“You can’t forget our roots anyway”: French College Students’ views on a Racially and Religiously Pluralistic France

Mariel Elyssa Tabachnick


Despite the longstanding presence of Islam in the territory of France, Muslim French must still claim and justify their belonging in the context of widespread public skepticism over Islam’s compatibility with “French” social and cultural values, such as laïcité, or secularism. The general public’s skepticism is also, in part, due to the historical and ongoing racialization of Muslim populations. Many French sub-populations, including those who are perceived as more “liberal” such as college students, are a part of this skeptical public. Therefore, how have these students speci cally been shaped by contemporary French discourses and understandings of laïcité? There is a lack of scholarly research on French college students in particular and their understandings of French identity, laïcité, and Muslims in France. To ll this gap, I conducted nine semi-structured interviews and drew on informal participant observation. In this article, I discuss French college students’ opinions on French identity as well as the desire for widespread assimilation, speci cally regarding Muslim women and their choice to wear a hijab in France. I examine these viewpoints within the framework of dominant French discourse, which often perpetuates the idea of a racialized Islam that is inherently incompatible with French culture. I argue that students on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum still reiterate opinions that t within this dominant French discourse.


secularism; Islam; France; laïcité; racism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v10i2.10353


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