Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Major

History

Research Sponsor

Dr. Stephan Harp

First Reader

Dr. Janet Klein

Second Reader

Dr. Martin Wainwright

Abstract

In the wake of two major terrorist attacks in the past year, the presence in France of a large Arab-Muslim population has gained new global attention. Whether or not the perpetrators of these events held French or other European nationalities, their names and faces all said “Arab” to the public and raised questions about immigration, terrorism, Islam and the presence and status of Arab-Muslims in France. These questions are nothing new, even if they seem to take on new urgency. Since North Africans began coming to France in significant numbers in the 1920s and 1930s their place in France has been debated. Nevertheless, North Africans continue to come to France for opportunity. Now more than ever though, that opportunity comes in the form of education rather than work in a mine or factory. Students in undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs leave home—quite possibly for the first time—and journey across the Mediterranean to a country they have heard so much about and towards which they probably have mixed feelings. Their position as international students and part of France’s controversial “Arab” Muslim population sets them apart from both groups and creates a unique situation for observation. Colonialism ended decades ago, but many inequalities still exist between the “native” French and North African populations. There has been much research done on North African immigrants to France, on second-generation immigrants, and on foreign students in general, but nothing specifically on North African students in France nor on the influence of history on any given student group’s experience. The historical baggage carried by France and its former colonies heavily influences the experience of North African students who choose to pursue higher education there. Using interviews with North African students in Le Mans and Paris, as well as secondary material about colonialism, immigration and racism in France, this study argues that only in light of the past can the students, the French and scholars make sense of the complex and often contradictory relationship which sets this group apart from the larger international student community.