January 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Charming introduction to Theodore Zeldin’s books of French history:

Zeldin’s approach can be understood as a kind of historical ethnography, while Todd’s approach emphasizes processes and structures of nation formation.

What’s striking is how out-of-place Zeldin’s work must be in contemporary academic history — but equally, how it’s the kind of history people really want to write, and to read. I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic to the idea of some kind of revival of 19th century humanities, with the diligence and the emotional involvement. I’m not sure if you can manage that without the racism and shallowness — though is it really better to have your prejudices concealed behind dull prose and academic walls?

French pessimism about the crisis yet to come

December 13th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

70% of French believe the worst of the crisis is yet to come:

Lorsque l’institut Ipsos leur demande s’ils pensent “que le gros de la crise est derrière nous”, ils sont ainsi 70 % à répondre au contraire que “le gros de la crise reste encore à venir”.

This despite recent business figures which are positive, if not quite so good as in Germany. What’s going on?

  • Everybody believes governments are making up the figures, even when they aren’t
  • It’s going well for business, but not for people — the crisis has become a concentration/acceleration of the existing patterns of inequality.
  • ‘man in the street’ experiences of recession — unemployment in particular — lag behind the state of business, which in turn lags behind financial markets. This is why the crisis began as a financial crisis: at first it seemed phony-war-like, something happening only in meaningless figures
  • People are using optimism/pessimism to make a political point. e.g. the left are exaggerating the crisis, as a means to criticize Sarkozy

December 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sad news for French multiculturalism, as the only (!) politician who dared wear an islamic headscarf* has left the Nouvea Parti Anti-Capitaliste. Brent Whelan:

Moussaïd gave the party its most widespread–though least welcome–burst of publicity last February when she appeared on the list of local candidates in the regional election wearing the Islamic headscarf she favors. Squeezed between the strident criticisms of feminists and secularists, she held her ground–and insisted on her qualifications as a long-time social and party activist–with grace and poise that belied her 21 years. (See my previous post, “Veiled Threat,” 2/15/10) After a storm of polemics, mostly hostile, both inside the party and in highly visible venues such as the Idées pages of Le Monde, Ilham and her local supporters had hoped the delicate issues of tolerance and diversity she raised could be fully aired in a party congress. But as that public debate receded in time–originally scheduled for November, then December, now February–she apparently lost confidence in the party’s openness to her situation, and now her chapter is closed.

* We’re not even talking about a hijab here, by the looks of it — just a hair covering. i.e. something that wouldn’t be the faintest bit controversial in any halfway-sane political climate.

January 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

And here‘s the article from Le Monde. Love the half-hearted defence put up by the mairie:

“Le contexte actuel est difficile pour les professionnels de la nuit, mais il est excessif de dire que la nuit parisienne est morte. Auprès des étrangers, elle garde une excellente image.”

These days, Paris-bashing is starting to seem too easy. Maybe in a decade or two, it’ll be time to rediscover its good side ;)

Laïcite

December 22nd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Ah, the ever-flexible French obsession with laïcite — now showing its good side, as the language in which to condemn a statement that “when there are more minarets than Cathedrals in France, it will no longer be France”.

Urban recovery after a recession

December 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Le Monde points out that periods of recovery from recession are crucial in the growth, or decline, of inequality between districts. It is now that new businesses are created, or not, in depressed areas, and when they can most easily be nudged by state intervention.

C’est dans ces périodes, paradoxalement, que les écarts entre les territoires risquent de se creuser, entre ceux qui végètent et ceux qui rebondissent vite. Dans ces périodes, aussi, que le gouvernement, rassuré quant aux risques d’explosion sociale, peut être tenté de réduire les moyens, déjà limités, consacrés à la politique de la ville pour les redéployer sur d’autres priorités.

me dicen el clandestino / por no llevar papel

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Ulrich Beck is writing a monthly column on ‘Weltinnenpolitik‘ for the Franfurter Rundschau. His first piece is devoted to the political demands of sans-papiers. It’s not a bad introduction to the issue, which apparently hasn’t really come to the fore in Germany. Particularly, the extent to which entire industries and cultures depend on illegal workers.

Photoshop labelling

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Telegraph:

A group of 50 politicians want a new law stating published images must have bold printed notice stating they have been digitally enhanced.
….
“It is not an attempt to damage creativity of photographers or publicity campaigns, but to advise the public on whether what they are seeing is real or not.”

Well, yes. And that’s before you get onto how unpleasantly inhuman all these doctored images look.

Also, I love that the term ‘airbrushed’ seems set to stick around long, long after every genuine airbrush has been consigned to the scrap-heap

What is culture?

November 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

From Art Goldhammer’s lecture on French culture:

A Jew, Sartre said, is one who is a Jew for the anti-Semite. So let us say that Culture is that which is Culture
for the Other. And let us stipulate further that the Other of Culture is Power, with which it is
locked in mutual embrace

PS in the regions

October 10th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Parti Socialiste may be disintegrating at a national level, but according to AG it’s much stronger at a regional level.

FT on the French integration debate

October 5th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

On the never-vanishing topic of Islam in France, this article in the FT is pretty good.

Farhad Khosrokhavar, director of research at France’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of French Muslims do not practise Islam at all. Fasting during Ramadan is considered a basic duty of the religion, yet only about 70 per cent of French ­Muslims even claim to do it. In short, European Islam has many of the same problems as European Christianity.

Via Art Goldhammer, unsurprisingly