An energising start to the academic year at ULIP with the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France (ASMCF), held on 4 - 6 September.
The rentrée at ULIP was kickstarted with the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France (ASMCF), co-hosted with The American University of Paris. Dozens of academics and researchers gathered for three days of intellectually stimulating presentations and conversations addressing this year’s theme of ‘The Transnational City’.
More specifically, speakers set out to consider the ways in which changing and accelerating patterns of urbanisation and migration have complicated and intensified post-colonial dynamics and new forms of neo-colonial relations. Delegates also addressed how the growth of the transnational city has impacted on the objects and structures of research in modern and contemporary French Studies, and to what extent this reflects changes in the landscape of higher education.
The event began with a keynote lecture from Madame Danielle Wozny of the Maisons de la sagesse-Traduire, an institute founded following a major 2017 exhibition at the MUCEM museum in Marseille, “Après Babel, traduire”, curated by Barbara Cassin. Madame Wozny talked about the institute’s work in establishing networks and practices of translation in order to improve the welcoming of migrants and foster hospitable and creative social encounters.
Delegates then moved from ULIP to our neighbours at The American University of Paris for a round-table discussion titled “The Transnational City: From The Ground Up”. Conference organizer (and Director of Graduate Studies at ULIP) Professor Anna-Louise Milne chaired the discussion which included AUP’s Director of the Center for Critical Democracy Professor Stephen Sawyer, ethnologist Martin Schaffner, Bande Dessinnée author Camille Aubry and David-Georges Picard and Stephanie Azria representing the Vaclav Havel public library in the La Chapelle district of Paris. Their diverse perspectives and interventions converged in setting the tone for the conference: expanding upon how the most local, granular aspects of everyday life in the city are traversed by transnational relations which provide significant possibilities, as well as major challenges, for social life, cross-cultural encounters and innovative ways of inhabiting the city.
The discussion continued over a drinks reception in the impressive surroundings of AUP’s new Quai D’Orsay building before pursuing an intensive day of conference panels back at ULIP on Thursday. Fabien Truong (Paris 8/CRESPPA-CSU), author of groundbreaking works in contemporary urban sociology such as Loyautés radicales (La Découverte, 2017) and Jeunesses francçaises (La Découverte, 2015), delivered the second keynote on Thursday afternoon. Speaking to a packed lecture theatre at ULIP, Truong gave a stimulating elaboration of his sociological method, echoing the “ground up” perspective on the transnational city discussed during the previous evening’s roundtable.
It was a special honour to host the ASMCF for its fortieth anniversary conference, and this was marked at the Thursday evening dinner/drinks reception at ULIP with reminiscences from the ASMCF executive committee, including former director Siân Reynolds and current director Chris Tinker (pictured), as well as words of extended welcome and thanks from ULIP CEO Tim Gore.
The final keynote was delivered on Friday afternoon by Françoise Gadet (Université Paris-Nanterre). As a pioneer of sociolinguistics in France, her extensive research career has provided essential insights into the contemporary mutations of spoken French in a variety of contexts including Subsaharan Africa, Canada, and the Parisian banlieue which she referenced and elaborated upon in her keynote lecture.
After an intensive three days of academic debate delegates nevertheless closed the conference with enough energy and enthusiasm leftover to evoke future plans, with ASMCF delegates already looking forward to next year's conference, and those of us at ULIP looking forward to an exciting programme of academic events shaping up for the coming academic year. Watch this space!