“The West and Us”: An exploration of ideological positions and identities within an Algerian EFL setting

PhD Thesis

Hiouani, A. 2020. “The West and Us”: An exploration of ideological positions and identities within an Algerian EFL setting . PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Chruch University Centre for Language and Lingusitics
AuthorsHiouani, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis presents an ethnographic study of how a group of students and academics from a department of English at an Algerian university unknowingly position themselves ideologically when performing their daily-life activities within and outside the Department, as well as the relationship their positioning has with their identity construction.

The study reveals that participants’ mental dichotomisation of the West and Algeria, as part of the ‘Rest’ of the world, is present within many of their most common views and behaviours. Their seemingly ideological views apropos language are interconnected with socially spread ideological positions that they hold as part of an overarching ideology, which is named ‘compartmentalisation ideology’ in the context of this study, that is also connected with their identity construction, hence the title. To individuals who hold this ideology, the West and Algeria are essentially placed into compartments of inescapable difference that is constantly explained in terms of superiority and inferiority. Thus, all participants’ ideological positions that are addressed in this thesis appertain to compartmentalisation ideology in various, albeit interconnected ways.

Participants’ accounts indicate that their views are categorised into pro- and antiWestern poles that underpin the division between the West and Algeria. While their proWestern ideological positions such as West idealism and nativespeakerism, which happen to be predominant within the community, are tied up to senses of inferiority to the West, anti-Western positions such as westophobia, reverse-(neo)-orientalism, and ethnocentrism are connected to perceived senses of superiority towards the West. Other participants’ positions like essentialism, culturalism, and populism can fall within either category depending on the positions that exist alongside them. In addition, several facets of people’s identities, such as persona, ethnicity, and religion were established to relate to compartmentalisation ideology, including some of the positions that individuals occupy within it.

The initial aim of the study was to explore language-related ideologies in an Algerian Higher Education setting. However, the collection and analysis of data revealed that there was more to the participants’ language ideologies than language itself. The aim then shifted to attempting to examine how participants positioned themselves ideologically within the setting, how their positions were related, and the relationship these positions had with their identity construction.

The development of these aims was bound by an ethnographic study involving 27 main and peripheral participants conducted over the course of three and a half months. The study mainly consisted of fieldwork observations, focus groups, and a variety of interview types. Although I initially intended to conduct the study within the Department of English, the field gradually expanded depending on where the participants were, what they said, and how they behaved. What is particularly interesting about the interviews conducted is that some of them involved the use of repertory grids, which are often overlooked by ethnographic researchers. Not only did their use yield an abundant amount of data, it also assisted in exploring how meaning was constructed by the participants.

In light of the findings of the study, there are implications at three distinct levels, namely for research methodology, English Language Teaching (ELT) practices, and the broader backdrop of society. Since repertory grids proved to be very efficient, their use in this study can be further elaborated upon in future research. As far as ELT practices are concerned, being aware of how individuals’ views can position them ideologically and what that may result in vis-à-vis teaching and learning could be effective in constructing a certain level of prudence that may affect the practices positively. In addition, the fact that individuals’ positioning within the community outspread to society suggests that this thesis may be of interest not only to Algerian academics and students of English, but also to individuals who either intentionally or unintentionally promote any type of division between the ‘West’ and the ‘Third World’ through the discourses they construct and maintain within society. The naturalisation of these discourses can result in objectionable consequences, such as illegal emigration, that may be minimised by raising awareness of the issue, which may lead to their deconstruction.

KeywordsAlgerian EFL ; Identities ; Ideological positions
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Publication process dates
Deposited08 Apr 2021
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