The hundredth anniversary of the 1905 law in France on the separation of church and state has led to a rich harvest of new scholarly work on laïcité and religion in public life. Centenaries often inspire conferences and publishing projects, especially in France. In the case of the 1905 law the temptation became irresistible in the wake of the creation of the Conseil français du culte musulman in 2002 (see the special spring 2005 issue of FPCS on the CFCM) and years of controversy over the wearing of Muslim headscarves in public schools. The Stasi Commission’s 2004 recommendation to ban the wearing of ostentatious religious signs in public schools, and a 2005 act of Parliament that made that view law, inspired sharp debate in France and beyond, adding further impetus to scholarly discussion of religion, politics, and the government’s regulation of matters religious.
With this issue the journal enters exciting new territory. As we announced to readers earlier this year, French Politics and Society now adds Culture to its name to signal our ambition to broaden the multidisciplinary reach of the journal. We encourage anthropologists, sociologists, and historians to see FPCS as a place to present their work to a remarkably diverse readership that spans the globe. We also welcome contributions from specialists exploring connections between French society and cultural expression of all sorts, including film, the visual arts, literature, and popular culture.
With FPCS embarking on its fourth decade of publishing work on the study of France and the francophone world, the journal invited scholars in several disciplines to write short essays on where they thought the field of French Studies should head in the future. This essay introduces the resulting dossier on “French Studies and Its Futures.” It situates the project in the current context in which the field is thriving intellectually but struggling with menacing institutional pressures. It goes on to describe the particular formulation of French Studies that the journal came to represent in its early years in the 1980s, how it evolved since, and what that experience suggests about how scholars can respond creatively to the challenges and opportunities the future may hold for the field.