, administrative, critical, and intellectual contributions have shaped generations of Moroccan academics and markedly advanced British-Moroccan cultural and intellectual exchange. Ever since his early career as a professor and chair of English at the University of Abdelmalik Essaadi in Tetouan, he has committed his time and effort not only to educating generations of Moroccan students, but also to creating a unique learning environment for them by building cultural bridges between Morocco and England. Amongst his many achievements, he founded and chaired in 1990 The Research Group for Moroccan Studies in English (REGMOSE), an organization concerned with research on British writings about Morocco. When he was serving as Dean of the Faculty of Oujda, he organized in collaboration with the British Council, Rabat, the First Forum for Creative Writers in English in March 2001.
Professor Laamiri’s work transcends the bounds of administrative service and commitment to teaching excellence; his careful and thorough research on the socio-cultural history of Tangier has made him one of the leading scholars in the field. His varied and numerous writings on Tangier, its history, culture, and people have profoundly enriched scholarship on the city, and his critical acumen has put him in a unique position to investigate and interrogate the cultural and intellectual wealth of Tangier. He once described Tangier as “a reservoir of other cultures,” and one soon realizes that Professor Laamiri’s wide and diverse knowledge and critical insight tap into this reservoir to highlight its multifaceted dimensions, explore its historical and social convergences, and celebrate its cultural achievements. Professor Laamiri understands the cultural dynamics of Tangier as a locus of diverse cultural and civilizational encounters from antiquity to the present. His knowledge of this long and rich history gives him a unique perspective from which to excavate Tangier’s hidden cultural treasures and long history of cross-cultural fertilizations. His writings on Tangier help us not only aesthetically to appreciate the literature of the city but also to navigate visually its topography through vivid descriptions of its major landmarks. He beautifully weaves the city’s labyrinthine alleyways, market places, diverse styles of architecture, and outstanding historical landmarks to the various narratives that make up Tangier’s rich and unique socio-cultural mosaic. His writings continue to inscribe the identity of Tangier.
As we celebrate Professor Laamiri’s achievements, we also acknowledge his leading role as a mentor to young Moroccan scholars who have chosen to write in English. His encouragement of this new literary consciousness in Morocco draws attention to a body of writing that transcends the bounds of language and place to embrace a spirit of global culture that stresses the humanity of individual subjects regardless of their local culture. Thanks to Professor Laamiri’s scholarship and critical insight over several decades, and especially his support of the Médi-Café project, a host of fresh and emerging voices have found a platform from which to speak. His recent essay on North African literature written in English shows his unwavering commitment to these new voices on the Moroccan literary scene. His awareness of the criticism, theory, and politics of the continued use of imperial languages allows him to present these emerging voices as they struggle with the paradoxes and complexities of using English as a medium of expression and as a vehicle for a uniquely Moroccan reality. Professor Laamiri once again has helped to link these new voices to others in the West, thus creating space for discussion, debate, and cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.
As members of the many generations of students who have benefited greatly from Professor Laamiri’s mentoring and commitment to higher education, cross-cultural understanding, service, leadership, and scholarship, we simply and respectfully say thank you. The Moroccan academic and intellectual landscape would not be the same without his many contributions.