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7 Files

The Utopian years? Radical left movements in Pompidou's france

This half day conference, organised by Dr Manus McGrogan at the University of Portsmouth on 12 May 2011, uncovered the trajectories of some of the movements that emerged in early 1970s France, helping to define the radical left politics of the era. This was the aftermath of May ‘68’s mass upheaval, when France, in the grip of student riots and a general strike, had seemed on the verge of revolution. May’s utopian dimension, embodied in slogans such as ‘sous les pavés la plage’ and ‘prenez vos désirs pour la réalité’, held the promise of a world transformed in which each could pursue their own desires, a powerful spur to thousands of young activists, students and workers. The mass revolt of May had also shown that collective action could change the world. These impulses, shaped subsequently by political, socio-cultural and international events, combined to generate new, youth-inflected gender/sexual liberation movements, independent immigrant organisation, ecology groups, underground press, and other movements that were linked to, or autonomous of left political organisation. However, activists also had to contend with a Gaullist State that tentatively introduced reforms, whilst clamping down on the hard left ‘troublions’ still agitating for popular revolt. Intervention in the workers movement also proved problematic given the PCF/CGT dominance in the major workplaces. President Georges Pompidou, on a path of modernising France, perpetuated the social conservatism of his predecessor de Gaulle; faced with these barriers, activists of the Mouvement de Mai sought to merge political radicalism with the cultural underground to fashion an alternative France, as a May-inspired slogan intoned, changer la vie. But what happened to this surge of hope for change? Five academics presented papers on important aspects of this early 1970s radicalism, with the participation of students and lecturers from similar disciplines. They considered the origins and development of the new movements, their significance within Pompidou’s France; the interrelationship of movements, and finally their resonance, or relevance in the France of today. The conference was also part of the undergraduate programme in French History and was generously supported by the LLAS subject centre. The exam was based on the themes developed during the conference. A half day conference, organised at the University of Portsmouth on 12 May 2011, uncovered the trajectories of some of the movements that emerged in early 1970s France, helping to define the radical left politics of the era. This was the aftermath of May ‘68’s mass upheaval, when France, in the grip of student riots and a general strike, had seemed on the verge of revolution. May’s utopian dimension, embodied in slogans such as ‘sous les pavés la plage’ and ‘prenez vos désirs pour la réalité’, held the promise of a world transformed in which each could pursue their own desires, a powerful spur to thousands of young activists, students and workers. The mass revolt of May had also shown that collective action could change the world. These impulses, shaped subsequently by political, socio-cultural and international events, combined to generate new, youth-inflected gender/sexual liberation movements, independent immigrant organisation, ecology groups, underground press, and other movements that were linked to, or autonomous of left political organisation. However, activists also had to contend with a Gaullist State that tentatively introduced reforms, whilst clamping down on the hard left ‘troublions’ still agitating for popular revolt. Intervention in the workers movement also proved problematic given the PCF/CGT dominance in the major workplaces. President Georges Pompidou, on a path of modernising France, perpetuated the social conservatism of his predecessor de Gaulle; faced with these barriers, activists of the Mouvement de Mai sought to merge political radicalism with the cultural underground to fashion an alternative France, as a May-inspired slogan intoned, changer la vie. But what happened to this surge of hope for change? Five academics presented papers on important aspects of this early 1970s radicalism, with the participation of students and lecturers from similar disciplines. They considered the origins and development of the new movements, their significance within Pompidou’s France; the interrelationship of movements, and finally their resonance, or relevance in the France of today. The conference was also part of the undergraduate programme in French History and was generously supported by the LLAS subject centre. The exam was based on the themes developed during the conference.

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8 Files

Students Politics in Toulouse

Student politics in France is often dominated by a high degree - and high visibility- of political radicalism. If such radicalism is often the product of a well-organised minority on the extreme left of the political spectrum, it remains a central part of university life. As part of her undergraduate dissertation on 'Toulouse 2008: Ideology, Tactics and Organisation of Student Movements 40 years after May 68' (supervised by Dr Natalya Vince), Rosalind Parkin photographed a series of posters during her year abroad in Toulouse (2007-2008). Students' radicalism is not only aimed at president Sarkozy's reforms of higher education, but also expresses a commitment to feminism, anti-elitism, class-based politics, anti-fascism, and social solidarity. A good level of French is necessary to understand the posters and final year undergraduate and PG students are most likely to benefit from them.

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9 Files

Immigrants contribution to the Resistance in France during WWII.

Robert Guédiguian’s film Army of crime (2009) should be understood in the context of contemporary debates about French national identity and the contribution of immigrants to French society (see interview with the lead actor,Simon Abkarian). The film throws light on the role played iby anti-fascist refugees from Spain, Hungary, Poland, Armenia, Italy during the Second World War in France (See Official UK Trailer[Youtube]). These refugees, often Jews, close or members of the Communist Party, saw France as the country of human rights and were often the first one to organise resisters’ networks. Fighting in the Communist-led FTP-MOI (Francs-tireurs et partisans – main-d'œuvre immigrée), they were specifically targetted by the Nazis and the Vichy regime, as testified by the infamnous ‘Affiche rouge’. Poetry (Louis Aragon’s 1956 Strophes pour se souvenir) and mortuary monuments (such as the ones to be found in the Pére Lachaise cimetry in Paris, commemorating the role of Spaniards and immigrants in the Resistance movements),have been the traditional media through which their memory has been commemorated. Recently, Toulouse, ‘capital of Spanish republican exile’, has set up a ‘remembrance tour’ of the city. The Ciy Council has produced a (touristic?) leaflet to guide visitors through the major sites of Spanish Resistance (included here). A short bibliography points to the way academic research has also approached the subject.

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This list was generated on Thu Aug 8 15:53:58 2019 BST.