Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Department of French Studies

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

The francophonie of south Louisiana today is characterized by a great deal of diversity - in terms of ethnicity, language practices, cultural practices, geography, and experience. The academic literature does not always reflect this diversity, however. Some ethnic groups are overshadowed by others in academic study, and the lines between them are often uncritically blurred. Discussions of language shift are regularly mired in assumptions of individuals’ complete linguistic and cultural assimilation based solely on their native use of English.

In this dissertation, I seek to problematize traditional accounts of assimilation and collective ethnic identity by highlighting the ways in which local individuals’ knowledge of the Louisiana francophone experience contrasts with academic representations. I created a corpus of interviews with 20 individuals who were natives of south Louisiana, who were active and influential in their communities, and who felt strong ties to their francophone heritage and culture. The participants were of various ages, hailed from various parishes, had various levels of language ability in French, and self-identified as Cajun, Creole, and Houma. By examining their responses to questions about the past, present, and future of French in Louisiana - and about their personal experiences of it - I determine that in the context of identity and ideology, Louisianians of strong francophone roots can be effectively studied together. Furthermore, considering them to be a collectivity that fluidly shifts between more restrictive and more inclusive groups may prove to be useful in attempts to reverse language shift in the region.

Date

11-14-2017

Committee Chair

Dubois, Sylvie

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