Date of Award
Master of Arts
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF Mary Doran, for the Master of Arts degree in Political Science, presented on October 30, 2008, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: A discourse analysis of "Laïcité" and its effects on the integration of Muslim and Arab minorities in France. MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Stephen Shulman. What is the current status of the integration of minorities of Muslim and/or Arab origin in France? In this paper I attempt to answer this question by evaluating the assimilation of these minorities into French society through an examination of the current conception of "Frenchness" as it is understood by the French themselves. Numerous scholarly works have attempted to measure the degree of assimilation of the Arab/Muslim minorities in France; their theses often revolve around problems presented by the often presumed "cultural/religious identities" of the majority and minority populations. Others have studied the effects of discrimination on the assimilation of these populations. Few, however, have addressed the problematic concept of Frenchness itself in order to determine whether it is open enough to welcome these immigrant peoples and their offspring. (Laurence and Vaisse 2006, x) In this paper, I argue that, contrary to popular belief, events such as the 2005 suburban riots, the "Islamic veil affair" and the reaction to the 2006 caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed constitute evidence of minority movement toward assimilation into French society. This movement, however, is not guaranteed. Through an examination of the French discourse surrounding the word "laïcité", which is a central aspect of French identity, I find two major obstacles to the full integration of Muslim and Arab populations in the Hexagon. The first is the contradiction of claiming government neutrality vis-à-vis religions while simultaneously insisting on the Catholic nature of the society. The second is the gap between the greatly revered ideal of "universalism" and the reality of negative discrimination aimed at Muslim and Arab minorities.
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