University of Oulu

A third space to overcome cultural uprooting and marginalisation? : theorising Seine-SaintDenis teachers’ understanding of their use of French rap in the classroom

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Author: Chenier, Valentin1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.3 MB)
Pages: 150
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : V. Chenier, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-08-26
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Lehtomäki, Elina
Reviewer: Lanas, Maija-Liisa
Lehtomäki, Elina


In 2018, Issaba, a passionate life-long rapper and mathematics teacher from a middle school in Seine-Saint-Denis, created a buzz with his rap songs depicting concepts from the official mathematics curriculum. Issaba’s use of French rap as a pedagogical tool is not an isolated case in Seine-Saint-Denis, teachers of various subjects have integrated French rap in their courses in diverse manners.

Seine-Saint-Denis is a French department known for concentrating societal difficulties such as poverty, unemployment, and criminality. Most schools in Seine-Saint-Denis are labelled REP (Réseaux d’Éducation Prioritaires — Priority Education Networks) due to their underperformance and student population of low socio-economic status.

While the Hip-Hop-based education (HHBE) studies in the USA look at the use of rap music in the classroom, there is no research to date dealing with uses of French rap in French public schools. Although the USA-centred HHBE typically focus on disadvantaged urban schools, a context of schooling arguably comparable to the one of REP schools in Seine-Saint-Denis, contextual differences between the USA and France remain too important for applying the HHBE framework to the French context. This research thus aims at theorising the understanding of Seine-Saint-Denis REP middle school teachers of their uses of French rap in the classroom in relation to their specific context of schooling.

The primary data of this study thus consists of interviews of Issaba and seven other Seine-Saint-Denis REP middle school teachers using French rap as a pedagogical tool. Fieldwork observation notes and pictures, and reviews of governmental documents and Issaba’s songs constitute complimentary data. The use of Constructivist Grounded Theory as a research method is applied in order to develop a theory rooted in the context of this research and free from the influence of existing HHBE frameworks. This approach combined with phenomenographic leanings allow me to generate an abstract theory from the concrete experience of participants.

The emerging theory builds upon the fact that participants’ use of French rap in the classroom is context-contingent in the sense that it answers to contextual challenges, namely: the marginalisation of REP schools, notably due to students’ socialisation lag compromising the learning of curricular content knowledge. French rap creates a third space that helps participants bridge the gap between students and the French School’s norms of socialisation, ultimately making the experience of REP schools closer to that of mainstream schools.

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Copyright information: © Valentin Chenier, 2021. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.