I’m majoring/teaching a foreign language. How can I safeguard my own native identity and culture?

Of course, there is a clear colonialism subtext going on here. If you were studying, say, Russian or Korean in Morocco, would you feel the same?

I’m assuming that you would not; you tell me. You would immerse yourself in Korean culture, you would go to Seoul often, you would have lots of Bibimbap. But your day to day identity as a Moroccan would not feel compromised. You would still, eh, go to the souk and listen to the oud and eat cous-cous in your day-to-day life; your Korean specialisation would be a side thing, a hobby, not something that compromises who you are.

But you’re not studying Korean. You’re studying the literature of the hegemonic culture of your recent past. By teaching French, you’d be perpetuating the hegemony of French culture in Morocco. You would be joining in with those who prefer to express themselves in the hegemon’s language rather than in Arabic (or Berber).

So what to do?

Well, the fashion in a lot of Western university French departments is postcolonialism, and concentrating on voices in literature outside of France. I (and others) would argue that it’s gone too far, and that completely ignoring the dead white male canon of French literature gives you a curriculum that is all reaction and nothing to react to. But that is possibly not the fashion in Morocco.

If it isn’t, then embrace it. Make sure you include in your studies and your teaching the voices of those who are not part of the hegemonic discourse. In particular, look at how Beurs and Francophone Moroccans are negotiating being between two worlds, and how they use the hegemon’s language to express things outside the hegemon’s culture.

Don’t just focus on Moroccan French writers either—that’s too narrowly parochial: if you just wanted to focus on Morocco, you wouldn’t be studying French at all. Look at Canada, or Haiti, or Francophone Africa, or Vietnam, or the Pacific.

And if you care about Morocco, and want to stay attached to your roots, stay in Morocco, and act as a bridge and an exemplar. If that’s not an option, make alliances with Moroccans wherever you end up.

And remember. The souk really is just around the corner. It’s pretty hard to be deracinated in your own country; you’d really have to make a conscious, continuous effort not to engage with your roots. Your roots are right there, after all.

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