The Geopolitics of Laïcité in a Multicultural Age: French Secularism, Educational Policy and the Spatial Management of Difference
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I examine a package of educational reforms enacted following the January 2015 attacks in and around Paris, most notably directed at the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. These interventions, known collectively as the “Great Mobilization for the Republic’s Values”, represent the latest in a string of educational attempts meant to reinvigorate a sense of national pride among immigrant-descended youth – especially Muslim – in France’s unique form of state secularism, laïcité. While ostensibly meant to apply equally across the nationalized French school system, in practice La Grande Mobilisation has been largely enacted in schools located in urban spaces of racialized difference thought to be “at risk” of anti-republican behavior. Through my work, I show that practitioners exercise their own power by subverting and adapting geopolitical discourses running through educational laïcité – notably global security, women’s rights, and communalism – are nuanced by school-based practitioners, who interpret state directives in the light of their institutional knowledge and responsiveness to the social and economic profiles of their student populations. What emerges from my inquiry is the operation of a subtle form of power that is steeped in, but also subtly reworks, hegemonic narratives of national identity, state authority, and culture.
- Geography