Government designation of Arabic as a “strategic language” following WWII transformed Arabic language instruction in U.S. institutions of higher education. Funding from the government created a shift away from teaching students to read and translate classical Arabic for academic purposes and toward teaching modern varieties of the language for communication. I employ a three-pronged institutional analysis that takes into account the role of government, the role of professional associations, and the role of individual instructors in the redefinition of norms governing Arabic language instruction during the past seventy years. I find that coercive pressure stemming from government interest affected Arabic language instruction both directly, by creating new curricular materials and achievement goals, and indirectly, by facilitating the professionalization of language instruction and stimulating student demand. Although professional organizations and student demand mediate coercive pressure to treat Arabic as a professional skill rather than an academic skill, they continue to promote an agenda supported by government funding. However, instructors do not perceive student demand or professional norms as symbolizing government intrusion. My analysis thus suggests that even in the face of resistance, coercive power can effectively inspire institutional change if it is disguised as emanating from agents within an organizational field, rather than from an external agent. Furthermore, a case study of Arabic language instruction illustrates that accounts of institutional change must take into account power relations, and the potential of professional associations and individuals to act as partially autonomous agents within an organizational field.
Daugherty, Evelyn, "Language in the Name of National Security: The Transformation of Arabic Language Instruction in U.S. Institutions of Higher Education" (2011). Sociology Honors Projects. Paper 27.
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