Past Event

French Culture Wars? The Polemic on “Islamo-leftism”

May 6, 2021
2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Online Event

Eric Fassin and Maboula Soumahoro in a conversation moderated by Emmanuelle Saada


In recent months, French President Macron and members of his government as well as several groups of intellectuals and academics have sounded an alarm about the influence of supposed “Islamo-gauchisme” within French universities — a highly controversial term used to accuse left-leaning intellectuals of justifying Islamism and even terrorism. Most recently, the French Minister of Higher Education Frédérique Vidal said that “islamo-leftism” is a “gangrene” on French academia, and announced that she would task the National Center for Scientific Research with an investigation into “the totality of research underway in our country” to identify academic research that feeds “Islamo-leftist” ideas. The majority of French scholars and university presidents and research institutions denounced Vidal’s announced investigation and called for her resignation.

Invited panelists in this conversation will provide some political and academic context and offer definitions of the terms and arguments deployed in these attacks.  What is really at stake here?  How can these arguments be understood in today’s French political landscape?  What do they reveal about the deeper transformations underway in the social sciences in France?  How are they related to the fast-paced transformation of the role and organization of the University in French society? Why are post-colonial studies, race and gender studies, and “intersectionality” seen as “American imports” threatening the French “republican” model?

Eric Fassin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Paris 8 St-Denis. 
Maboula Soumahoro is an Associate Professor in the English Department of the University of Tours, France. 
Emmanuelle Saada is Professor of French and History at Columbia.

This event is co-sponsored by the Maison Française, the Alliance Program, the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center of the Humanities.

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