Failing the Nation? The Rise and Fall of Arabisation in the Maghreb
Kaoutar Ghilani’s research investigates the disavowal by Maghrebi postcolonial states (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) of a main element of their decolonial nation-building: Arabisation. Replacing French with Standard Arabic in the public space after independence, Arabisation was a key nationalist demand representing an endogenous modernity project for the Maghreb that was distinct from both the West’s and the Middle East’s. Once a largely consensual — or at least not contested — policy associated with decolonisation, 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, Morocco and Algeria announced a turn towards French and English, respectively, in their education systems. How has the discourse on the ‘failure of Arabisation’ become dominant in the Maghreb and what implications does it have for nation-building? During her time as a EUME fellow, Kaoutar Ghilani aims to expand on her doctoral thesis to write a monograph on the political history of the discourse on the ‘failure’ of Arabisation in the Maghreb. The book traces the circulation of the idea of the Arabisation’s ‘failure’ at a regional level, analyses the political, cultural, economic, and social reasons that have allowed this discourse to become dominant, and studies the ways it has impacted Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian nation-building.