Spotlight on France

Podcast: France's colonial legacy, lesbian genius, commemoration under Covid

Audio 32:22
Spotlight on France episode 42
Spotlight on France episode 42 © RFI

How can addressing France's colonial past make sense of today? A historian argues that recognising the country's colonial history will help with issues like inequality, immigration and France's relationship to Islam. A lesbian feminist activist, accused of being anti-men, talks about surviving in a patriarchal society. And five years after the 2015 Paris attacks, a subdued commemoration in a time of Covid.


Sometimes the best way to understand the present is to look to the past, and for historian Christelle Taraud that is particularly the case in France, where history - notably the French Revolution - has played a major role in establishing French identity. But she argues that France needs to come to terms with its colonial past to better deal with the issues of equality and integration. She's called for a rewriting of French history to more fully recognise the importance of the colonial population in the history of France. (Listen @5'00)

A young, radical branch of feminism in France, nourished by the #Metoo movement and the fight against sexual violence, is impatient with the older, universalist French model. Alice Coffin (@alicecoffin), an activist and Paris councillor, is on the front lines of this new feminism, determined to denounce what she calls patriarchal "andro-obsession". Her new book Le Génie Lesbien has terrified some men, as did her successful push to force the resignation of the powerful Paris culture attaché. She talks about reconciling her role as both activist and elected official and celebrating "lesbian genius". (Listen @21'00)

Right after the Paris attacks, on 13 November 2015, there was an outpouring of memorialisation as people left photos, notes, flowers and candles outside the Bataclan theatre, where the largest massacre took place. Political scientist Sarah Gensburger was part of a team that collected the notes for the archives. Five years on, in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, she regrets that the grassroots tributes to the victims cannot continue. (Listen @16'55'')

This episode was mixed by Cécile Pompéani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.comiTunes (link here)Google podcasts (link here), on Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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