Working-class Girls of Algerian Descent in a French School
This chapter analyzes the processes of identity formation among working-class female students of Algerian descent in a French school. It argues that the school -- as a social space -- is at once a contested terrain within which these young women's identities are being constructed and a powerful tool for their own identity formation.
Indeed, the public (state) school, because it is a secular space, brings different groups into contact with one another materially and symbolically and pulls competing and conflicting discourses onto a shared terrain. This chapter explores how a particular group of young women actively engage in a work of self-definition within and against these competing discourses.
The first half analyzes how the Algerian community and French mass media create a potent discursive link between the young women and school. The second part explores the ways in which the young women construct themselves within the school in relation to others -- in particular to French women in their age-group and similar class background and men within their own community.
As I pose the seemingly simple research question "How do young women construct themselves in relation to others in a given context?, " the raucous, explosive, troubled debates that have emerged at the margins of feminist and postmodern scholarship come to mind. How does one frame a non-essentialist analysis of the construction of subjectivity that allows for agency while still recognizing
Catherine Raissiguier, "The Construction of Marginal Identities: Working-class girls of Algerian descent in a French school",in Marianne H. Marchand, ed. Feminism, Postmodernism, Development ( New York: Routledge, 1994): 79-93. Reprinted by permission. Editors' note: The reference list for this chapter was culled from the bibliography for Feminism, Postmodernism, Development.