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Sophie Meunier

Is France still relevant? Asking this provocative question in honor of the late Stanley Hoffmann’s lifelong commitment to French studies, I examine the contemporary role of France in international affairs, in Europe, and in globalization. The article then analyzes the structural reasons for these shifts in relevance, as well as the possible political openings to break from the “stalemate society”, including the emergence of new “artists in politics”. I conclude by reflecting on how the current uncertain state of the world, which may be on the cusp of a tectonic shift precipitated by the advent of Donald Trump in the United States and the resurgence of nationalism in Europe, is both challenging what is left of France’s international relevance and providing it with renewed opportunities to play a meaningful role under the presidency of young, pro-European Emmanuel Macron.

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Le salafisme quiétiste en France

Un exemple d’apolitisme militant ?

Mohamed-Ali Adraoui

How do purist Salafist communities frame the issue of politics? Known to display a reluctance towards political engagement and activism, unlike Islamists and Jihadists, purist Salafists, especially those who live within a non-Muslim-majority country such as France, highlight that Islam has nothing to do with classical political activism. Consequently, a major issue that needs to be examined is how purist Salafists reconcile their desires to preach and shape society through a process of public involvement and their efforts to refrain from engaging with political institutions. This article explores to what extent the notion of militant apoliticism is useful in describing this strategy of public engagement.

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Les circulations entre France et Algérie

Un nouveau regard sur les migrants (post)coloniaux (1945–1985)

Muriel Cohen

This article studies circulations between Algeria and France from the 1950s to the 1980s to analyze the social dynamics characteristic of Algerians in France and to highlight their range of choices and trajectories. Bypassing the historiographically dominant focus on male guest workers, this article claims that most flows between Algeria and France involved women and children, as well as men who had settled in France a long time ago. Moreover, it shows a large emigration flow from France to Algeria: of business men, vacationers or people moving back to Algeria. This analysis relies on statistical data as well as migrants’ testimonies.

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Yan Slobodkin

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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Mark Ingram

Cultural anthropology in France continues to bear the influence of a colonial-era distinction between “modern” societies with a high degree of social differentiation (and marked by rapid social change) and ostensibly socially homogeneous and change-resistant “traditional” ones. The history of key institutions (museums and research institutes) bears witness to this, as does recent scholarship centered on “the contemporary” that reworks earlier models and concepts and applies them to a world increasingly marked by transnational circulation and globalization. Anthropology at the Crossroads describes the evolution of a national tradition of scholarship, changes to its institutional status, and the models, concepts, and critical perspectives of anthropologists currently revisiting and reworking the foundations of the discipline in France.

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From Measuring Integration to Fighting Discrimination

The Illusion of "Ethnic Statistics"

Alain Blum and France Guérin-Pace

In this article, we engage in a debate that first took place in France ten years ago, but that has revived today. This debate concerns the question of whether to introduce ethnic categories in statistical surveys in France. There is strong opposition between those who argue for statistical categories to measure ethnic or racial populations as part of an effort to fight against discrimination, and those who argue against such statistics. The latter, including the authors of the present article, discuss the impossibility of building such categories, their inadequacies, and the political and social consequences they could have because of the way they represent society. They also argue that there are better, more efficient ways to measure discrimination and to fight against it. After describing the history of this debate, the authors present the different positions and explore the larger implications of the debate for French public life.

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France

une géographie à inventer

Jacques Lévy

This article argues that the way French society comprehends its territory is not only an aspect of a more general identity crisis, but also an acting component of an overall political model. France can be characterized as a "state-fatigued" society. Centralism has had an important spatial consequence: an alliance of the nation-state and provincial "notables" against the city. The major cities, especially Paris, produce for the rest of the country but continue to be denied effective local and regional political power. In this context, the peculiar tradition of aménagement du territoire can be analyzed as a discourse based on the myth of a demiurge, the state, which would be the only legitimate actor able to restore France's grandeur by reconquering the deprived parts of its territory. Correlative public polices target moral compensation for a supposed injustice: a partial reimbursement of the debt France once contracted by incorporating the provinces into the national territory. After reviewing disappointing recent changes in the geographical architecture of political power, the article makes some proposals. They are based on the dual framework that an empowerment of relevant spatial units will be necessary and that only a profound and massive debate involving ordinary citizens can overcome the current institutional gridlock.

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Transnational Cultural Propaganda

French Cultural Policies in Britain during the Second World War

Charlotte Faucher

The Second World War challenged the well-established circulation of cultural practices between France and Britain. But it also gave individuals, communities, states, and aspiring governments opportunities to invent new forms of international cultural promotion that straddled the national boundaries that the war had disrupted. Although London became the capital city of the main external Resistance movement Free France, the latter struggled to establish its cultural agenda in Britain, owing, on the one hand, to the British Council’s control over French cultural policies and, on the other hand, to the activities of anti-Gaullist Resistance fighters based in London who ascribed different purposes to French arts. While the British Council and a few French individuals worked towards prolonging French cultural policies that had been in place since the interwar period, Free French promoted rather conservative and traditional images of France so as to reclaim French culture in the name of the Resistance.

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A French place without a cheese

Problems with heritage and identity in northeastern France

Paola Filippucci

In France, the classic produit du terroir, the local product that with its mix of skill and raw materials embodies the distinctive tie between people and their terroir (soil), is cheese. Thus, when inhabitants of the Argonne say that it “does not even have a cheese”, they imply that it lacks a patrimoine (cultural heritage). On the other hand, they do make passionate claims about 'being Argonnais', conveying a marked recognition of, and attachment to, a named place in relation to which they identify themselves and others. Focusing on this paradox, this article will highlight certain assumptions regarding the definition of cultural heritage found in public policy.

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Brigitte Humbert

“Screening France” in America takes several forms: American films that take place in France or use French people as their central characters, French films released in the US, and American remakes of French films. Since American remakes of French films usually become full-fledged American movies, and French films are often re-edited before being shown on American screens, all forms tend to display the same characteristics, often determined by the American cinematic taste for romance, a clear separation between good and evil, and a preferably happy ending that will gather all the loose ends. Though such characteristics may satisfy moviegoers’ instinctive longings for romance, happiness and clear-cut morals, this taste was reinforced and legitimized during the Production Code and studio system era (from the 1930s through the 1950s).