The burkini ban introduced by several French coastal cities in August 2016 caused a great stir in France and abroad. Discussions were mostly articulated around the topics of secularism, religion, and national identity and values. This study examines foreign perspectives on the burkini ban in France to gain insights into the construction of cultural realities. Informed by Cultural Studies and Critical intercultural communication, this study approaches the construction of cultural realities by investigating the articulation of similarities and differences. A thematic analysis of newspaper articles (N = 167) from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland was conducted to identify the categories evoked to construct similarities and differences. Findings indicated subtle shifts between old and refined commonalities. Throughout the data, France was cast away and represented as “the deviant other” while Muslims and Islam were associated with representations of “us.” However, underlying tensions indicated ambivalence in the redefinition of symbolic differences and similarities. Specifically, the figure of the Western Muslim and the construction of the burkini as “appropriate difference” suggested the persistence of hierarchical relations between “us” and “them.” Cultural realities therefore appeared to be both liquid and solid. In addition, findings underlined the dialogic construction of cultural realities as differences and similarities were constructed at different levels (national and transnational) that became meaningful through their interactions.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796817739328, hdl.handle.net/1765/103348
Journal Ethnicities
Citation
Sommier, M.C.M. (2017). Insights into the construction of cultural realities: Foreign newspaper discourses about the burkini ban in France. Ethnicities. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796817739328