Constructing the secular imagined community : a critical intercultural analysis of discourses of laïcité from Le Monde
Keywordscritical intercultural communication
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AbstractThe concept of secularism encompasses numerous aspects beyond the regulation of relations between the State and Churches. Using a critical intercultural communication framework, this research project explores the interplay between secularism, culture, religion, identity, and collective representations. Specifically, this study focuses on laïcité, the concept of secularism used in France. Previous studies have criticized laïcité for being biased and contributing to inequalities between communities in France. The pervasive (and false) representation of laïcité as originally and exclusively French has also been criticized. In the light of the concerns raised by previous studies, this study sets out to investigate (1) how knowledge about laïcité was constructed in a selection of articles from the newspaper Le Monde and (2) with which implications regarding power relations in France. This research project is informed by social constructionism and draws on concepts from critical intercultural communication, cultural and feminist studies, and a Foucaultian approach to discourse. This study includes four articles, one theoretical and three empirical. The first one explores how culture has been tackled in recent media studies and reflects on the use of critical intercultural communication to examine the construction of cultural realities in media texts. All three other articles use data from the newspaper Le Monde to respectively look at (i) strategic uses of the concept of culture as opposed to religion, (ii) collective memories evoked to associate laïcité with specific representations of the imagined community, and (iv) identity categories made relevant in discourses of laïcité. Results draw attention to the complexity, variety, and agency of using culture as a discursive resource. Findings reveal ways in which culture can be strategically evoked to normalize representations and emphasize differences between practices and individuals. This research project offers insights into post-racial expressions of racism and their practical implications as regards categorizations of individuals.