Call for Papers | Colloquium Students, Intellectuals and Artists in France in May-June '68

Call for Papers | Colloquium Students, Intellectuals and Artists in France in May-June '68

Deadline : 30 September 2020

Call for papers

Colloquium Foreign Students, Intellectuals and Artists in France in May-June ‘68

11 and 12 February 2021
Paris, Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains / Campus Condorcet -Aubervilliers 93000

The historiography of the '68 years has recently favoured a global approach to social movements, emphasizing movement and exchange between countries and continents. This historiography is very rich, as is the one concerning more specifically the French May. Nevertheless, there are still some blind spots, or some areas that have not been explored. One of these is the role of foreign students, or more broadly foreign intellectuals and artists (writers, artists, musicians, teachers, etc.) in France in MayJune ‘68. This presence of foreigners in France has been the subject of studies when it comes to immigrant workers, whose significant participation in the May movement is now known. But the presence of students and/or intellectuals, and therefore their participation in the movement, is still largely ignored. Many of them studied in the French capital, or in other university towns in the area. They represented 5.7% of the total student population in 1968-1969, and this number sharply increased from the end of 1968. They were African (North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa), European (German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Greek, British), South American, Israeli, North American (United States or Quebec), Palestinian. They generally adhered to the French May while implementing specific logics linked to the political and social conditions of their country of origin.

Whether it was to challenge dictatorships for Greeks, Portuguese, Spanish, Argentinians, Brazilians, or Czechoslovakians and Poles, to challenge the Vietnam War or racism (Americans), or to fight for peace in Palestine, they inserted their demands into the French May and took advantage of this moment of exceptional freedom of speech to raise their voices. It is therefore a question here of reporting on their words and deeds in France but also on the situation in 1968 in their respective countries, or rather what their words and deeds in France testify to the situation in their country of origin. Opposition to many authoritarian regimes was built up in exile. Did the events of May change the situation? Were the slogans then transformed? Were expectations or hopes overturned? Did these students practise a certain amount of self-discipline or, on the contrary, take advantage of the movement to internationalise contacts, to feed their militant experience with that of foreign comrades? On the other hand, one can wonder what the May movement owes to these students, intellectuals and artists from elsewhere: how has the circulation of knowledge and practices - particularly in the militant field (slogans, ideas, modes of action) - influenced the militant repertoires in France? Did the Unions and Federations of foreign students play a role? What books (sometimes translated by the students themselves), what music or songs, what films at this pivotal moment circulated among these men and women, and played a role on the actors? Taking an interest in foreign students and intellectuals also means scrutinizing the improbable encounters that the events made possible, or even the friendly or loving relationships that blossomed then. It also means understanding what politics can do in the world of exiles, and in such an extraordinary moment, in the first sense of the term. The places where foreign students live, residences and student hostels such as the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, could be the subject of a specific study: incubators of international encounters, these places are often incubators of ideas and militant actions.

Events may have changed habits or created new ones, changing gender relations or not. In contrast to happy situations, for happiness born of the adrenaline of collective action, how did the events of '68 create or increase social inequalities between French and foreign students? The family distance in this case can weigh heavily, whether financially or psychologically, when solidarity networks can also be set up, whether within or outside the community.

This conference will therefore focus on the militant and daily life of these foreign students and intellectuals in their political, economic, social and cultural dimension. We will not refrain from thinking about the period after May 68. What have events done to alter hitherto linear trajectories? Did they upset certainties, or spur premature returns to countries in relation to earlier projects? Or, on the contrary, did they lead to more definitive installations? Did certain foreign student figures emerge to settle permanently in French student and/or activist life? Have they provoked forms of settlement, in France or elsewhere? Who are the expelled? What happened to them? Did the participation of foreign students in the 1968 movement lead to the creation of student mobility programmes in the following years?

Several approaches are possible: group approaches on the one hand, such as Palestinian students and their role in the French May, or more biographical studies, as well as life stories captured at a given moment, or textual or artistic productions conceived by these types of actors during May-June '68 and which show or suggest these events. The aim is thus, as in May, to go beyond the frontiers and to think about the world of the year 68, in a global historical approach.

A virtual exhibition, intended to enhance the value of the May-June '68 archives of the Centre d'histoire sociale des mondes contemporains ( had already brought together a number of researchers on this issue. It is, of course, far from exhausting the subject, and is more of a primer than an exhaustive exhibition. With this colloquium, we hope to bring together other contributions, broaden the issues, and also to listen to and collect testimonies. As in the virtual exhibition, we are including the Overseas Departments, given the vigour that the independence movements had at the time and the impact that the presence of their nationals in metropolitan France had on these movements.

Scientific committee

Ludivine Bantigny (GRHis, Université de Rouen), Françoise Blum (Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains,CNRS), Gabrielle Chomentowski (Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains, CNRS), Frank Georgi (Université d’Evry Val d’Essonne), Boris Gobille (ENS Lyon), Burleigh Hendrickson (Pennsylvania State University), Jean-Pierre Le Foll Luciani (Education nationale) , Edenz Maurice (Centre de recherches sur les mondes américains/Centre d’histoire de sciences po), Eugénia Palieraki (Centre de Philosophie Juridique et Politique, CY Cergy Paris Université), Ophélie Rillon (Les Afriques dans le monde, CNRS), Alexis Roy (IMAF, CNRS), Palmira de Sousa (Campus Condorcet) , Guillaume Tronchet (Institut d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, ENS-Paris 1-CNRS).

Proposals for papers (5000 signs maximum), accompanied by a brief CV, should be sent to the following address: before 30 September 2020.

Call for papers (PDF, 203 Ko)

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