MIT Global France Seminar

The MIT Global France Seminar aims to bring together MIT faculty, instructors, and graduate students from across disciplines interested in the study of French and francophone cultures around the world. The seminar series is free and open to the public.

The MIT Global France Seminar was launched in 2013 (under the name "MIT Research Seminar in French and Francophone Studies"). Why “Global France”? The Seminar seeks to expand notions of French Studies beyond the Hexagone and relationships of formal empire to include networks of social, cultural, and intellectual influence. Its events and participants will reconceptualize French and Francophone studies in a global context.  


Founding chair: Professor Bruno Perreau
Co-chairs: Professor Professor Catherine Clark and Amah Edoh


FALL 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017
Édouard Louis, author En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule
5:30pm in 2-105
"What literature can do: Literature, shame and politics"

Is literature a tool to expand our awareness and challenge society? Or does it reinforce the existing social order and its violence? Édouard Louis was born and raised in the town of Hallencourt in the North of France, which is the setting of his first novel En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (published in English as The End of Eddy). His work deals with class, sexuality and violence. His two first novels were translated into more than 25 languages. He is also the editor of a scholarly work on the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and the coauthor, with the philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, of “Manifesto for an Intellectual and Political Counteroffensive”, published in English by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Charles Piot, Duke University
5:30pm in 2-105
"Migration Stories:  The US Visa Lottery and Global Citizenship"

More Togolese per capita apply for the US Diversity (Green Card) lottery than those from any other African country, with winners attempting to game the system by adding “spouses” and dependents to their dossiers.  The US consulate in Lomé knows this gaming is going on and constructs ever-more elaborate tests to attempt to decipher the authenticity of winners’ marriages and job profiles – and of their moral worth as citizens – tests that immediately circulate to those on the street.  This presentation explores the cat-and-mouse game between street and embassy, situating it within the post-Cold War conjuncture – of ongoing crisis, of an eviscerated though-still-dictatorial state, of social death and the emptiness of citizenship under such conditions, of a sprawling transnational diaspora and the desires and longings it creates, of informationalism and its new technologies, of surveillance regimes and their travails, and of the way in which mobility/immobility and sovereignty are newly entangled and co-constitutive in the contemporary moment.

Thursday, October 5, 2017
Suzanne Desan, University of Wisconsin Madison
4:30pm in E51-275
"Accidental Revolutionary, Feminist Provocateur, or International Agent?
Théroigne de Méricourt, Gender, and Geopolitics in Revolutionary Europe"

Soon after the Belgian peasant, Théroigne de Méricourt, arrived in revolutionary Paris, royalists accused her of leading thousands of Parisian women out to Versailles to capture the royal family in the October Days uprising of 1789.  With a warrant out for her arrest, she fled homeward to the Austrian Low Countries, another hotbed of revolution. French émigrés and Austrian authorities seized her and held her captive for 10 months in Kufstein and Vienna. Finally liberated, she returned to Paris in 1792 – a triumphant but controversial figure. This talk will use Méricourt’s stunning story to probe the role of geopolitical intrigue and gender dynamics in forging revolutionary politics.

Monday, September 11, 2017
Nathalie Etoke, Connecticut College
5:30pm in 2-105
"Du Noir dans le Bleu Blanc Rouge / Black in Blue White Red"

Historically, the French Republic has not recognized race or gender, leaving specific identity markers out of political and public discourse. However, the current tension between blackness and Republican color-blindness brings to fore race as a social, political and historical marker. This presentation explores the ways in which blackness reveals a crisis of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Professor David Paternotte, Université libre de Bruxelles
5:00pm in 14E-304
"Anti-Gender Activism in Belgium: The Story of an Unsuccessful Movement"

After decades of steady progress in terms of gender and sexual rights, several parts of Europe are facing new waves of resistance. These movements oppose the so-called ‘gender ideology,’ and unveil a crucial role of the Roman Catholic Church. Belgium stands out as an intriguing exception. This talk will give an overview of anti-gender movements in Europe and explore some of the reasons explaining Belgian exceptionality. David Paternotte is an assistant professor of political science at the Université libre de Bruxelles. After many years of research on same-sex marriage and LGBTQI activism, his work concentrates on the rise of various forms of opposition to gender and sexual equality in Europe.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Laure Bereni. Sociologist. CNRS Paris. Centre Maurice Halbwachs
4:00pm - William James Hall 1550 on Harvard Campus
"Impacting the bottom-line” or “doing the right thing”? How diversity managers relate to antidiscrimination norms in the US and France"
Co-sponsored with Harvard-MIT Economic Sociology Seminar, Sloan School of Management.

The rise of diversity management, which took place in the US corporate world before spreading out globally, has been studied as an emblematic case of the managerialization of antidiscrimination principles: diversity is “good for business”, rather than being “the right thing to do”. Drawing on 80 in-depth interviews with diversity managers working in the headquarters of multinational companies in the New York and Paris areas, this comparative study unpacks the transnational category of diversity management and emphasizes its various meanings in the two national contexts. It shows that beyond a common shift from “compliance” to “diversity”, the process of managerialization of antidiscrimination norms is far from being homogeneous. Diversity management offers a window on differences between the US and France in ways of drawing boundaries between business, legal, and moral principles.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Professor Shelley Rice, New York University
5:00pm in 14E-304
"Local Space / Global Vision: Albert Kahn’s “Archives of the Planet” in Context "

Rice will explore the “visual geography” of the year 1900, when amateur cameras, half-tone reproduction processes and multinational corporations expanded photographic production and distribution exponentially, and quite literally set the stage for a “world culture” of imagery based on mobility, deracination and reproducibility. Focusing on Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet, the lecture will situate this extraordinary project within the context of other experiments in image distribution at the time: among them, Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Notes and the PhotoGlob AG collection of scenic travel views.

FALL 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016
Professor Alice Kaplan, Yale University
5:00pm in 14E-304
"How Albert Camus’s L’Etranger became The Stranger: Literary translation and the long life of a classic "

Albert Camus’s L’Etranger has been best-seller for so long, we forget it was ever anything else. But literary classics are made, not born: though The Stranger was a book very few readers understood or appreciated when it was published in 1942, it became a household name—a regular on lists of the great books of the 20th century. Alice Kaplan delved into publishers’ archives to uncover a a key episode in L’Etranger’s career: the first translation of the French novel into English, in the United States and in England, four years after its publication—in 1946, when the war in Europe had been over for only a year. This is a tale of two cities, involving an author, his publishers, his translator, and his readers and reviewers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Professor François Furstenberg, John Hopkins University
5:00pm in 14E-304
"When the United States Spoke French "

This lecture explores the United States’ formative period in the late eighteenth century from the viewpoint of five distinguished Frenchmen who took refuge in America after fleeing the French Revolution. Their stories connect U.S. history to broader Atlantic currents, helping to reinterpret some of the more famous aspects of early American history from a more international perspective – from politics and cultural life in the nation’s capital to battles with Native Americans on the western frontier, from the Haitian Revolution to the Whiskey Rebellion to the Louisiana Purchase and beyond.


Monday, May 2, 2016
Professor Kaiama L. Glover, Barnard College

Professor Charles Forsdick, University of Liverpool
5:00pm in 14E-304
"Haiti: Voice, Gender and Representation in the Aftermath of Disaster"

Professor Glover joined the Barnard College faculty in 2002. Her teaching and research interests include francophone literature, particularly that of Haiti and the French Antilles; colonialism and postcolonialism; and sub-Saharan francophone African cinema. Professor Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool. He has published widely on travel writing, colonial history, postcolonial literature and the cultures of slavery. He is also a specialist on Haiti and the Haitian Revolution, and has written widely about representations of Toussaint Louverture.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Cécile Alduy, Stanford University.

4:00pm in 14E-304
"How 'New" is the New National Front?: Mapping Out Marine Le Pen’s Rhetorical Turn With Digital Humanities Software"

Will Marine Le Pen be the next President of France in 2017? Since she took over the National Front in 2011, Marine Le Pen has carried the far right party to first place in the polls, winning an unprecedented 28% of the votes in France’s latest December 2015 elections. What does she say that resonates with French voters so strongly? And does voting Marine Le Pen today mean the same thing as voting Jean-Marie Le Pen yesterday? To answer these questions, we need to look at Marine Le Pen as a sign and a producer of signs: a symptom of the recent evolution of French society and a catalyst of tectonic shifts in political and republican values. Using text mining software and textual analyses, Cécile Alduy has ciphered more than 500 speeches and texts by Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen to pinpoint exactly how, and on what topics, the daughter’s discourse differs from that of her father. In this talk, literary studies meet digital humanities and political science to crack the new National Front rhetorical code and uncover the deeper ideological and mythological structures beyond the stylistic polishing.

FALL 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015
Syria and the Right to the Image

5:00 pm in 32-141
Film screening and discussion with
Charif Kiwan, Syrian Film Collective Abounaddara

Since 2011, Abounaddara, an anonymous group of Syrian filmmakers, has released a weekly film on the web, spotlighting the lives of individual Syrians in the war. In order to avoid censorship, their short films offer anonymous fly-on-the-wall perspective of the conflict. Since 2013, they have been campaigning for the “Right to the Image”: maintaining the dignified image of the Syrian people instead of depictions of bodies and war shown in the more mainstream media. Their work has been recognized by the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Abounaddara is the recipient of the second Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. The exhibition Abounaddara, The Right to the Image is presented at The New School, New York, from October 22 through November 11, 2015, launched by a three-day international conference.

Friday, November 20, 2015
Paris attacks: an impromptu discussion

4PM IN 14E-304

Members of the MIT community are invited to join this informal gathering. Brief remarks by Professor Jeff Ravel (History/Global Studies and Languages) and Professor Bruno Perreau (French Studies, Global Studies and Languages) followed by an open discussion.


Monday, March 16, 2015
Prof. Richard J. Golsan, Texas A&M University

5:30pm in 14E-304
"French Law and Crimes against Humanity:: The Crooked Path of Memory and Justice"

Over the years, the French have attempted to come to terms with the crimes and criminal moments in the nation’s past through highly-visible trials in the late 1980s and 1990s (such as of Nazi Klaus Barbie, or Vichy officials Paul Touvier and Maurice Papon), and through passage of the so-called “memorial laws” (beginning with the Gayssot Law in 1990). What began as an often problematic legal effort to do justice to unpunished perpetrators and accomplices of the Nazi Final Solution has expanded to become an indictment of events and practices on a global scale that, according critics, criminalize French and European history and endanger the historian seeking to establish historical truth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
"Information Networks & Celebrity in Enlightenment France"

4:00 pm in E51-095

Giora Sternberg, Oxford University (UK)
“Manipulating Information in the Ancien Régime: The View from the Provinces”
In the old regime of information – as in more modern media revolutions – centralization was only one part of the story. Studying the politics of information in the provinces, this talk argues, does not just refocus or complement the view from Paris or Versailles. It also demonstrates how peripheral actors could build and deploy knowledge-bases to subvert that view along with the designs of their ‘central’ counterparts.

Antoine Lilti, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (France)
Private “Lives, Public Figures: The Invention of Celebrity in the Eighteenth Century”
Celebrity is often presumed to be a very recent phenomenon. Antoine Lilti argues, on the contrary, that celebrity culture had its origins in the eighteenth century. In London as in Paris, the new conditions of urban life, the multiplication of new public media and the growing sense of an authentic self, contributed to feed the public’s fascination for the personalities and private lives of public figures. Writers like Voltaire, actors like Garrik, and even scientists and politicians became famous in new ways. But for some of them, celebrity happened to be a very painful experience, that stressed the ambivalences of the public.

Fall 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014
Prof. Holly Clayson, Northwestern University

3:00pm in 14E-304
"Mary Cassatt's Lamp"

Clayson’s analysis of American expat Mary Cassatt’s first intaglio prints (1879-1882), set in Cassatt’s Paris apartment, takes root in the oftenoverlooked fact that lighting (éclairage) was a key attribute of the nineteenth-century City of Light (la ville lumière). Clayson maintains that the new lights, their visual properties, and the era’s debates about them provided circumstances that stimulated aesthetically innovative art gingerly balanced vis-à-vis the lights themselves between rejection and embrace, between disavowal and enthusiasm. The lecture will focus on the relationship between Mary Cassatt’s elegant oil lamp, prominent in each of the prints, and the new electric arc lights out in the street.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Photographer Lalage Snow
5:30 in 2-105
"Modern War Gardens: Paradise Lost"

Photographer Lalage Snow will speak about her current photo project Paradise Lost. Snow contends that images of war have ceased to shock viewers. So instead of photographing the atrocities of 21st-century war zones, she photographs gardens: spaces of permanence, longevity, hope, and growth. Gardens provide food and peace, and their cultivation becomes both act of resistance and a form of therapy. These photos ask what life is like for those living in the shadows of war.

Spring 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014
Prof. Maurice Samuels, Yale

4:30pm in 14E-304
"France's Jewish Star: Rachel at the Comédie Française"

This talk examines one of the most stunning cases of Jewish integration in the “golden age” following emancipation: Rachel Félix, who became France’s most celebrated actress in the 1830s and ’40s with her electrifying performances as the heroines of Racine and Corneille at the Comédie Française. The daughter of poor, Yiddish-speaking peddlers, Rachel single-handedly revived the neo-classical theatrical tradition while at the same time maintaining—some would say flaunting—her Jewish identity. Reading the critical response to Rachel from the time, Samuels explores how she offered a model for the way French universalism, embodied in the neo-classical tradition, could be enabled rather than hindered by Jewishness. Maurice Samuels specializes in the literature and culture of nineteenth-century France and in Jewish Studies. He is the author of The Spectacular Past: Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France and Inventing the Israelite: Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France. He also co-edited Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature: A Reader, which includes his original translations of nineteenth-century French Jewish fiction. Professor Samuels has published articles on diverse topics, including romanticism and realism, aesthetic theory, representations of the Crimean War, and boulevard culture. He is currently working on a new book on the relationship of antisemitism and philosemitism in France from the French Revolution to the present. Co-sponsored by MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Comédie Française Registers Project. For more information

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Mary Lewis, Professor History, Harvard

'Sovereignty and Empire in the Imperial Mediterranean: The Case of Tunisia"
4:30pm E51-275

After invading Tunisia in 1881, the French installed a protectorate in which they shared power with the Tunisian ruling dynasty and, due to the dynasty’s treaties with other European powers, with some of their imperial rivals. This “indirect” form of colonization was intended to prevent the violent clashes marking France’s outright annexation of neighboring Algeria. But as Mary Dewhurst Lewis argues, France’s method of governance in Tunisia actually created a whole new set of conflicts. In one of the most dynamic crossroads of the Mediterranean world, residents of Tunisia— whether Muslim, Jewish, or Christian—navigated through the competing power structures to further their civil rights and individual interests and often thwarted the aims of the French state in the process.

Monday, April 28, 2014
Professor of Sociology at the University of Amiens (France)
Book talk with author, Returning to Reims
Discussant: MICHAEL LUCEY, Professor of French at the University of California Berkeley
5:00pm in 4-231

After his father dies, Didier Eribon returns to his hometown of Reims and rediscovers the working class world he had left behind thirty years earlier. For years, Eribon had thought of his father largely in terms of the latter’s intolerable homophobia. Yet his father’s death provokes new reflection on Eribon’s part about how multiple processes of domination intersect in a given life and in a given culture. Eribon sets out to investigate his past, the history of his family, and the trajectory of his own life.

FALL 2013

Identities, Communities, and Spaces

A three-part series

Monday, September 23, 2013, at 4:15PM
Sylvie Tissot
Cabot Room, Busch Hall, Harvard University
"Being gay-friendly in Park Slope and Le Marais: a Comparative Study of New York and Paris"
Discussants: Bruno Perreau, Assistant Professor of French Studies, MIT; Hilary Silver, Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, Brown University

Same-sex marriage became legal in France in May 2013. Large protests against gay marriage erupted despite opinion polls revealing a growing acceptance of homosexuality. Tissot compares two neighborhoods—Le Marais in Paris and Park Slope in Brooklyn—to examine “gay-friendliness.” To what extent are gay-friendly attitudes shared in these communities? What underlies these attitudes? To what extent have they become the social marker of a specific social layer? Sylvie Tissot is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Paris 8. Before studying gay-friendliness in Paris and New York, she did fieldwork on gentrification and upper middle class culture in Boston, and on urban policies in the outskirts of Paris. Her most recent book, De bons voisins (Good Neighbors. Researching Upper Middle Class Progressives), was published in French in 2011 and will be published in English in 2014.

Thursday, October 3, 2013, at 4:00PM
Carolyn Dean

MIT Building 14E-304
"French Discourses about Jewish Memory in the 1980s and 90s"

French intellectuals and journalists on the Left and Right used debates about Nazism and Stalinism to address the question of Jewish memory in the wake of the “Vichy Syndrome,” and fears of the emergence of a “new anti-Semitism.” Dean is a Professor of History at Yale specializing in the cultural and intellectual history of Europe as well as in gender and sexuality studies. Carolyn J. Dean is a Professor of History at Yale University who specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of Europe as well as in gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of several books, including The Frail Social Body: and Pornography, Homosexuality, and Other Fantasies in Interwar France (Berkeley, 2000); The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust (Ithaca, 2004), and most recently Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust (Ithaca 2010).

Friday, November 22, 2013
Dominique Kalifa

"A Transatlantic History of Urban Underworlds"
Dominique Kalifa is a Professor of History, University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.

Dominique Kalifa is a Professor of History at the University of Paris I (Sorbonne), where he is director of the Center for 19th-Century History. He specialises in the history of crime, transgression, social control, and mass culture in 19th and early 20th France and Europe. His talk will present his latest book: Les Bas-fonds. Histoire d’un imaginaire (2013). He is also the author of Biribi. Les bagnes coloniaux de l’armée française (2009), Crime et culture au XIXe siècle (2005), Naissance de la police privée (2000), L’Encre et le Sang. Récits de crimes et société à la Belle Époque (1995). Talk in English.

Spring 2013

Tuesday April 2, 2013, at 5:00 PM
Todd Shepard

"Sex Talk, Race Talk, Empire Talk: The 'Arab Man' in French Debates about Violence and Sex in the 1970s"

Todd Shepard will explore how French discussions over the course of the 1970s about sodomy and rape which in many other ways replicated debates then taking place in the US and elsewhere turned around the figure of the “Arab man.” While scholars at the time (notably feminists and Foucault) remarked that these discussions raised crucial questions about the relationship between “acts” and “identities,” Todd Shepard suggests that they were also sites where questions about empire, racism, and colonial violence (notably the Algerian War) shaped understanding of how politics functioned. Todd Shepard is Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of the Program in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Johns Hopkins University. His first book The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006) won numerous awards, including The Council of European Studies’ 2008 Book Prize. He is now working on three book projects: Voices of Decolonization (A Brief History with Documents) (forthcoming, Bedford/St. Martin); La France, le sexe et les arabes (1962 à 1979) (forthcoming, Payot); and Affirmative Action and the End of Empires: ‘Integration’ in France(1956-1962) and the Race Question in the Cold War World.

Monday April 22, 2013, at 4:30 PM
Professor Marie-Hélène Huet

"Around the World in Eighty Moves: Bets, Races, and a Brief History of the Game of the Goose"

In her talk, Marie-Hélène Huet will examine the origins of the game of the goose and its role in an adventure novel written by Jules Verne in 1900: Le Testament d’un excentrique (The Will of an Eccentric). Marie-Hélène Huet is M. Taylor Pyne Professor of French at Princeton. Professor Huet has written extensively on cultural history, historiography, 18th- and 19th- century literature, and the French Enlightenment. She is the author of L’Histoire des voyages extraordinaires, Essai sur l’oeuvre de Jules Verne (Minard, 1973); Le Héros et son double (Corti, 1975); Rehearsing the Revolution. The Staging of Marat’s Death, 1793-1797 (University of California Press, 1982); Monstrous Imagination (Harvard University Press, 1993), which was awarded the Harry Levin Prize in Comparative Literature; Mourning Glory: The Will of the French Revolution (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); and The Culture of Disaster (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, Fall 2012).

Thursday May 2, 2013, at 4:00 PM
Professor Laurent Dubois

"Soccer Empire: Thinking Empire, Immigration, and Race Through Sport"

In this discussion, Laurent Dubois will present a chapter from his book ‘Soccer Empire’ and discuss some of the methodological and theoretical questions raised by using soccer as a way to think through the history of French empire, decolonization, and immigration. How does the study of sport -- which remains relatively marginal in French Studies -- allow us to re-think our approach to the categories of analysis and methods we use in understanding these topics?" Laurent Dubois, a specialist in the history and culture of France and the Caribbean, is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University, and co-director of the Haiti laboratory of the Franklin Humanities Institute. He is the author of most recently, of Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press) and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Metropolitan Books, 2012).

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