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David Montgomery Hart Letters Donation

  • Archives du Maroc Rabat Morocco (map)

The anthropologist David Montgomery Hart and I corresponded nearly continuously from 1967 to 2001. Or rather, David corresponded with me, as well as with many other people dedicated to study of Morocco, North Africa, and the Muslim world in general. David lived in Morocco and then Spain most of his adult life. He was a letter writer of the Old School. He hand wrote most of his epistles until the last few years of his life, never got the hang of email, and, probably lucky for him, passed away before the invention of Facebook. I have shared stories with several of his pen pals of our receiving five or six letters (two pages or more) from David in a week’s time or even several letters in a single day. I received two letters from him in the week following his death in May 2001. If I wrote back to him only once every couple of months, his letter stream never let up.

He was also a prolific writer of books and articles on Moroccan ethnography and history. His letters were treasuries of Moroccana—research reports, drafts of articles, new ideas, insights, and sharp opinions. His letters to me were also crammed with information: books he had read, comments on other people’s letters to him, projects he was working on, relatives and friends who visited him, the doings of his beloved wife Ursula, reports of his travels abroad, restaurants he liked, bawdy Berber jokes, and, from the 1990s, constant grumbling about his untamable computer.

I may have been the only correspondent of David who saved all his letters. After putting off the job for nearly sixteen years after his death, I finally set myself, with efficient help from our dear friend Cristina Rogers, to organize the letters chronologically. Aomar Boum, a Moroccan native and Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCLA , took a keen interest in this project. Prof.. Boum accepted the laborious task of having all of my letters scanned. I have estimated that letters from David ranging over thirty-five years number in all roughly 10,000 to 11,000 pages.

Dr. Jamaâ Baida (left) and Ross Dunn, April 6, 2017

Dr. Jamaâ Baida (left) and Ross Dunn, April 6, 2017

Prof. Boum contacted Jama’a Baida, Director of the Archives du Maroc in Rabat, about my donating the letters to that institution. Dr. Baida received the proposal enthusiastically. We are in the process of shipping the letters to the archives by secure means. Early in April 2017, I met with Director Baida at his office in Rabat to discuss the Hart project and to make my donation official. The Hart archive will be available to scholars to examine in connection with projects on North African ethnography and history, research methods and practices in rural Morocco, David Hart’s career, the professional culture of foreign researchers in Morocco (especially in the 1960s and 1970s), and no doubt other subjects. The convention that Dr. Baida and I signed in Rabat provides for the future enrichment of the Hart collection with additional correspondence or related documents that other friends and correspondents of David may possess.