Working Papers

But what if there were still something to say, after all? Hans Blumenberg and the eternal work on myth...

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Hans Blumenberg is one of the most eminent German philosophers of the 20th century. His works on the legitimacy of the modern age and the interpretation of reality as well as on the western intellectual tradition have been at the core of some of the most important academic discussions of the past century in Germany. This essay tries to give the reader an impression of Hans Blumenberg’s ideas on the interpretation of myth by exposing the principal approaches he developed in one of his main works: Work on myth. This work is the fruit of eight years of intellectual inquiry into the origins and transformations of myth. Unfortunately it has not yet been translated into French but besides the German original there is an English translation available. The following inquiry into Blumenberg’s thoughts about myth should ideally serve as an introduction to the philosopher’s way of thinking in general that might incite the reader towards becoming a reader of the works of this eminent German intellectual.

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Dossier (5): Multiculturalism in Italy: the impossible paradigm?

Padania 3Once an almost solely Roman Catholic country, governed by an anticlerical government in the last quarter of the 19th century, then by a totalitarian regime which used the Lateran Treaties as a legitimation of its own existence abroad, Italy has undergone significant change over the last thirty years. From a territory of emigration, it became a country of immigration, while Malthusian habits have led to an ageing demographic situation, with a fifth of the 60 million Italians over 65 years of age. Migrants represented in 2011 8.2% of resident population, according to the 2012 study by CARITAS-MIGRANTES. While family structures remain important, the country has followed a partial secularisation of norms and behaviours, made concrete with the 1970 law on divorce and the 1978 law on abortion. As regards the religious components of Italian society, historical minorities such as Jews and Waldensian Protestants played an important role in promoting the Unification of the peninsula and debates over the religious neutrality of the State, practised with an exception as regards the Roman Catholic Church represented by the Vatican.

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Culturalism and Identity Fixation ; towards an analysis of Contemporary France’s re-emerging Far-Right

Comme eux dites 732“We reject your history books, in order to recuperate our memories. We no longer believe that Kader could ever be our brother, we have stopped believing in a global village and the “Family of Man”. We discover that we have roots, ancestry and therefore a future. (…) Don't think this is simply a manifesto. It is a declaration of war.” (Déclaration de guerre – Vidéo de Génération identitaire). In October 2012, a video became locally viral on the French-speaking Internet, featuring young men and women reciting a manifesto they called a "Declaration of War". They are the young generation of the French identity politics movement which is named Génération Identitaire, a group known for its violent attacks against multiculturalism and its penchant for radical action. Who are they ? What are their discourse and their arguments ? How should they be analysed? Of what are they the symptom? What does their speech reveal about contemporary European society ?

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9/11 and the so-called 'Clash of Civilizations'

huntington_1“Civilization”… Following the recent declarations by Claude Guéant, France's Interior Minister, the word has become the focus of a major media firestorm. Is “civilization” synonymous with “culture”? Can there really be said to be something called “civilizations” at stake today, anything comparable with entities like the former Maya, Greek or Sumerian civilisations? These questions should ideally be ushering public opinion onto a long, complex but always stimulating series of debates. However, what we want to highlight here is how easily the simple – but nonetheless supremely important– instrumentation and misuse of the term “Civilization” can lead - and already has led! - on to some very dangerous outcomes.

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Between Tradition and Modernity

dharma_wheelThe nature of Indian secularism [3/3]

“Secularism is an alternative to the continuous politically inspired balkanization of the world”

Rajeev Dhavan, Justice Supreme Court of India


To read the first part of this article: Introducing Indian secularism and its uniqueness [1/3]


What teachings are to be drawn from the Indian experience of secularism?


The two previous articles were meant to present and explain the nature of Indian secularism in the light of its particular context. To conclude the trilogy, the current article’s purpose is to consider an alternative to French “laïcité”.

Since its implementation more than sixty years ago, Indian secularism has not avoided violent communal events from happening in India, yet its principles are worth studying in view of France’s current “debates” on “laïcité”. Obviously the Indian context is hardly similar to the French one, and the aim of this article is not to promote the implementation of Indian secularism – seeing that the latter is by no means free from drawbacks - in France as such. What we suggest is to take a close look at the principles of Indian secularism, in the hope that this may lead us to better understand that a narrow-minded refusal of any form of State recognition of religion is not the one and only solution for the protection of freedom of thought and the principles of our Republic.

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Between Tradition and Modernity

dharma_wheelThe nature of Indian secularism [2/3]

"The Secular State, rising above all differences of religion, attempts to secure the good of all its citizens irrespective of their religious beliefs and practices."

Judge M.H. Beg, Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdass Mehra


To read the first part of this article: Introducing Indian secularism and its uniqueness [1/3]

My previous paper which focused on the historical background of Indian secularism aimed at presenting it as an indigenous principle. This was meant to counter some well-known criticisms which could be used to discredit Indian secularism as an interesting object of study. It has enabled us to think about the possible evolution of a so-called Western concept in a non-Western environment. Nevertheless, even though the nature of this notion may already have been partially grasped, the present article will specifically focus on the nature of Indian secularism. We will therefore distinguish between secularism, tolerance and "laïcité" before encountering the defining aspects of the concept of Indian secularism.

Choosing the right word...

Rhetoric, regarding secularism in India, plays an important role. Words such as secularism, tolerance or "laïcité" (in a French situation) have to be carefully chosen and should not be taken as exact synonyms as they do not refer to the same reality. We will thus closely scrutinize them in order to highlight their differences.

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Between Tradition and Modernity

thumb_dharma_wheelIntroducing Indian secularism and its uniqueness [1/3]

«We can respect minorities, understand their particularities, accept diversity without at the same time giving into division and fragmentation.»
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN General Secretary. Introduction to The Book of the Year - 1994.

Can a State which interferes in religious affairs be called secular? Can a system in which the State financially supports religious institutions, or recognizes a particular status for certain religious groups, pretend to respect the institutional separation of the Churches and the State? The answer to both these questions is yes, and lies in the example of Indian secularism - although India is often mistakenly considered as a non-secular State.

1._indian_secularismThe single notion of « secularism », which refers to the existence of a legal system of regulations ruling the connections between religious and State institutions, is not widely known in France, and even less is the concept of « Indian secularism ». However, the complex Indian model of secularism could be used, as it is argued by Rajeev Bhargava (Bhargava, 2004), by Western countries such as France, to deal with their increasingly diverse society. Numerous discussions have taken place concerning French "laïcité", the current threats it faces and sometimes its failures, but few studies have been undertaken in order to consider a radical change in the French approach towards religion. This article intends to consider this issue, in the light of the teachings which might be drawn from Indian secularism.
Before considering this question, we should fully understand what Indian Secularism is. A set of three articles will be devoted to this subject. The first of them will enable us to take a look at the historical background which gave birth to this form of secularism: a crucial step in order to fully understand Indian secularism and some of the major criticisms it faces nowadays. We will then consider the nature of this unique experience, especially by confronting it with the concepts of tolerance and "laïcité". The final article will depict why secularism is so important in the Indian context and following this, what France might learn therefrom.


Read more: Between Tradition and Modernity

Book Review : “The Lovers of the Apocalypse: Understanding the Events of 9/11” by Bruno ETIENNE

bruno-etienneBruno Etienne is a French sociologist and political scientist specializing in the politics of Algeria, Islam and Anthropology of Religion. He graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Science in Aix en Provence and went to study Arabic in the Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages in Tunisia. In 1965 he defended his PhD thesis on the subject of "Europeans and the Independence of Algeria" and decided to move to Algeria where he lived for nine years and taught at the National School of Administration (ENA) of Algiers. In 1974, he returned to France where he obtained a State Fellowship in Political Science. Three years later he left for Morocco where he taught for two years in the University of Casablanca. In 1980 he was appointed Director of the Centre for Research and Studies on Muslim Societies (a French National Centre for Scientific Research CNRS lab) of Aix en Provence. He held this post until 1985. He later spent a short period teaching at the University of Lyon but soon thereafter returned to the Institute for Political Studies at Aix en Provence where he taught Anthropology and Sociology of Religions for over twenty years. In 1985, he founded the Observatory for the Study of Religious Phenomena, connected to the Institute for Political Studies of Aix en Provence.


The Lovers of the Apocalypse: Understanding the Events of 9/11

Despite being written in 2002, ‘The Lovers of the Apocalypse' discusses themes which are still very relevant today. Through this short but extremely dense work, Bruno Etienne, relates his answer to the question: "why were American symbols attacked on September 11th?" Etienne principally analyses the reasons why some Muslim fanatics have decided to turn to terrorism. For him, the answer is not a simple black-and-white Good vs. Evil. Five principal themes are addressed by the author in this illuminating work: the importance of history, the incompetence of the media, the power of taxonomy, the reason behind suicide bombings, and the challenges currently faced by Islam today.

Read more: Book Review : “The Lovers of the Apocalypse: Understanding the Events of 9/11” by Bruno ETIENNE