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Jean Baubérot

The question of “civil religion” constitutes the impensé of French secularism,and this is necessarily so due to the term's ideological function. Using Jean-Jacques Rousseau's definition--revisited by sociologists--, this article considersthe relationship between secularism and civil religion at two periods. Duringthe period 1901-1908, two types of secularism opposed each other: the first,close to civil religion, was dominant until 1904; the second, which emerged in1905-1908 (the laws on the separation of Church and State) distanced itselffrom it. The second period is the beginning of the twenty-first century, whenelements of a “lay-Catholic” civil religion are thwarted, however, by severalfactors. In conclusion, the author offers several avenues of comparisonbetween American civil religion and French civil religion.

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Yan Slobodkin

Abstract

Between 1900 and 1939, the French empire devoted increasing attention to the problems of hunger and famine in the colonies. Influenced by discoveries associated with the emerging science of nutrition and under pressure from international organizations such as the League of Nations, French colonial administrations accepted food security as their most basic responsibility to their territories overseas. French scientists and administrators applied nutritional insights first to individuals in the fight against deficiency disease, then to “races” in an attempt to increase labor productivity, and finally to colonial populations as a whole. But as increasingly sophisticated notions of nutrition and public health influenced colonial administration, it became clear that the lofty promises of nutrition science were empty in a context in which subjects struggled to achieve minimum subsistence. The inability of the French empire to fulfill its responsibilities undermined the ideological justification for colonialism.

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John Gillespie

This overview of Sartre's theater within the context of the symposium focuses on the inherent ambiguities of his theory and practice. His plays, as committed literature, are not always successful in their pedagogical intention of changing the minds of his audiences. On the one hand, he seeks to provide universal situations with which everyone can collectively identify, and on the other he wishes to convince them of the value of freedom and confront them with problems and conflicts they must resolve for themselves. These spectators then exercise that freedom by taking ideological viewpoints that are in conflict with those of the plays. Moreover, the plays are often complex and ambiguous, and set far from a contemporary French context, thus demanding a certain sophistication of interpretation. Sartre's skill as a dramatist is to write plays that engage the public in debates about the key questions of the day, even though, because of his open approach, he does not always succeed in changing their minds.

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Stéphane Gerson

Some intellectuals deserve scholarly attention as emblems or models. They represent something larger than themselves—a trend, an ideology, a school, an institution. Others, in contrast, stand out in their singularity of thought or method. They warrant equal consideration, but not necessarily for the broader developments they exemplify. Acclaimed as he is, Alain Corbin belongs in this second category. A scholar whose oeuvre springs from an intensely personal curiosity, Corbin is arguably the most idiosyncratic historian in France today. Over four decades, he has charted a course that is entirely his own. While awarding him the 2000 Grand prix Gobert, the Académie française aptly extolled a work that “boldly extends the limits of historical method.”

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Résistance Oblige?

Historiography, Memory, and the Evolution of Le Silence de la mer, 1942-2012

Brett Bowles

Among the best-selling French literary works of the twentieth century, Vercors' novella has enjoyed an exceptionally rich afterlife thanks to numerous print editions as well as several influential stage and screen adaptations: Jean-Pierre Melville's 1947 feature film, Jean Mercure's 1949 play, Vercors' own 1978 theatrical rendering, and a 2004 television movie written by Anne Giafferi and directed by Pierre Boutron. Taking a comparative approach that weighs the aesthetic and ideological priorities of these authors and directors alongside shifts in historiography and French political culture, this article traces the evolution of Le Silence de la mer as a contested site of national memory and a means of negotiating the ethically-charged concepts of collaboration and resistance.

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Naomi J. Andrews and Jennifer E. Sessions

Scholarly attention to the history and legacies of France's overseas empire is a welcome development of the last two decades, but the field of modern French colonial history has become overly focused on the “tensions” and “contradictions” of universalist republican imperialism. This introduction argues that we must recognize the ideological diversity of the French state and the complexity of the relationships between colonial and metropolitan histories in the modern period. The articles in this special issue show the critical role of the non-republican regimes of the nineteenth century in the construction of the modern French empire, and the ways that colonial entanglements shaped processes of post-Revolutionary reconstruction in France under the Restoration (1815–1830), July Monarchy (1830–1848), Second Republic (1848–1851), and Second Empire (1852–1870).

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Why Extremes Don’t Meet

Le Pen and Besancenot Voters in the 2007 French Presidential Election

Nonna Mayer

Focusing on electoral support for the extreme Left and the extreme Right on the eve of the 2007 French presidential election, this article refutes the "convergence of the extremes" theory. It draws on data from the 2007 CEVIPOF French Electoral Panel to compare the profiles of voters for Jean-Marie Le Pen and Olivier Besancenot. Combining sociological, psycho-political, and economic models for explaining voter choice, it shows how different Le Pen and Besancenot voters are in their partisan and ideological attachments, as well as their social affinities and their positions on candidates and issues. Divergent social and political logics explain the electoral support for these two candidates: their voters do not occupy the same political space, they do not have the same social background, and they do not hold the same values.

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Black in France

The Language and Politics of Race in the Late Third Republic

Jennifer Anne Boittin

This article uses notes generated by France's surveillance of African and Afro-Caribbean migrants during the interwar years to analyze the use black men made of racial terms such as nègre and mulâtre. Although developed before the twentieth century, such racial language was infused with new political, social and cultural meaning after World War I. Workers and intellectuals, often at odds with each other, developed a race consciousness that was both a means of uniting in response to colonialism and a reaction against those within their communities who did not appear anti-imperial enough in their politics. Arguing that racial language expressed the nuances and range of black men's political and ideological stances with respect to the French Empire, this article traces the meanings granted to race and the important role in cultivating their significance played by members of organizations such as the Union des Travailleurs Nègres.

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Mariette Sineau

In France, the 21 April 2002 presidential election result has renewed interest in the electoral cleavage between women and men, who cast their votes very differently to qualify candidates for the second round of the election. Among women voters, Lionel Jospin (the Socialist leader) came in second behind Jacques Chirac, with Jean-Marie Le Pen (leader of the Front national) being eliminated from the contest; among men, Le Pen came out on top followed by Chirac. On the basis of a major quantitative election survey conducted in France in 2002 by the Centre de Recherches Politiques de Sciences Po, this article undertakes to understand why fewer women than men vote for the extreme Right. Sociologically, Le Pen made his lowest scores among two groups of women that contrast in numerous aspects: young, highly educated professional women, and older, retired, widowed women. Strong ideological logics lie behind this contrasted sociology of female anti-Lepenism, rationales that are generation-specific, but gender-specific as well: feminism and Catholicism "process" male and female identity differently. (This research was first published in French in Bruno Cautrès and Nonna Mayer, eds., Le Nouveau Désordre électoral (2004), 207-28.)

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Saving France's "lost Boys "

Vichy and the Reform of Juvenile Justice in France

Laura Lee Downs

In 1944, Léo Joannon's now-forgotten film Le Carrefour des enfants perdus opened in cinemas across France. The film (which starts in August 1940) recounts the struggle of impassioned journalist Jean Victor and a small group of friends to found a new kind of reform school without locks on the doors or bars on the windows, a vocational school for the professional training of delinquent youth whose methods were to be based on forging bonds of trust with the young offenders, rather than on their simple repression. Victor and his friends had all experienced firsthand the terrible bagnes d'enfants (children's penal colonies) of the Third Republic's pitiless juvenile justice system in their youth, and the story of the Carrefour (as their school was named) turns on the dedicated faith of these men in the abilities of children, even those deemed "guilty" in juvenile courts, to remake their own lives along healthier lines. Over the course of the film, the adventures of the Carrefour's 400 "enfants perdus" unfold inside an unexpected blend of progressive pedagogy (confidence in the children) and Vichy's fascistic elevation of the chef (organization of the school in hierarchically-ordered teams, run by older street toughs who are converted from caïdisme to the purer, if no less masculinist, ideology of the chef).