Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reading? Yes, we're reading too!

After a day of rest on Sunday, the group was back at it with a more traditional activity--classroom discussion of our readings. Yes, we're in Paris, but the students have done a lot of reading in preparation for the trip and we need to discuss it in conjunction with all of our excursions.

On Monday, we discussed Azouz Begag's novel Shantytown Kid and his nonfiction analysis of race in France, Ethnicity and Equality. By comparing the two texts, the students made some excellent observations, including:

  • When immigrant kids, or the children of immigrants, are told that everyone in France is a descendent of the Gauls, they are confused. They don't look like the Gauls and they don't feel a part of that history. As a result, they often identify with their family's country of origin and their religion. This process of identification places them in opposition to mainstream French culture which resists discussions of race and ethnicity in favor of the unifying values of the Republic.

  • When Begag's family moves from the shantytown to an apartment the results are paradoxical. On the one hand, they are "fitting in" with French culture and progressing by living in an apartment complex. On the other hand, they feel cut off from their friends and family, who they use to see and live with every day in the shantytown. The children feel isolated from the other kids in the apartment complex and sit inside. As something is gained, something is lost.

  • The challenge of being an immigrant is a splitting of the self into many parts; parts that identify with the country of origin and parts that try to fit into the new country.

Great work, everyone!

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