(Re) Discovering Laïcité

Ali Touilila Earlham College
Faculty Sponsor(s): Elana Passman Earlham College
In 1789, the French Revolution made what would prove to be an irreparable breach in the union between the State and the Church. The King was no longer “God’s minister on earth,” and an open war was declared against the Church and its Clergy, seen as complicit with the abuses of the Monarchy and the Nobility. In the turn of the nineteenth century, the Assemblée Nationale deputies were demanding the separation of the Church and the State. A century later in 1905, the Assemblée Nationale deputies started a debate on the separation of Church and State. This debate would try to define Laïcité, a principle that would come to constitute France’s identity, its external and internal politics for the times to come. Taking as a point of departure the debates that took place in the Assemblée Nationale, this paper takes the opportunity to examine the evolution of the discourses around Laïcité, and the particular dialectic it enables between its proponents and opponents. It seeks to inscribe Laïcité as a discursive formation within the material and immaterial concepts it inhabited but also simultaneously shaped, and one might even say performed. It does so by examining how the discursive formation unfolds and the ways in which it was sanctioned by the unremitting intervention of power. It argues following Foucault that Laïcité, as a mode of power, functioned, not only according to the repressive hypothesis, repressing religion, but as a productive framework, aiming at the formation of particular laïque subjectivities.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

01:30 PM
Jordan Hall 276