Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Rabia Redouane

Committee Member

Lois Oppenheim

Committee Member

Richard Conway


Language policy--Bolivia, Language policy--Peru, Language policy--Algeria, Language policy--Morocco, Indigenous women--Latin America, Indigenous women--North Africa, Bolivia--Colonial influence, Peru--Colonial influence, Algeria--Colonial influence, Morocco--Colonial influence


An aspect of colonialism that is often overlooked is linguistic colonialism - the systematic suppression of the indigenous language in favor of the colonial language. Through laws and official policies, colonial powers impose their language, culture and way of life, often resulting in the suppression of indigenous culture. In the case of South America and North Africa, the colonial powers may have left decades and even centuries ago - the 1820s and the 1950s and 60s, respectively - but the effects of their presence persist still in the languages spoken today. This has created a system that favors the colonial language and puts indigenous language speakers at a distinct disadvantage, especially in the realm of education. This fact is true throughout indigenous communities, but it is most strongly felt by women. They are marginalized, denied education and access to resources such as health care services, and underrepresented in government. They are more likely than men to be illiterate and are often excluded from the job force.

While much postcolonial research has explored the effects of language policy, few studies have compared North Africa and South America, two regions with vastly different histories and cultures but that also share a brutal colonial experience that shapes their society, even today. This thesis concentrates on Peru and Bolivia in South America, and Algeria and Morocco in North Africa. By comparing these two regions, this thesis will analyze the similarities and differences between the colonial language policies of the French and the Spanish and elucidate the effects they continue to have on indigenous women.

This study is divided into four parts. The first chapter analyses the colonial and post-colonial language policies in these four countries. The second deals with the educational system in each country. This is perhaps the most important aspect of our study, as it serves as the base of the following arguments. In this chapter we see how schools in these countries discriminate against indigenous people and their language. In the third chapter, we will analyze the historic and current status of indigenous women. By analyzing their pre-colonial status, we can clearly see the effects that colonization and the imposition of the colonial language has had on them. In particular, we will see how the educational systems and their inadequacies result in far-reaching consequences. The fourth and final chapter looks at the governmental reforms and grassroots efforts to improve the status of indigenous women. By the end we hope to have accomplished a comprehensive contrastive study that will have illuminated the many unexpected ways in which colonial language imposition has affected and continues to affect minority language speakers, focusing on the specific situation of women.

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