Announcing the 2015 Ramzy Rasamny Paper Prize Winners

The CCAS is pleased to announce the awardees of the Ramzy Rasamny Paper Prize in recognition of the best 2014-2015 MAAS thesis and research papers!

The Ramzy Rasamny Paper Prize comes with a cash award of $700 for the best MAAS thesis and $300 each for the three best MAAS research papers.  The contest is limited to MAAS students and to theses and essays that were completed in a class taught by core CCAS faculty during the 2014-2015 academic year. Nominations for the Rasamny Prize were made by advising faculty, and a reviewing committee selected the four finalists.

Congratulations to the 2015 Awardees:

Best Thesis

Gareth Smail

"The Politics of Good Teaching in Provincial Morocco"

Can new concepts of pedagogy transform social hierarchy in Morocco? This thesis examines how new conceptions of good teaching interact with Morocco’s historical mechanisms of social reproduction through education, using ethnographic and interview data collected among public secondary teachers of English and Arabic in a specific province of Morocco’s Middle Atlas. Building on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice and its major concepts – habitus, capital and field – I argue that language and language teaching in Morocco has historically played a pivotal role in the reproduction of hierarchy and social exclusion. Beginning in the early 1980’s, these mechanisms of exclusion entered a crisis of legitimacy, which was “retranslated” as a pedagogical failure, and within the context of neoliberal ideology, into a seemingly apolitical imperative that teaching be of a certain quality, namely learner-centered.
In an ethnographic analysis, I then redeploy Bourdieu’s theory of practice to examine how Moroccan language teachers in a specific context perceive and respond to this new paradigm. By viewing good teaching as a form of social capital among teachers, I show that pedagogy is not a neatly transferable form of global knowledge, but rather is complicated by competing incentives and values, a contest which in many ways reinforces the reproductive nature of education. First, I argue that Morocco’s system of teacher placement in rural areas operates in tension with a merit-based system of rewarding performance, meaning that professional advancement is not necessarily tied to better teaching, and as such, often presents moral ambiguity to be negotiated. Second, I reflect on the advantages of English teachers over Arabic teachers in claiming the social capital of good teaching, to show that ideas about modern pedagogy are inextricable – for both material and ideological reasons – from associations with European languages and their attendant uses for economic access. In all these cases, the seemingly apolitical nature of pedagogical knowledge is repurposed a way that repackages, rather than fundamentally challenges, the reproduction of historical social hierarchies. Yet, I also find a major ambiguity in this process: teachers are not mere vessels for policy and global discourse on best practices, and often, they adapt learner-centered education for their own ends, even as they participate in this process of reproduction.


Best Research Papers: Ryan Folio, Andrew Gabriel, Sacha Robehmed