Boutieri, Dr Charis
Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of the Middle East
Tel +44 (0)20 7848 7224
Address Room 13B, Chesham Building
King’s College London
Charis Boutieri started her academic life at Oxford University where she completed an undergraduate degree in Modern Languages. Interested in post-colonialism and issues of representation, she then turned to Social Anthropology and pursued a master’s degree at the London School of Economics. For her PhD, she joined the Anthropology Department at Princeton University; she wrote a thesis on the cultural politics of contemporary Morocco, which she explored through the prism of state education. AnthroWorks, a popular academic blog, selected her dissertation on this subject as one of the Top 40 North American Dissertations in Cultural Anthropology for 2011.
Besides being a Princeton Graduate School Fellow for the duration of her degree, she was also awarded a J.F Coustopoulos Fellowship (2004-2009), an A.G Leventis Foundation Fellowship (2009-2010) as well as numerous research and fieldwork grants from Princeton research centers. She contributed to departmental teaching in the anthropology of religion, anthropological theory and legal anthropology. She has presented her work in conferences and workshops in the US, the UK and Europe. Charis is a member of the American Anthropology Association (AAA), the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA), British Institute for Middle East Studies (BRISMES) and the Middle East Studies Group (UK). Along with Karima Laachir from SOAS and Michael Willis from Oxford University, Charis is founder of the Maghreb Academic Network, the first academic forum focused on the Maghreb region in the UK. In 2012, she joined the Advisory Board for the book series Contemporary Thought in the Islamic World published by Ashgate.
Charis joined King’s in 2010 and MEMS from September 2012.
Knowledge production and dissemination in North Africa and the Middle East
The imbrication of colonial, nationalist, and international development agendas in the structure and experience of education
Language and power
Politics and theories of translation
Science and technology
Lived democracy and democratization, democracy as open-ended construct
Virtual sociality and youth
Language and Knowledge in Contemporary Morocco
Dr. Boutieri’s research has interrogated the language ideologies that undercut Morocco’s contemporary knowledge economy. Her ethnographic monograph in preparation, entitled Learning in Babel: the Politics of Language and Knowledge in Morocco, constitutes an academic response to the technical diagnostics generated by international organizations and endorsed by the Moroccan government in relation to the prolonged “crisis” of state education in the country. It argues that this narrative obscures the political intentions that underpin knowledge and overlooks the fact that state education has been an embattled terrain for the negotiation of Morocco as an “independent” and “modern” country. A central feature of this negotiation has been the ambiguous relationship between Morocco’s knowledge economy and the policy of educational Arabization. Placed at the intersection of sociocultural and linguistic anthropology, Charis’ work brings to view the unequal and tenuous accommodation of Arabizing policies inside the classroom. It maintains that it is only by questioning of the relationship between language and knowledge, which was gestated during French colonialism and recycled by national and development agendas, that we can decipher the current crisis as it relates to how Moroccan youth experience personhood and citizenship.
In her research, she draws on the insights of anthropological theory and the anthropology of Islam in conversation with post-colonial studies, language theory, Arabic sociolinguistics, and historical research on the Middle East and North Africa. Charis’s work on this subject has been published in the International Journal for Middle East Studies and will also appear in Anthropology and Education Quarterly.
Contested Classrooms in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf
Building on her ethnographic and theoretical intervention on contemporary Moroccan education and with the kind assistance of a conference grant awarded by the Arts and Humanities School at King’s College (2012), Charis is working towards an edited volume that interrogates the state of education in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf. This joint venture argues that schools in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf are the sites for highly ambivalent engagements that offer us valuable insight into the contemporary role and meaning of education and knowledge. The experiences and evaluations of school participants give us access to the turbulent trajectories of state building and global market integration; they also help us situate the general sense of accumulated hurt that has been pushing young people towards legal and illegal migration and that has brought many of them to the boiling point during the Arab Uprisings. This collection presents the research of scholars who have recently conducted qualitative work (participant observation, interviews) inside public and private schools and were therefore able to explore education from the angle of lived experience. The empirical lens is, in fact, double: on the one hand, it addresses student and teacher experiences and, on the other, the experience of the researchers themselves inside and outside the school walls. It is through this double empiricism that the collection will interrogate the various ramifications of government policies and international development measures inside schools during the last 50 years. The analytical direction of the collection intersects and complicates development rhetoric and public discourse that has often assumed education to be an easily delineable domain somehow distinct from other socio-cultural and political dynamics. It also challenges educational theory’s ability to adequately account for the complexities of structured socialization across the globe, an ability that is compromised by its unshakable conviction about the centrality of the school to civilizational progress and redistributive justice.
Virtual Sociality in Morocco
Taking the experience of learning (linguistic and non-linguistic) into cyberspace, Charis has briefly explored the use and meaning of virtual sociality for Moroccan youth. In this work, she asks to what extent online social networking contributes to the shaping of identity and the broader redefinition of citizenship in Morocco. Central to the everyday lives of the Moroccan students she worked with, social networking has been foregrounded solely as a sphere of activism during the recent events of the ‘Arab Spring’. Media and academic commentators hastened to portray such networking exclusively as a prelude to street mobilization. Charis suggests that the association of online sociality with evolving youth ideas and practices is more complex than what is claimed. In a chapter titled “Morocco ‘On-Trial’: De-colonial Logic and Transformative Practice in Cyberspace,” Charis shows how Moroccan high-school students engage in online practices that both critique and anticipate the transformation of their public education system, a system undercut by socio-cultural and linguistic incongruities. The daily reconfiguration of actual youth spheres in virtual spaces enriches our understanding of contemporary mediation and its imbrication with modes of citizenship in Morocco and elsewhere. Charis argues that observing this daily reconfiguration – in both its resourcefulness and its limitations – transcends the impoverished binarism between online fantasy and offline activism and complicates the teleological and prescriptive conflation of new media with democratization. This chapter will appear in the edited volume: Wired Citizenship: Youth Learning and Activism in the Middle East (Critical Youth Series) eds. Linda Herrera, Hisham Soliman, and Rehab Sakr. New York: Routledge.
Democracy and Democratization in Tunisia
Charis’ next project will attend to the process of political transformation in contemporary Tunisia with an aim to trace ethnographically the ebb and flow of the discourse of ‘democracy’ and ‘democratization’ and to explore ‘democratic practice’ in motion. Her goal is to challenge normative understandings of liberal democracy as an ideal-type system identified by free and fair elections, a multi-party system, and freedoms of expression and the press. Preliminary fieldwork for this project will begin in the summer 2013
In preparation. Learning in Babel: the Politics of Knowledge and Language in Contemporary Morocco
August 2012. In Two Speeds (A Deux Vitesses): 'Linguistic Pluralism and Educational Anxiety in Contemporary Morocco'. International Journal for Middle East Studies 44, No.3, 443-464.
Forthcoming. Inheritance, Heritage and the Disinherited: Ambiguities of Moral Cultivation in the Moroccan Public School. In “Ethnographies of Religious Education,” eds. Fida Adely and James Seale-Collazo, Anthropology and Education Quarterly 44, No.4.
Forthcoming. Morocco On-Trial: De-Colonial Logic and Transformative Practice in Cyberspace. In Wired Citizenship: Youth Learning and Activism in the Middle East. eds. Linda Herrera, Hisham Soliman, and Rehab Sakr. New York: Routledge.
Books Reviews and Review Essays
Dr Boutieri welcomes proposals from prospective students interested in pursuing anthropological research on the contemporary Middle East and North Africa, especially projects dealing with education, youth, national cultures and minority movements, mediation and representation, postcolonialism and development, science and technology.
Patrick McGrann: “A Radical Reality: Contemporary Understandings and Aspirations of Conservative Youth in the Gaza Strip”