Muslim diasporic youth in Marseille: Language, piety, and youth life-worlds
Cecile Evers

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

This linguistic ethnography, carried out over fourteen months (2012-2013) in five educational settings in Marseille, France in which Standard French and Modern Standard Arabic are taught to school-aged youth, calls into question essentializing representations by the French State and popular media that construct second-generation youth of North and West African backgrounds as increasingly pious and more closely identified with transnational Islam than with locally grounded forms of belonging and being French. The research question asks how second-generation youth who live in Marseille and identify as Muslim draw linguistically on both, family and peer-learned non-standard repertoires of Marseillais French, dialectal Arabic, and other heritage languages (e.g., Wolof, Comorian), and school-learned standard repertoires of Arabic and French, in the development of their identities, seeking sometimes to reanimate and sometimes to contest alignments with the institutional categories that predicate religiosity and transnationality of them. Data collected with these youth in the private and public schools, secular and Muslim community centers where their language education takes place shows that youth micro-communities coalesce around shared stances?expressed linguistically through recurring preferences to use standard or non-standard languages?to such social categories as marginality, piousness, kinship and generational difference, foreignness, and Frenchness. Indeed, as they choose among the ideologically weighted linguistic options made available to them through schooling and associational attendance, they are likewise communicating broader orientations they hold to Marseille?as long-term destination or imminent point of departure to the Muslim world?and, in turn, the social and educational trajectories incident to these orientations.
About Cecile Evers

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