Tag Archives | Identity

La République des signes: Myths of Frenchness since Le Petit Diouf

Reflecting on Roland Barthes’ Le Petit Diouf, Pr Michael Kelly explores the relationship between nationhood and myth-making in contemporary France. The Petit Diouf is the figure pictured on the front page of a 1955 issue of the French magazine Paris Match. It provides an example of the way daily myths operate in the making of French national identity and eventually reinforce the power of the state. Michael Kelly is a Professor of French in Modern Languages at the University of Southampton. He is a specialist in modern French culture and society, especially the history of ideas and intellectuals, and on public policy in the area of languages and language education, in the UK and in Europe more broadly This post is partly based on the Peter Morris Memorial Lecture that Michael Kelly delivered at the ASMCF Annual Conference last September.   Every country needs a myth of its nationhood. France has more of them than most countries, and the prevalent myths of Frenchness are contested. Barthes put his finger on it in Mythologies, where he showed that almost any story or image can be a myth. He describes sitting in the hairdresser’s and looking at a cover of Paris-Match, showing […]

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Dangerous shortcuts: Paris attacks and the Algerian War of Independence

The British media coverage of the 13 November attacks on Paris and its aftermath, and in particular the analyses of certain “experts”, has been problematic. In her analysis, Natalya Vince, historian of Algeria, points out the dangers of shortcutting historical facts in favour of easy and inaccurate connections, and notably the misuse of the Algerian war to understand contemporary France.   The right-wing media reaction to the horrific attacks of 13 November in Paris has been predictable. Muslim populations living in the West have been presented as an enemy within and the wave of Syrian refugees desperately seeking to enter Europe depicted as a cynical cover for the infiltration of Islamist terrorists. Such discourses will have devastating effects for Syrian refugees and Muslims living in Europe and North America. Subsequent declarations by more than half of the USA’s governors that Syrian refugees were not welcome in their states, the growing number of reports of acts of violence and hostility towards people who “look Muslim” and the vandalising of mosques clearly demonstrate this. However, as arguments go, conspiratorial claims about “Fifth columns” and “Trojan horses” are also very easy to dismiss. It is fairly obvious that they are based on crude […]

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