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Open Access Publications from the University of California

España ante el mundo: Spain’s colonial language policies in North Africa


During its presence in Northern Morocco and the Western Sahara, Spain lauded its colonial policies, and relations with the native populations in general, as being more successful than those of the other colonial power present in the region, France. While it is true that France’s educational policies were narrowly aimed at forming acquiescent elites of the Maghrebi societies, Spain’s policies in turn were severely conditioned by a hyper-awareness of existing ethno-religious divisions, a product of the prominence of religion in the historical relations between Iberia and the Maghreb. In this essay, I discuss the differences in Spain’s educational policies between Northern Morocco and the Western Sahara with a special focus on the implications for the postcolonial language policies and the current linguistic landscape in both areas. The main argument is that ethno-religious divisions and political propaganda, particularly during the Francoist dictatorship, were the two most important factors that shaped Spain’s linguistic incursion in Western North Africa and its legacy today.

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