The Center for French and Francophone Studies

Thursday, Feb 23 Fourest will address a subject that is a favorite at Duke and in North Carolina : a passionate, controversial, and significant debate today.

Her title: “Who is Charlie? The French Model of Freedom of Speech and Secularism”    

She will speak in French and a Q& A session will follow in French and English. 5pm, Perkins Library, 217.

A famous columnist with a taste for polemic, Caroline Fourest is a militant writer on topics dealing with feminism and the separation of church and state in France. She is a co-founder of the journal ProChoix (feminist, anti-racist and secularist). Fourest has written numerous essays on far right politics, fundamentalism and French secularism. Currently, she is a columnist at Marianne and teaches “Multiculturalism vs. Universalism” at Sciences Po in Paris. Her background in journalism spans several well-known journals, radio shows and documentaries. From 2004 to 2009, she worked at Charlie Hebdo, and she also ran a column for five years in Le Monde. Until last year, she was a radio presenter for France Culture, and with the French Parliamentary Channel (LCP), she has produced several documentaries against prejudice. Fourest is also known as an activist. She received several prizes such as the National Prize for secularism, the Political Book Prize, the Jean Zay Prize, the Aron-Condorcet Prize, the Fetkann Prize and the Adrien Duvand Prize from the Political and Moral Sciences Academy. Her latest books Eloge du blasphème (Grasset, 2015) and “Génie de la Laicité”  (Grasset, 2016) have received wide media coverage and try to shed light on the French Republican ideal of secularism.

For an excerpt of “Eloge du blasphème” in English:

Her visit is organized by Prof. Christelle Gonthier.



5 films to brighten up your evenings in late January and February.  A lineup  including prize-winning films, such as Fidelio; the work of major directors, the celebrated Alexandr Sokurov, the experimental Eugène Green; and a favorite classic.  All films will be introduced by faculty, and feature a Q & A.  Check out the attached program for details of the free screenings at Griffith Theater.

We are delighted to welcome our colleague to campus, and to work with her during these challenging times in Tunisia, as Stateside.  She joins us as the first Fellow in the new program, “On the Digital & Documentary Frontline: Citizen Journalists in the Middle East, North Africa Region,” co-sponsored with  the Middle East Studies Center, the Islamic Studies Center, and launched with the Franklin Humanities Institute and Office  of the Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations Office.  Her visit is also funded by French Cultural Services.

 After 10 years working in international law, for the Red Cross in the Maghreb, and for the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Amna Guellali  returned home to Tunis, committed to participating in the democratic movements of building a new Republic. She is director of the bureau of Human Rights Watch, the NGO’s base in Tunisia and Algeria.

 In addition to working with our students in the French seminar, “History of Free Speech: France, the Francophone world, USA”,  she will be participating in several lunchtime events  — on social movements, journalism, and ongoing political and legal debates in Tunisia.

Friday, the 11th, 12-1:30  at the Smith Warehouse, with the Human Rights Center and The Africa Initiative;

Tues. the 15th, 12-1:30 at the Rubenstein Library 153, with our co-sponsor the Middle East Studies Center;

Wed. the 16th,  12:30, with the Law School, room 4045.

]Please join us for these stimulating discussionsamnaguellali

ce 13 novembre 2016

November 13th, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

dukejardinjuinOn rend hommage à tous ceux au Stade de France, au Carillon, au Petit Cambodge, à la Bonne Bière, à la Belle Équipe, au Comptoir Voltaire et au Bataclan; on s’en souvient aujourd’hui aussi à Duke.

The week of Oct. 24th, the Center is primed to welcome our colleague, Emilie Picherot who teaches Comparative Literature [Arabic, Spanish, French], at the Université de Lille 3. We are, in fact, welcoming her back to Duke since she taught in Romance Studies a number of years ago.

Prof. Picherot is the lead investigator in the new project of our Francophone Digital Humanities Initiative, one extending our work into Arabic and Romance Languages.

“It is impossible to understand the particular relationship of France to the Arabo-Muslim world”, Picherot writes, “without returning again to the earliest tradition of studying Islam in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. The evidence of this practice is given concrete form by collections of Arabic manuscripts put together carefully by several scholars of the Arab world – and this long before Antoine Galland, and his contemporary Pétis de la Crois, the French scholars of the Arab world usually identified as the first.”

The goal of the FDH project, “An Early Arabic Library,” is to begin giving access to these manuscripts in digital form. Picherot chooses, first, the only aljamiado manuscript in the French National Library, BNF, Arabic 774. It’s a miscellany that demonstrates the specific writing practices of the crypto-Muslims of Spain during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who had to hide their identities for their safekeeping.

During her visit, Emilie Picherot will launch the new project, presenting it and discussing the importance of this particular manuscript for research into Franco-Arabo-Muslim relations.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, noon-1:30, the Studio, The Edge, Bostock Library. Join us for a lunchtime discussion.




She will also combine forces with Helen Solterer to present a seminar on a related topic.

“A True to Life Muslim? Knowledge of Islam & the Muslim World – The Case of Honorat Bovet in Pre-modern France.”

An opportunity to delve into the debate – who knew what when? And to consider early chapters in this long, rich, conflicted encounter between cultures.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 4:45, Rubenstein Library 350.

This afternoon, 5 pm, at the Franklin Humanities Institute, presentation of this prize-winning novel, in French and English.

Christophe Boltanski’s first novel, La cache, is a literary mystery structured around the rooms of one family’s Parisian mansion. The novel follows the floor-plan of the house, getting closer and closer to “la cache,” the hiding place where Boltanski’s grandfather hid from the Nazis for the duration of the German occupation of Paris. For almost two years, his own children were unaware that he was still upstairs. Balanced between bemusement at the bohemian habits of his family and empathy for them as survivors, Boltanski presents the story in short episodes, using humor to approach how they lived with their history. As critic Marie-Laure Delorme wrote in Le Journal de Dimanche, “His sentences are surrounded by mysterious silences like enemies who must be fought off. How to tell the story of his family when it’s famous, when it’s wedded to the country’s nightmares, when it can’t be categorized, when privacy envelops it from head to toe like an invisible cloak.” [Laura Marris]cboltanski

©PHOTOPQR/L'EST REPUBLICAIN ; LIVRE - RENTREE LITTERAIRE - LIVRE SUR LA PLACE - 37EME EDITION - LITTERATURE - ROMAN. Nancy 13 septembre 2015. Christophe BOLTANSKI. PHOTO Alexandre MARCHI. (MaxPPP TagID: maxpeopleworld904316.jpg) [Photo via MaxPPP]




At the end of the month, we have the pleasure of welcoming the writer Christophe Boltanski, with his American translator, Laura Marris, and the religious anthropologist, Emma Aubin Boltanski in a series of bi-lingual readings and a film screening.

Christophe Boltanski is known as a new, significant voice in the genre of the “true novel.” His book, La Cache  [The Safe House], is a remarkable first-person narrative, a family saga, and an original twist on the memoir of anti-semitism in Vichy France — across generations.  Figures in the novel include artist Christian Boltanski whose pieces are on exhibit in the Nasher Museum, and Luc Boltanski, the sociologist. In 2015, the novel won major literary prizes in France, the Prix Fémina and le Prix des prix littéraires.

Boltanski will present and discuss his novel in tandem with his American translator, Laura Marris. Her translation will appear with University of Chicago Press in 2017.

Boltanski is also known for his writing for the Parisian newspaper, Libération, and today for the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, and the online review, Rue 89. His journalistic work has taken him from Palestine to Malaysia, the Scottish reaches of Europe to Congo, resulting in a series of essays : Sept Vies de Yasser Arafat [7 Lives of Yasser Arafat 1997], Chirac d’Arabie [Chirac of Arabia: 2006], and his most recent, Minerais de sang : les esclaves du monde moderne [Blood Minerals : Slaves of the Modern World, 2014].

Laura Marris lectures in creative writing at Boston University. Her other translation projects include Louis Guilloux’s Le Sang noir [Blood Dark], as well as the poetry of Duke’s own Paol Keineg, Abalamour : Because or Down with Love.

Emma Aubin-Boltanski, at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris, works on religious practices of the Middle East, and their interrelations, especially in the Lebanon. Her books include: Penser la fin du monde (2014), and Pèlerinages et nationalisme en Palestine. Prophètes, héros et ancêtres (2007). In recent years, she has turned to the tool of film, and made several ethnographic documentaries. She will screen her latest, Catherine ou le corps de la Passion, [film in Arabic with French or English sub-titles] followed by a Q & A session.



This week Geraldine Smith, French journalist, writer, and Chapel Hill-er,  presents her latest book.

Returning to Belleville where she had lived for years, she investigates how her neighborhood has been radicalized politically. Why did a part of the city long known for its diverse, immigrant communities became a place of extreme violence? Smith takes us to ground zero of the social crisis in France today, and gives us direct contact with the residents : shopowners, teenagers, school-children.

Part report, part family chronicle, Smith grapples with the limits of the French model of social integration, as well as with her own disillusionments.

Written after Charlie Hebdo and November 13, and published just before this summer’s attacks, Smith’s book offers an intrepid, personal look at what is happening to French public life, and its far-reaching consequences.

Mark the rentrée by joining Géraldine Smith in a bi-lingual discussion around her book : Wednesday, Sept. 14, noon-1:30 pm, Forum for Scholars and Publics, 011 Old Chem. Building, West Campus.


For links to interviews in French, see the interview with Alice Kaplan in Contreligne, as well as in Le Petit Journal of Canal Plus:


Geraldine Smith is also co-author of an award-winning biography of the Central-African “emperor” Bokassa, published in 2000, and of a book on black France, Noir et Français!, released in 2006.





August 29th, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Welcome back to campus where a variety of events await you, and a set of invited guests will join us this semester.


To start us off, journalist and local author Geraldine Smith will share her book, La Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud (april 2016) a brave chronicle of her Parisian neighborhood – the place of her dreams of social integration à la française, the site of most of the 2015 attacks, and the communities where the limits of this social model are now terribly apparent. Sept. 14, noon-2pm, FSP.


Christophe Boltanski, novelist and journalist, will join us September 28-30 to discuss his two latest books. La Cache, the surprise of last year’s literary season – the first “true novel” and family saga of this accomplished family, including sociologist Luc Boltanski, and artist Christian Boltanski whose work can be seen at our own Nasher Museum. Sept. 28, 5-7 pm, FHI, Bay 5.

His investigation of the mining industry in post-colonial Africa Les Minerais de sang will be the subject of a lunchtime conversation and debate with Stephen Smith, AAAS.  Sept. 30, noon-2 pm, FSP.


Emma Aubin-Boltanski, anthropologist, at the EHESS, will present her anthropological documentary on a contemporary Lebanese mystic. Catherine ou le corps de la Passion, in Arabic with French, English sub-titles, is an unblinking look at the daily practices of a minority Christian community in today’s Middle East. A screening and multi-lingual Q & A. Sept. 29, 5-7 pm, The Link, Bostock Library.


Check back for fuller details about September’s activities, and word on those for October and November.

But first things first, join us for our ritual pot d’accueil in downtown Durham, Friday, Sept. 9, 5-7 pm, on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Durham.







In the wake of the July 14 attack, it’s hard to remember that Nice is a relative newcomer to France.   The city was still a separate state some hundred and fifty years years ago – unlike any other major French town — becoming French only when Napoleon III negotiated with Italy over who would take over. When the song, Nissa la Bella, was played this past weekend in New York to support the city, you could still hear Italian amid strains of Niçois dialect.

It’s good to remember that Nice is still Italian to its core; many of its buildings constructed by Italians, many of its neighborhoods with men and women born in Italy who call themselves now Niçois.

Anyone discovering the city can see, in fact, a Mediterranean one, the coral and yellow street fronts, the sea lapping along miles of its streets. But it’s Mediterranean most of all because of its people, with some 6 percent coming from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, as well as Italy.

These Niçois are not the migrants typecast by the obsessive, fearsome headlines. Nor are they the post-colonial generation who left North Africa and West Africa to work in Europe. They are the thousands of inhabitants akin to the some 30 from Maghrebi families who were killed on Bastille night. They are the face of France today.

It’s all the more important to recognize this city as the political polemics over who is responsible for these attacks and who is in control of policing them continues to intensify.

Nice is a stronghold of the far Right, Front National, whose symbolic figure and attack dog, Stéphane Ravier, was quick to denounce the French government for its handling of the attack. Ravier is himself a first generation Frenchman who reneges on his own heritage when making the aggressive case against immigration; his Italian-born mother, bringing the riches of Mediterranean culture into their France.

With debate over terrorism shrill, and the political fight over the upcoming election daunting, it’s encouraging to consider what Nice has survived in past struggles.

Christiane Taubira, former Socialist Minister of Justice, just did, writing about the multi-cultural city that has endured earlier shock waves of terror.

We may think first of combats around and following the Algerian war, when thousands of Algerians began arriving in Mediterranean cities.  But Taubira digs deeper in living memory, to the summer of 1943 and the final paroxysm of deportation of Jews and children . She remembers the activism of Moussa Abadi, born in Syria who, together with his companion Odette Rosenstock, brilliantly built an underground network to save hundreds of Jewish children from death.

So do I. When I walked the streets of Nice, researching the Marcel network, I was alive to the polyglot energy of its neighborhoods, so many voices of the South that echoed with other Mediterranean towns.   Here were people involved in the scrappy boisterous experience of international civic life in the Vieux port or Ariane just as strongly as the Promenade des Anglais that had attracted so many English and other adventurers from Chekhov to Bono. I liked to think that it was exactly this chaotic, dangerous, multi-lingual, multi—everything of a city that inspired James Joyce to imagine Finnegan’s Wake as he too ambled the streets, in 1922, “along the swerve of the shore and the bend of the bay.”

As we step back in the summer heat, in Durham, at Duke, as in Nice, and now St. Étienne-du-Rouvray, as elsewhere in France, I think this history can help us to take heart. It reminds us that other Niçois, of other Mediterranean backgrounds, have confronted waves of terrifying sectarian and racist violence before. Facing great loss, they stood their ground, and acted resolutely with cunning. Critical imagination – and humor – helped them prevail together.

This July and August, as many attempt to make sense of the murderous behavior and hateful discourse so as to respond to this challenge usefully, there is something to be gained by taking stock of Nice’s history and all the people – creative, activist – who make up this city.