Reconciling local identities and global aspirations through language use in the Moroccan women’s press
Marley Dawn (University of Surrey) [BIO]
Morocco, like many other postcolonial countries, is proud of its ‘traditional’ society, yet longs to be part of a global ‘modern’ society. Moroccan women are under particular pressure to perform their traditional role as wife and mother, whilst aspiring towards a more ‘modern’ model of femininity. These conflicting desires are often expressed in terms of language use, where French is perceived as the language of modernity and globalisation, whilst Arabic, in its various forms, represents tradition and ‘authenticity’.
In this paper I propose to use the French language women’s press to show how language use can reflect and reconcile the often contradictory identities and aspirations of Moroccan women today. I will begin with a brief overview of the role and status of the French language in Morocco today, focusing on its role as the language of access to modern global culture, and its widespread use in the media. I will then focus on the feminine press in Morocco, which has experienced rapid growth since its birth (or re-birth) in the mid-1990s. The popularity of this sector of the press is indicative of the widespread desire for a ‘local’ and ‘authentic’ cultural product (rather than a French or other imported product), whilst the use of French, together with other features, suggests that these magazines appeal strongly to the desire for a more ‘global’ identity.
I will then analyse language use in the magazines, drawing on a corpus of the two most popular magazines over the last three years, and a ‘snapshot’ of the whole sector from one month in 2007. I aim to demonstrate that the use of French, and increasing use of English, appeals to an aspiration to a ‘modern’ lifestyle, whilst frequent code-switching into Moroccan Dialectal Arabic (and less frequently into MSA) reflects the attachment to tradition and expresses pride in Moroccan identity. This analysis suggests that there is room for both ‘global’ and ‘local’ languages and suggests that in sociolinguistic terms the two can be reconciled.