Cécile Vigouroux

Simon Fraser University, Canada
Paris IAS
10 months


Research interests: Migration and transnationalism; Francophonie; Language ideologies; Language practice and vernacular economy; Sociolinguistics of South–to-South migrations.

Research Project

Language, Migration, and the Political Economy of “la Débrouille”

This project examines how la débrouille—a French term loosely translated in English as ‘fending for oneself’, ‘getting by’, or ‘making do’—shapes language practices and ideologies in the context of migration. The subjects are Congolese from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have relocated to France.

The focus on la débrouille practices seeks to highlight the creativity of actions and the range of individual and social resources that migrants display by tapping into a repertoire of cultural practices and beliefs. In order to examine different aspects of the migrants’ language dynamics, la débrouille is conceptualized and analyzed from three complementary perspectives: (i) as socioeconomic practices; (ii) as a cultural capital; (iii) as individuals’ and groups’ identity formation and performance.

The research is part of the broader (ambitious) intellectual project of bridging linguistics with economics. It particularly aims at fostering more dialogue with some economists and linguists on migrants’ socioeconomic mobility, thereby moving away from an overemphasis on educational attainment in assessing the latter. It seeks to highlight the fact that the etic educational categories on which many scholars of migration and policymakers overly rely to measure migrants’ potential capacity to “integrate” in their host societies are ideology-loaded. In addition, and more importantly, Vigouroux argues that they fail to capture the vast repertoire of resources that migrants (have to) deploy to navigate their new environments.


Cécile B. Vigouroux is currently an Associate Professor of sociolinguistics in the French department at Simon Fraser University, Canada. Her scholarship focuses on transnational identity formation, the reshaping of linguistic ideologies, sociocultural transformations triggered by new forms of mobility, socioeconomic inequalities, the impact of informal economy on language practices, and La Francophonie. Her work bridges sociolinguistics with other disciplines such as geography and economics. She has held fellowships from the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversityin Göttingen, Germany (Spring 2012); the Mellon Foundation, through the University of Cape TownSouth Africa (Oct. 2012); and the Collegium de Lyon, France (2013-14).