Distortions in distance:
debates over cultural
conventions in French punk
On 6 May 1968, a cadre of French police entered the Sorbonne to restore
order, called by administrators in response to the alleged destruction of auditorium chairs, three to be exact, caused by the student occupation that began
earlier that weekend in protest against the actions of administrators at the Nanterre
campus. The subsequent mêlée between the police and students sparked broader
protests, as young workers instigated a series of strikes through France during the
tradition of the state helped produce among those who said they were either ‘not’ or ‘not very’ religious ambivalence towards religious Otherness – albeit to different degrees.
The book addresses one question in the broader intellectual agenda I set out in Secular War : what do violent political conflicts look and feel like phenomenologically to people who, in their given context, claim to distance themselves from ‘religion’ (even if they are fundamentally shaped by it)? My working hypothesis is that people who feel high levels of ambivalence towards religious
chapter might better be titled ‘Centre-Shaikh [sic] relations’.
While this relationship started positively, by 1953 there were many – indeed, too many – negative aspects. The assertive Abdullah was trying to ensure that ‘his’ state had as much autonomy and administrative distance from New Delhi as he could secure. New Delhi wanted the total opposite: for J&K, including Kashmir, to be ‘just another Indian state’ and for its residents, including Kashmiris, to be ‘ordinary Indians’. The turning point for Abdullah
The Postscript addresses the comparative academic debates on religion and ethno-national conflict, particularly the gap around lived secularity. What do violent political conflicts look and feel like phenomenologically to people who, in their given context, distance themselves from religious traditions and yet are fully embedded within them?
If primary schooling in France is a relatively depoliticized issue area, secondary and higher education most certainly is not. Throughout the period covered, these levels of education have frequently been framed as not only a public problem, but one which demands new policy instruments and even a new ethos. If this seemingly egalitarian principle of ‘merit’ is rarely contested, actually instrumenting it within the national system education has proved to be extremely difficult. Indeed, as the chapter shows whilst taking the reader through the evolving structures of intermediate and high schools, then vocational, university and grande école-based education, social inequalities in France are still relatively rarely corrected by the education system itself. The chapter argues that this reflects a lack of institutional change to the French educational system which must be traced to the way education more generally is framed and politically worked upon in France. Despite the findings of educational science, the transmission of knowledge continues to be top-down and highly conservative. Once again, teachers and academics have largely contributed to this outcome. But they have been allowed to do so in particular because parents, and educational science as a source of expertise, have deliberately been kept at a distance from the system itself. Moreover, as vocational education, but also that now administered in the grandes écoles, clearly shows, having largely abandoned the idea that education is a public interest issue, the state no longer provides a firm rudder for governing the system as a whole.
Finally, even though diplomats, bureaucrats and lobbyists gained personally,
publicly or institutionally, some ultimately failed to appreciate that lobbying
partially involves cultural work with those being lobbied, that is, getting to know
them better in order to influence them more readily. Although their jobs were
ultimately to bridge the politico-cultural distance between Brussels and Ankara,
over the last decade that gap has widened ever more.
wishes had been very clear. It was Argentina that I wished to go to—or, failing that, to Chile. And, like a few thousand others of the post-1968 generation, it was to Algeria that I was assigned for two years. So it was in Algeria that my intellectual trajectory began to take shape. By chance at first, and more consciously thereafter. After a year and a half of VSNA, I chose to extend my stay for five years, primarily to write my thesis. The Algeria of the 1970s was to offer me my first and most marking opportunity to build up an analytical distance from the pillars
term in my first article on the MIT, having not yet felt the need to distance myself from the terminology conventionally used at the time to label fundamentalist strands in Catholicism. 4 ) When the gate of the villa edged half-open, exoticism was in no short supply. At the edge of the courtyard, thirty or so men dressed in their long jebba s (a loose male dress) were seated on carpets set up in a circle. Before my eyes, the first formal meeting of the MIT’s majlis al-shoura (Consultative Council) was just drawing to an end. A few minutes later, I was in one
milieu (Muslims in France). The result was to make it impossible to think through any shortterm or historical correlation with the injustices of all kinds endured in this milieu. Kepel, for his part, mentioned such suffering only in passing—all the better to gloss over it.
Both authors, then, sideline the heart of the matter: the deep historical roots and the endlessly renewed, mundanely political causes that drive the misunderstanding between “Islam and the West.” Keeping a great distance from these interpretations, I stuck to a phrase that I
unto the Breach
To come straight to the point, I distanced myself from Kepel’s approach, more radically still than from Roy’s, for the same reasons that brought me to distance myself from the American tradition identified with the historian Bernard Lewis. Lewis was among the first proponents of the specter of the “war of civilizations” 10 and of the political expressions of an intellectually highly reductive, and humanly unacceptable, neoconservatism. Kepel’s approach is also very bookish, in the sense that, in his work, the founding texts