Dissertation Defense: Aja Chaker

Aja Chaker Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Friday, March 6 at 10:00am in ICC 462 for the dissertation defense of Aja Chaker, PhD Candidate in Arabic.

Title: Elite Engagement in Language Policy and Planning: Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi and the Advancement of Arabization in Algeria


This dissertation looks at elite engagement in the process of language policy and planning in Algeria after independence, highlighting the connection between ideology and the development of national identity. To achieve this, the study examines the memoirs of Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, Algeria’s Minister of Education from 1965-70 and Minister of Culture and Information from 1970-77, focusing on specific linguistic markers and narrative techniques to understand how Ibrahimi came to construct his own identity, as well as a collective Algerian identity that he sought to promote through education and the media. Theoretical bases include a social understanding of language as per Bakhtin, Billig’s work on banal nationalism, Ager’s understanding of the role of elites in developing national language policy, and Suleiman’s treatment of the Arabic language and its place in the development of national identity.

The methodology of the study draws on narrative analysis as per De Fina, highlighting instances of pronominal choice, positioning, voicing, and categorization. Analysis indicates that Ibrahimi uses these strategies to construct a multi-layered personal and social identity to preserve and promote what he perceives as his political legacy. In a unique application of De Fina’s approach, the study demonstrates that Ibrahimi also attempts to construct a collective identity that defines Algeria as an Arab, Muslim, and Arabic-speaking nation—a notion that would be propagated among the people through the education system and media. This dissertation concludes that elite policymakers who are actively engaged in the construction and/or reproduction of language policy do so as much for personal and ideological reasons as for more overt political reasons such as the reproduction of official narratives. The study also concludes that narrative analysis, when applied to written texts such as memoirs, provides a fruitful approach for understanding the complex connections between language and identity, particularly in the Arab world.