All posts by Will

The Flag and Football

One particular point of interest which has stuck with me during class and throughout Soccer Empire are the strong national passions attached to the sport.  I find the presence of the French flag particularly interesting as well.  When I was 12, my family hosted a French exchange student, Clotilde, for two months.  One day, while driving through the Pennsylvania countryside with my mom and I, she asked why so many Americans hung flags outside their houses or owned flagpoles.  My mom said that displaying the flag was a way for us to display our ownership and respect for the values which the flag represented.

Clotilde responded that national sentiments surrounding the flag were not as strong as they were in the U.S., and while French citizens felt an affiliation for their national colors, the French flag was in most cases only displayed with regularity in civic institutions.  In fact, to display the flag outside a private residence would be considered very unusual.

For this reason I was very surprised to see how abundant French flags are during the World Cup.  At first I assumed that this display of patriotism must have been a nuance in French patriotism which I somehow failed to grasp.  After reading further in Soccer Empire, I have become less sure that my initial analysis is correct.  I believe that this phenomenon speaks rather to the unifying properties of soccer to bring together an entire nation than any particular French disposition to behave in a certain way.  Soccer acts simultaneously as a conduit and outlet for displays of national passion, allowing expression of individual sentiments while unifying the country.

Football as an Equalizer

Throughout The Belly of the Atlantic, I ran up against a particularly puzzling question:  Why would Fatou Diome make soccer so important to the central theme of the novel?  While it is clear that soccer played an inseparable role in her relationship with her brother, Diome goes above and beyond explaining its role in her live, actively tying soccer in to every part of her story- so much so that the novel begins and ends surrounding soccer matches.

However, I believe Diome emphasizes soccer’s role in the novel because the sport  acts as an equalizer and link between the different worlds of Niodior and Paris.  Despite the disparities of wealth in the two nations, soccer acts as a link between the two cultures because it stresses human commonalities between the French and Senegalese.  Courage, physical exertion, and virile competition are just as achievable in France as in the belly of the Atlantic.

(On an unrelated note, I find it curious that Diome, who brands herself as a “moderate feminist,” would spend so much time devoting the central theme of her novel to a male dominated sport.  Something to discuss in class perhaps?)

Duke In Paris Meeting

Hey all,

I saw a cool opportunity in the Chronicle today and wanted to share it with the class.   There will be an information session about the Duke in Paris summer program this Wednesday, September 21st at 5:30 PM in SocSci 136.  If you can’t make it, the Global Education Office for Undergraduates website will have more information.

French Condemnation of Syrian Crackdown

I recently read a short article in a Dubai newspaper about France’s condemnation of human rights violations in Syria:

According to the article, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe spoke out against the Syrian government for  “crimes against humanity” and against the UN for its complacency throughout the Syrian crackdown.  The heightened rhetoric used by French govt. officials suggests that France may take leadership in dealing with Syria, just as it did during the NATO-supported operations in Libya.  As France re-enters into post-colonial spaces in the Middle East,  I am left with several questions about the future of the region:

1.  Has France ever really “left” its former spheres of influence in an appreciable way?

2.  Could France’s growing involvement in the Middle East signal a willingness to potentially broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord?

France and the United States: A Comparative Question

In Chapter 3, Lynn Hunt makes the brief comparison between the evolution of rights evident in France and the 13 British Colonies in North America.  She asserts that the colonies adopted “particularistic and universalistic” attitudes towards rights during its separation phase from Great Britain, in contrast to France’s almost entirely universalistic view.

I walked away from the readings with two particular questions. Were the U.S’s immediate adoption of some particularistic views on rights impact the long-term development of rights in the colonies?  And did France’s position on the European continent contribute to its development of rights?  I mean to say that France achieved a great deal in the advancement of human rights directly after the Declaration of the Rights of Man.  Protestants, Jews, and in 1792 freed blacks all gained the right to vote in the new French Republic.  Similarly, on February 4th, 1794, slavery was abolished as well, and former slaves were given (political rights).  This contrasts greatly with the United States, where slavery continued for over over 80 more years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  And while religious minorities were given the right to vote, they often found themselves under the constraint of a Christian-leaning governmental structures, such as laws demanding religious-inspired behavior.

I wonder to what extent British/colonial tradition and geography influenced the development of the US as opposed to France.  Did the U.S’s position in the new world, estranged from other European powers and isolated by the Atlantic stymie the flow of ideas about rights post Declaration of Independence? I would like to discuss this in class.

Lynn Hunt and Torture

I found Lynn Hunt’s brief analysis of torture in relation to the development of human rights to be significant.  Hunt compares two phenomena in the mid 1700- the increase of public outcry and the growing sense of self among the populace of France.  She particularly notes how torture had become a public spectacle, with thousands of French citizens observing executions in Paris, combining

Last semester, I took a class on the Spanish Inquisition in order to fulfill my History Gateway requirement, during which period we discussed some of the methods of torture used by Spanish priests.  It is interesting to note the differences between torture in France in the 1700s and Italy in the 1100s-1400s.  Torture authorized by the church was primarily used to extract information or confessions from individuals accused of blasphemy, and was generally conducted in a private setting.  The church applied strict rules to the way torture was to be administered (although in practice these were not always followed).

The main difference between the torture that Lynn Hunt describes and that of the Inquisition is that torture used in the 1700s was used as a form of punishment rather than a means to gain a confession of sin.  Furthermore, it seems that the French methods of torture would be much more painful and debilitating than those in France.  I wonder if the shift between Inquisitory torture and torture in the 1750s represented a paradigm shift from the church’s perceived ownership of the body (and therefore focused on extracting a spiritual confession) to society’s claim over lawbreakers (thereby becoming a public event to act as a deterrent). In my mind, this shift perhaps helps explain the point which Lynn Hunt tried to make by stressing the interconnectedness of torture and “possession of the body”.