EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 09 Nov 2022 | 17:00–18:30

Failing the Nation? A Conceptual and Methodological Discussion on the Rise and Fall of Arabisation in Morocco

Kaoutar Ghilani (EUME Fellow 2022/23), Chair: Rasha Chatta (Freie Universität Berlin / EUME Fellow 2017-21)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

The combination of multilingualism and diglossia in a postcolonial context has made language one of the most recurring polemical topics in the Maghreb's public sphere since the independence of Morocco and Tunisia in 1956 and Algeria in 1962. As decolonisation carried dreams of modernity and progress, postcolonial language policy was viewed as the vehicle of a cultural renaissance. A major element of Maghrebi states' decolonial nation-building was Arabisation, the policy replacing French with Standard Arabic in the public space after independence. Once a largely consensual – or at least not contested – policy, Arabisation has nevertheless grown increasingly controversial, especially in education, as claims of its 'failure' poured from across the political spectrum. While the discourse bracketing Arabisation with 'failure' has entrenched itself in the public sphere, no formal evaluation of the policy has been ever conducted. In 2019, the Moroccan Ministry of Education reverted to French in the teaching of scientific subjects. How has the discourse on the 'failure' of Arabisation become dominant in Morocco and what implications does it have for nation-building? Kaoutar Ghilani argues that the discourse on the ‘failure’ of Arabisation is an ideal object of study through which to approach post-colonial nation-building in Morocco where conceptions of the future and aspirations for modernity and cultural renaissance have been entangled with illiteracy, neoliberalism, neocolonialism, and the global market of political ideologies. Based on her PhD thesis and her current book project, her talk will present the general framework of her research, its interdisciplinary methodology, and its relevance for post-colonial societies.

Kaoutar Ghilani is a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien during the academic year 2022/23. She received her doctorate in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford as an Ertegun scholar. She was a tutor of ‘Politics in the Middle East’ at Oxford and a visiting researcher at the Centre Jacques Berque in Morocco. Her work has been published in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, Review of Middle East Studies, and the Journal of North African Studies. She is currently preparing a monograph on language politics and nation-building in the Maghreb.

Rasha Chatta is a Researcher of the Einstein Foundation at the Freie Universität Berlin where she is completing a monograph titled Sketching Migration in Arab Comics: War Narratives, Conflicted Memory, and Gender. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at EUME, Forum Transregionale Studien and at the Merian Centre for Advanced Studies in the Maghreb (University of Tunis & Philipps-Universität Marburg). She holds a PhD in Cultural, Literary, and Postcolonial Studies from SOAS, University of London. She has published on contemporary Arab migrant narratives, war literature, visual archives, and Arab feminist comics.

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