EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 26 Apr 2023 | 17:00–18:30

Post-2011 Language Politics in Morocco: Governing through ‘Failure’

Kaoutar Ghilani (EUME Fellow 2022/23), Chair: Rim Naguib (EUME Fellow 2019-23)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

In 2019, the Moroccan Ministry of Education decided to abandon Standard Arabic and re-adopt French as the language of instruction for scientific subjects in high school. Beyond a change in the language of instruction, this decision went against the postcolonial nation-building project in which Arabisation, the language policy replacing French with Standard Arabic in the public space, represented an endogenous way to decolonise language and culture. This paper analyses the educational discourse from the late 1980s until 2019 in Morocco showing how the discourse on the ‘failure of Arabisation’ was established after 2011 and how it used by the state to express a new nation-building project in the midst of a political crisis. Relying on educational publications, conference proceedings, charters, strategic documents, and laws, in addition to interviews I conducted in 2019, I argue that the state shifted its designated culprit for the education system’s crisis from ‘the teaching of languages’ to ‘the language of teaching,’ using the idea of ‘Arabisation’s failure’ as a tool of governmentality in the context of the 2011 popular uprisings.

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 Morocco.

Rim Naguib is a EUME Fellow at Forum Transregionale Studien during the academic years 2019-23. She received her Phd in Sociology from Northwestern University (2016) and her MA from Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence (2006). She was a post-doctoral fellow with the Arab Council for the Social Sciences, then a EUME fellow since 2019. Her research interests address three different, but not unrelated, fields: the genesis and development of Egyptian patriarchal nationalism; the securitization of nationality practices and foreigners' residence in post-colonial Egypt; and the colonial roots of the practice of ideological deportation in interwar Egypt. Outside strict academia, she is interested in various mediums and venues to popularize suppressed histories and the critical social sciences, among which is her graphic interpretation of stories she finds in the archives. She has co-translated several historical graphic novels into Arabic.


Please note that the Berliner Seminar will take place on-site at the Forum Transregionale Studien. We kindly ask for prior registration via eume(at) Depending on approval by the speaker(s), the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available on SoundCloud.

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