de Bruin, Karen
Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
Identity; Francophone; Francophile; French; Cultural; Linguistic
The French Community at URI: A Study of Cultural and Linguistic Identity
Sponsor: Karen DeBruin, French
Growing up in a bi-racial family has always brought upon me the question of identity. To which culture do I belong and which values do I adopt? To make matters even more complex, I have fallen in love with the French culture and language and have chosen to major in it. Am I allowed to feel a part of this culture as well?
Whether it is part of ones ethnic background or not, human beings question if it is possible to truly belong to more than one culture; for some, maintaining multiple cultures may take a lot of work. For my honors project, I have decided to take the question of identity, Francophone identity in particular, and direct it at the faculty and staff of URI who have any sort of connection to Francophone language or culture. It is this exact group of people who make up The French Community at URI and it is this exact group of people that I chose to interview.
Everyone within the French Community at URI has developed their ties to francophone language and culture through ethnic background, research interests, and/or personal interests. To give the interviews substance, I based my questions on those in complex articles like Educational Language Planning and Linguistic Identity by Peter Sutton and On Maintaining a Francophone Identity in Cohoes, NY by Cynthia A. Fox. Using these questions, I was able to see how individuals view their own identity with regards to France, if they consider French identity a part of their overall identity, and if they have to work to maintain the cultural and linguistic aspects.
For the final part of my project, I have put together a book/directory of all the people interviewed. Based on my research and their responses, I have the ability to pinpoint whether it is culture or language that determines identity and, from that, I can identify where cultural and linguistic identity need to intersect in order for someone to call herself/himself Francophone versus Francophile and I can see the limits that individuals place on their own Francophone or Francophile identity.
Keywords: Identity, Francophone, Francophile, French, cultural, linguistic, interview