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OccidentalismLiterary Representations of the Maghrebi Experience of the East-West Encounter$
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Zahia Smail Salhi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780748645800

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645800.001.0001

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From the Faraway Orient to the Reclaimed Occident: French Civilisation, Religious Conversion and Cultural Assimilation

From the Faraway Orient to the Reclaimed Occident: French Civilisation, Religious Conversion and Cultural Assimilation

Chapter:
(p.37) 2 From the Faraway Orient to the Reclaimed Occident: French Civilisation, Religious Conversion and Cultural Assimilation
Source:
Occidentalism
Author(s):

Zahia Smail Salhi

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645800.003.0003

This chapter analyses the discourse created by colonial France to consolidate its rule in the newly conquered Maghreb. This discourse was supported by imperialist authors who worked towards a discursive reversal of history primarily aimed to strip the natives from their own history reminding them that before its Islamisation the Maghreb was part of the Christian world. This legitimises the mission of France to redeem this stolen land and salvage its people from their status as the uncivilised and fanatical believers of a heretic religion, while at the same time transforming the place from the Muslims’ Occident into the Occident’s Orient. Therefore, the mission to civilise overlapped with the mission to colonise and justified it. To achieve this goal, France deployed two main institutions; the Church and the School. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in this chapter, cultural assimilation proved to be extremely challenging because it implied renouncing one’s statutory rights, which was deemed an act of apostasy. Despite the efforts of the educated native elite to explain the Occident to the Orient and the Orient to the Occident, the latter’s intentions about civilising the former were not always forthright, contributing thus to the failure of the mission to ‘civilise’ the uncivilised.

Keywords:   Assimilation, Civilisation, Catholic Church, White Fathers, French Education, Acculturation

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