Introduction to Contemporary France II

Culture and Identity in Contemporary France: 1976 to the present

    This module's main themes are culture and identity. French culture, understood in its broadest sense to include not just literary texts but also cinema, music, popular culture and so on, is studied as a place where French identity is constructed and contested, where images of Frenchness are made and subverted.

    Lecture notes for this module are available on the World Wide Web and are easily accessed by clicking on the appropriate hyperlink. Ideally, you should prepare for lectures and seminars by reading the web-based lecture notes in advance. You should visit this page at least once a week and access the relevant material. To help you do this follow the module description below.

    Weeks 1-4

    You will be introduced to the main issues and texts studied in an introductory lecture at the beginning of the semester.

    You will also be introduced to the problematic questions of culture and identity in an introduction to French cultural studies, also in the first week of the semester and in a web-based seminar in which we will examine some poèmes de la banlieue (en verlan).

    A central focus of the module is la banlieue, the subject of much anxiety in France and the place in which questions about French national identity, about race, about l'exclusion sociale etc. are being asked. There will be an introductory lecture on the development of les banlieues in France and a seminar studying an extract from a text on La Courneuve, a large council estate near Paris.

    Moreover, la banlieue has also become the place towards which writers and film directors have recently turned their attentions. The characters and stories of the so-called cinéma de banlieue - we will study Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine (see my Lecture on La Haine) as the most important example of this recent trend in French cinema - take place in this problematic suburban milieu and contribute, in different ways, to the above debates.

    Weeks 5-8

    Immigration is another important issue explored in this module and there are three lectures on it: Lecture 1 will discuss terminology and some of the main issues, Lecture 2 the history of immigration into France and Lecture 3 will explore the myths and reality of France's so-called `immigrant problem'.

    Related to our discussion of immigration is our consideration of the beur generation, the children of France's postwar immigrants from North Africa and we study Aïcha Benaïssa's Née en France (see Lecture 1 and Lecture 2) as a representation of their life experience and the difficulties they encounter.

    Weeks 9-12

    Towards the end of the module we look at the rise of le Front national (see my Lecture on Le Front National as well as the seminar text and activity.

    We will also look at the rise of racism in France, more generally and the various anti-racist movements organised to counter it (see my Lecture on Anti-Racist Movements in France.

    To conclude the culture strand of the module, we will study a selection of the burgeoning Francophone rap and hip hop sub-culture and there will also be a lecture on slang and verlan to help you in your encounter with these texts.

To cite:
McNeill, T. (1998) 'Culture and Identity in Contemporary France: 1976 to the present' in Communiqué online [Accessed ]