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Interculturality and intercultural competence, between practice and research: L.E.R.I.C, an intercultural laboratory in Morocco

Interview with Mr A. Mabrour, Director of the Laboratory for Intercultural Studies and Research, El Jadida (Morocco)

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[Translation : EPALE France]

Interview with Mr Abdelouahad Mabrour, Professor of Linguistics, Director of the Laboratory for Intercultural Studies and Research (LERIC), El Jadida (Morocco).

Interculturality and intercultural competence, between practice and research: L.E.R.I.C, an intercultural laboratory

Hello Mr Mabrour.

Issues of interculturalism, interculturality and intercultural competence are increasingly prominent. From your background, your research and the projects you have carried out, I would like you to tell me more and share your experience on these cross-cultural aspects.

These themes are important for professionals and anyone involved in education and training who come to the EPALE/Erasmus + platform.

To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and educated in Fez, an imperial city that has played a decisive role in the political and (inter)cultural history of Morocco. I prepared a postgraduate thesis (under the direction of Jean Molino) and a state thesis (under the direction of Joëlle Gardes-Tamine), ten years later. I joined the Chouaïb Doukkali University of El Jadida (90 km south of Casablanca) where I taught in the Department of French Language and Literature and, a few years later, I became Vice Dean of the FLSH (Faculty of Humanities) and Director of the Higher School of Education and Training. In 1996, together with colleagues from the University of Liège, we founded the Research Group on Interculturalism, and in 2005 and the Laboratory for Intercultural Studies and Research.

Can you tell us how you have encountered interculturality in your personal, academic or professional life?

Even as a child, I read everything I could get my hands on. First, texts (translated) into Arabic: One Thousand and One Nights, Les Misérables, La Dame aux Camélias, Hemingway's novels, and later texts written or translated into French. The city of Fez was (and still is) a place of first-rate meetings (of several faiths), and pilgrimage for many sub-Saharans. The question of interculturality was approached from an academic point of view at university, in Morocco and abroad, during my internships, my work and the scientific meetings in which I participated.

What led you to work on the issue of interculturality and intercultural competence?

First of all, my readings, as I mentioned, also in the exercise of my profession (training and research), the different linguistic and cultural contexts that I evoked in my courses (language contact and languages in contact; plurilingual spaces, etc.) and in the seminars that I led. Openness to the international world (cooperation, partnerships, missions, etc.) was a determining factor in this respect.

You are the director of the Laboratory for Intercultural Studies and Research (LERIC), in El Jadida, Morocco. Can you tell us a little more about the origin of the laboratory, its objectives, orientations and actions?

In 1996, together with colleagues from the University of Liège, we founded the Research Group on Interculturalism. This partnership action and the focus on training in and through research, was part of a research programme that was renewed for three three-year periods (1997-1999; 2000-2002; 2003-2005). This research structure, together with the Research Group on Intercultural Didactic Communication and Language Sciences, is where the Laboratory for Intercultural Studies and Research began, in 2005.

Together with Belgian colleagues (later with other researchers from several geographical areas in the world), we worked on interculturality as it could be observed in the French literature of both countries. Our main objective was to make students aware of these issues and to try to develop an intercultural competence that would take into account other people in their particularities and differences. Much work has been done towards this.

The laboratory, certified in 2010 as a structure associated with the CNRST (URAC 57), has a research Master's programme (Intercultural Studies) and a doctoral programme (Intercultural Representations: language, literature and art). The structure has 24 permanent members and about 50 PhD students.

The research areas of the Laboratory include:

  • literature, stylistics, rhetoric
  • (socio)linguistics,
  • intercultural studies,
  • intercultural didactics,
  • discourse analysis,
  • translation, etc.

How does this laboratory and its research contribute to the development of interculturality and/or intercultural skills?

Since its creation, the GRI, then the LERIC, have organised several international scientific events which have resulted in several publications (in French below):

  • organisation de la 1ère édition du colloque international : Trajectoires interculturelles. Représentation et image de l’autre dans le domaine francophone”, les 24, 25 et 26 novembre 1999 (publié en 2002),  
  • organisation de la deuxième édition internationale des : Trajectoires interculturelles : Exils imaginaires et exils réels dans le domaine francophone. (théorie, histoire, figures, pratiques). Colloque international organisé du 10 au 12 décembre 2002, à El Jadida (Publié en 2004),  
  • organisation de la troisième édition des Trajectoires interculturelles « (S’)écrire au féminin », 14-16 décembre 2005, Liège,  
  • hommage à Driss Chraïbi, journées d’étude organisées, en partenariat avec l’Association Provinciale pour les affaires Culturelles et l’association At’Art, les 13 et 14 décembre 2006 (Publié en 2009),  
  • hommage à Abdelkébir Khatibi, journées d’étude organisées, en partenariat avec l’Association Provinciale pour les affaires Culturelles et l’association At’Art, en mars 2008 (Publié en 2009),  
  • Oralité et écriture, colloque international (4ème édition) organisé en partenariat avec l’Université de Liège, les 18 et 19 avril 2007 (publié en 2011),  
  • Didactique interculturelle et enseignement du français langue étrangère à l’université (publié en 2013),  
  • Enseignement, langues et cultures au Maroc (publié en 2015),  
  • La lettre et l’image. Enquêtes interculturelles sur les territoires du visible (publié en 2016)?  
  • Cultures au Maghreb : représentations et interactions (2018),  
  • Anthologie littéraire francophone transversale (Algérie, Belgique, Liban, Maroc, Tunisie) (2018),  
  • Approche interculturelle du discours, (2019),  
  • La Belgique:Un continent francophone à découvrir (2020),  
  • Langue, littérature et art. Représentations, pratiques, enjeux), (2021),  
  • Contes du Maroc et du Burkina Fasso. Regards croisés, (2021)

Many funded projects and Master’s and doctorate courses.

In view of your background and the work of the LERIC, what major idea would you like to emphasise for students or future generations?

In my opinion, it is enough to make students aware, through concrete cases, through examples taken from different contexts, to ensure that they are attentive to the question of interculturality. I think that man's salvation depends, to a large extent, on his openness to others, on his acceptance, to escape the limits that certain ideologies have drawn.

Thank you for this discussion and your contribution.

Thierry Ardouin

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