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English and social worlds in contemporary Algeria

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

There has been increased media, corporate and academic interest about English “replacing” French in the Maghreb. Between dismantling language hierarchies harking back to colonialism and embracing globalisation, language replacement is being talked about as a solution to economic and social woes, but also as a proxy for Standard Arabic and a threat to multilingualism. My research focuses on making sense of what this “language shift” is, in the sense of examining what discourses and practices are being relocalised to English (following Pennycook, 2010), which changes are noticed and which are erased, what meaning(s) are being given to these changes, and how these processes intersect with existing social imaginings and power hierarchies.
I conducted eleven months of field work between November 2015 and December 2017, combining an ethnographic approach with document and semiotic landscape analyses. English-speaking spaces in Algiers were my main sites of study, complemented by shorter research stays in the West, South and South-East of the country. I challenge the notion of the “spread” of English (e.g. Crystal, 2003; Kachru, 1992) by foregrounding participants’ multi-layered and multi-level explanatory frameworks in my examination of how English is being talked about, who learns and uses English, and where the language is visible in the semiotic landscape. Grounded in concepts of translanguaging and unequal Englishes, my research shows how these processes of relocalisation reproduced and transformed conceptions of identities, coloniality, social mobility, self-development, authenticity and the Other. By deconstructing the “conflict” explanatory framework, commonly applied to African and Middle Eastern case studies (e.g. Benrabah, 2013; Suleiman, 2011), I provide an alternative lens through which to understand the apparent contradictions between narratives of conflict and the realities of blurred identity boundaries and performative paradoxes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateJun 2019
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