C'est La Vie Encore: France In Flux
French rap has become a powerful political weapon
Globalization has complicated the process of assimilation into French society
Racial discrimination in France is difficult to measure due to the lack of questions in French censuses that may be perceived as racially insensitive
Laïcité — the French concept of secularism — has become a tool of religious discrimination in spite of its original intention to prevent religious discrimination
The panel discussion “C’est La Vie Part II: France in Flux” took place on March 22nd in La Maison Française at NYU. The discussion featured three panelists — French rap politics specialist Emily Shuman, Professor Stéphane Gerson, and Professor Shouleh Vatanabadi. C'est La Vie is sponsored by the International Relations Society at NYU, Facilitate Equity, and the Department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture.
The panelists began by introducing their personal relationship with French identity and francophone culture. Emily Schuman, a Ph.D. student at NYU who is a member of the Institute of French Studies, focused on the relationship between politics and French rap culture. She gave an overview of the history of French rap since the 1980s, noting how French rap has turned into a powerful political weapon.
Professor Vatanabadi said memories of French colonialism suffer from widespread “political amnesia” of the colonial past. She added that globalization, as a factor that boosts culture diversity within nations, has complexed the French assimilation process.
Gerson talked about the role of slavery in perceptions of race in modern French society. He pointed out that racial discrimination in France is difficult to measure because the lack of sensitive questions in censuses makes it harder to sample precise statistics that can be used to analyze the extent to which discrimination impacts second-generation immigrants.
The highlight of the event was the discussion on laïcité, the French concept of secularism. According to Kirra Klein, the French government introduced laïcité with the intention of avoiding religious discrimination, but laïcité eventually developed into a form of religious discrimination itself. Emily Shuman suggested that Laïcité was originally intended to achieve the separation of church and state by diminishing the influence of the Catholic Church as an institution, which made it harder for less institutionalized and centralized structured religions to be adapted. Gerson added that laïcité turned into a defensive mechanism of French identity.
This report was compiled by Julia Guo on March 30, 2018, and edited by Jamin Chen.