Associate Professor Chantal Tetreault has won a coveted Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award. Dr. Tetreault specializes in linguistic and cultural anthropology and her recent work has primarily focused on issues of migration and social change in France. More generally, her research illuminates how cultural processes of identity construction are achieved through everyday language use. Dr. Tetreault’s award will support her research project, “What is Arabic Good For? Future Directions and Current Challenges of Arabic Language Educational Reform in France.”
Currently, only 0.2% of all middle and high school students who take a second language in France have access to Arabic, despite it being the second most widely spoken language. In her research, Dr. Tetreault will analyze the ways that Arabic is taught and not taught in France through investigating the types of discourses, institutional gatekeepers, and practitioners influencing the inclusion of Arabic in the French education system. Dr. Tetreault will explore the perspectives of politicians, educational administrators, scholars, teachers, and students to gain insight into the ways these differently positioned individuals interpret the value of Arabic relative to the evolving issues of culture, politics, and education in France.
The educational landscape of Arabic language instruction in France is complex, with ties to a colonial past and a post-colonial present. These relationships continue to play out in terms of France’s immense role in economic, political, and cultural affairs in the Maghreb and the Middle East. However, despite clear geo-political stakes in the Middle East and North Africa and the Arabic language, France has repeatedly failed to make Arabic a national educational priority unlike other European Union countries. Dr. Tetreault’s research will contextualize the French cultural impasse on Arabic language educational reform in terms of the rise of right-wing Islamophobic political discourses. The importance of these public conversations and failed educational reforms goes beyond the scope of language instruction to entail changing understandings of French identity in the context of immigration, globalization, and post-coloniality.
With this award, Dr. Tetreault will travel to France and conduct her research next spring over the course of six months, collaborating with colleagues at the National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilizations (INALCO). Dr. Tetreault’s analysis of the national debates surrounding Arabic language educational reform in France will be disseminated through a series of articles and a book. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program encourages academic and professional experts across disciplines in their international research and/or teaching endeavors. This program selects individuals through a competitive process to help them achieve their ambitious goals. Fulbright prides itself on being the “most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world.”
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