Monday, April 18, 2011


The topic of my paper focuses on the present linguistic situation in Morocco. It is hard for me to say that there is anything wrong the situation that it would merit a "solution" so to speak. The Moroccan population tends towards being bilingual, if not multilingual, which I find fantastic. Although the French language is the language of their former oppressor it has become a lingua franca and has helped give voice to various groups, such as women. One possible change in the situation could be an increase in tolerance towards Berber language and culture. There is a movement for the increased status of Berber but the language still falls behind French and Arabic although it predates the exitence of the two in Morocco. Equal recognition of all three languages would be ideal. Beyond that, I don't see anything that needs a solution.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Topic

Due to the inevitable subjectivity of a lot of the research which I would use to develop my previous topic, Indian-American identity, and the short time available to compile enough information, I have decided to switch gears. My new topic will examine the languages spoken in Morocco, focusing mainly on the continued use of French, and how the linguistic situation there ties into the terms 'assimilation' and 'radical bilingualism'. I already have the majority of research done since it was the topic I explored for my French Capstone (senior thesis) last year. My task now is to apply the concepts from our post-colonialism class to the subject, as well as to translate my work from French to English.

Since Morocco gained its independence from France in 1956, the country has seen a slow revitalization of Arabic in its political and economical spheres (l'arabisation), as well as a small but proud Berber movement. Nonetheless, the depths of which the French language instilled its roots into Morocco during colonization is evident. Over half a century later and the French language is still prevalent in all spheres of Moroccan life, even in home life where code-switching is a common occurrence. Out of this legacy of the French language has grown radical bilingualism. People who associate themselves with the formerly colonized group are using the language of their former oppressor to broadcast their feelings, sometimes even the plight they suffered at the hands of that same oppressor. The irony of the situation is that the language of their oppressor opened up doors to them and gave them a voice in some instances. They may be able to effectively communicate in their native language but it is French which enables them to accurately describe what they set out to.

One of the most basic themes of colonialism is 'assimilation', the adaptation of a group of people to the cultural aspects of a different group. When thinking about the colonial situation, you would think that it would be the colonizer who would adapt to the culture of the land which they have just settled in, considering they are the outsiders as well as the minority. Adversely, it is the colonized who must assimilate to the the colonizer's culture. In Morocco, when the French set up shop, they did so with French as the official language. Everything to do with the government or the educational system, for example, was done in French. It became in the best interest of the colonized to learn how to communicate in French in order to continue surviving in their own country.

Monday, April 4, 2011

History & Background

Since the focus of my paper will be Indian-Americans I figure it might be important to give a little background on the colonial situation in India as well as on the immigration trend of Indians to America.

When we think of colonialism in India, we usually think of the British. But they certainly weren't the first. Throughout India's history there has been invader after invader come
down from greater Asia into the Indian subcontinent. When Vasco de Gama discovered a sea-route to India at the end of the 15th century, that whole area of the world was opened to Europeans for further exploitation, with which they wasted no time. Soon, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British had all set up shop in various port cities. The British, though, were the ones of seemed to exercise the most control, winning over the other European possessions in time. The British East India Company gradually gained control over trade in the entire Indian peninsula. After an unsuccessful rebellion of the Indian people in 1857 against British control, power was given over to the British crown, establishing the British Raj (king) in India. The Indian people suffered greatly under British rule. There were famines in which millions upon millions of people starved and Hindu-Muslim conflict was fierce. Beginning in the early and mid twentieth century the Indian people began to try to obtain independence in a variety of ways. Revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh used violent attacks on British forces while Mahatma Ghandi led the Indian people through nonviolent protest. India finally gained independence in 1947 after having been partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.

Indian immigration to the US began to increase after the passing of the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 which legalized the immigration and naturalization of Indians. The first few waves of immigrants consisted of men attending American universities to pursue engineering and medical degrees. Their families soon immigrated and now there is a more diverse group of Indians immigrating for various reasons. Indian immigrants account for 16.4% of the Asian-American community. The majority of Indian-Americans are highly educated. About 40% have a master's degree or higher. There still exists the trend of Indian-Americans working in the engineering, medical and technology fields.

This is just a brief background to the situation, but I at least tried to pinpoint the main ideas for you guys. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Situation

As of right now, what my final paper will be over is not set in stone. Currently, I'm tossing two ideas back and forth. The first option is to stick with what my first blog discussed: third gender & rockstar syndrome. If I decide to stick with that I will most likely continue relating it to the Indian-American community. I find it interesting to analyze the complexities of a community who makes their home in a country which they were not born in and whose native country was once colonized. What is the legacy of British colonialism in India in the lives of Indian immigrants in America today? Are there still visible themes in their culture, or is it more subdued? What are their views of American society as a part of the Western world, the world which their usurpers came from? I may find myself off on a tangent exploring further aspects of how themes of colonialism can be found in that community, not just third gender and rockstar syndrome.

My other idea is to look at how people who live between/in two different cultures view their identity. I myself am affected by identity crisis since I've lived in so many places throughout my life (since my Dad is in the military, we moved every three(ish) years). It is easier for me to write on topics which I have personal experience with. It gives me more motivation and allows me more depth. I think either of the two ideas would be advantageous in this way. With the theme of identity crisis I could also use examples from the Indian-American community. How do its members cope with the two very different cultures they live in? Especially young Indian-Americans. What aspects of each culture do they identify most with?

Regardless of which idea I decide to elaborate on, I'm excited about the result. I think it will be a fun process gathering data, opinions, ideas, etc and molding them into a concise study. It's really interesting to see how the topics we discuss in class affect such a broad range of human life, even outside of the sphere of colonization.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Aspects of Colonialism

Throughout our course on Post-colonialism in North Africa we've discussed a large variety of topics; everything ranging from the use of religion as a way to hold onto the culture of the colonized (value refuge) to the affect the colonizer had on infrastructure. Several topics were things that I have personal experience with. Traveling to Morocco last year with my Francophone Literature class I came face to face with such aspects of post-colonialism as the continued use of French, the colonizer's language, and the role it plays in so many parts of society (government, schooling, tourism, etc).There were two topics though which really struck a cord with me, and at first I was baffled as to why: third gender and rock-star syndrome.

First, let's breakdown the meanings of these two things. In the context of colonialism, third gender occurs when a certain gender (almost exclusively females) of a foreign nationality (colonizer) are able to practice more flexible, liberal social movement than the same gender of the country in question (colonized). Using an example from Assia Djebar's book Fantasia we see how the French girls were not made to be cloistered like their Algerian counterparts. Instead they are able to move about the streets as they please; something only Algerian men are able to do. Although they are still seen as women, they are allowed privileges closer to those enjoyed by men. The situation seems to create this sort of 'third gender' which the French women make up. As for rock-star syndrome, I find it a bit harder to put into words. To start off with, it is essential to realize that rock-star syndrome is completely racially based. It has to do with the attention you receive from one group of people, or race, because you yourself fall into the category of a certain other group of people, or race. I think there are many causes for this phenomenon. Maybe that group has not had the opportunity to meet many people of your group. Maybe they have certain stereotypes in their heads and expect you to act in a certain way and are intrigued by that. An example of rock-star syndrome would be when an American visits a rural part of Morocco. That person is showered with attention. Children follow them, adults talk about them, questions are asked. That person becomes a novelty item almost solely because they are white.

But how do these two things pertain at all to my experiences? I have not traveled extensively in any foreign country where third gender and rock-star syndrome are common occurrences (other than a brief visit to Morocco). In fact, I experienced these two things here in the United States. For three years I dated an Indian man. During that time a completely immersed myself in the Indian community living in our area. I went to Hindu & Sikh temple on Sundays, I attended Indian parties, learned how to dance Bhangra, studied Hindi and Punjabi, learned how to cook Indian food from my boyfriend's mother. The list goes on and on. In the community it was common knowledge that I was Punit's girlfriend. This is quite different from my Indian girl friends. If they dated anyone, it was kept under-wraps. Their parent's, and the community alike, practically forbid them to date. It's not part of their traditional culture. Also, there's a fine line between the intermingling of the sexes on any occassion. When you walk into a party, you can generally find the women grouped together on one side of the room with the men on the other. Even when dancing (a favorite activity of Indians) the women dance with each other while the men dance with other men. There are all sorts of cultural guidelines which the Indian women in the community followed, guidelines which I, for the most part, was not required nor expected to. I enjoy an incredible amount of social freedoms comparatively. I fluttered around the room at parties talking to all my friends, dancing with whom I wanted and none of the elder Indians thought any different of me. Had I been Indian, I would have been bringing shame upon myself and my family. I had become a part of this third gender. Like I said, the Indian community did not expect of me the same they expected of their own. So when I did do things the Indian way, they were flabbergasted. I became a sort of rock-star. Although, I was 'gori' (a white girl) I was able to recite prayers on Sundays in Sanskrit, Hindi and Punjabi. I could sing along with all the popular songs played at parties. I could make a mean chai tea. And what surprised people most of all was that amidst a conversation in Hindi, I would interject when I pleased with my own opinions, in Hindi. No one had ever met a 'gori' like me. I became at times sort of a circus side-show, all the attention in the room on me while they would take turns asking me to say different things in Hindi or sing a Bollywood song. This is a slightly different form of rock-star syndrome than previously described, but it is nonetheless rock-star syndrome. The attention was based solely on the fact that I was white. Had I been Indian, I would have been just like the rest.

It is neat to study different topics in this course and see how each pertains to something we may have experienced in our own lives. I find it very beneficial that I myself have experienced third gender and rock-star syndrome because it helps me better understand the two topics in the context of what we are studying in the Post-colonialism in North Africa class.