France’s idiosyncratic form of secularism, laïcité, is a highly contested principle bound up in centuries of conflict over the state’s relationship to religious practice. Of late, commentators have interpreted it as taking somewhat of an authoritarian turn as it is used to disproportionately identify and suppress signs of overt Muslim religiosity, including notably within the public school system. I apply Painter’s ‘prosaic stateness’ framework to understand how educators interpret and rework laïcité within the French public school to produce ‘actually-existing’ laïcité. In particular, I show that educators are situated within three ‘spatialities’ through which laïcité inhabits French schooling: the idealised space of the French republic set against religious obscurantism, schools as spaces of inviolable neutrality, and risky bodies who refuse to conform to norms of republican citizenship. Within these spatialities, educators enact a prosaic stateness of laïcité through their experiences of diversity of the student populations they serve, the incoherence of the institution they work for, and the divergence of the policies they end up applying.
Department of Social Sciences
Year of publication: 2023Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-03-07