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Archive for May, 2022

I’ve been in Berlin for the past week and generally away from the laptop, thus the absence of AWAV’s take on Emmanuel Macron’s appointment of Élisabeth Borne to Matignon and the subsequent announcement of her government—all the picks being Macron’s, of course. The most noteworthy, indeed astonishing, one—I let out a loud “wow!” when I learned of it—was that of Pap Ndiaye as Minister of Education, which is a pretty important ministry in the French government—the minister having a million or so (heavily unionized) fonctionnaires under her/his tutelary authority, plus responsibility for some 13 million schoolchildren and students. Pap Ndiaye is well known to all those of a social scientific/humanities academic and/or left-wing bent, as a brilliant academic specialist of race in France, but also in the United States, and as director since March 2021 of the Museum of the History of Immigration (for which he was profiled in The New York Times here). He is also, from a political standpoint, the polar 180° opposite from his predecessor, the decidedly rightist Jean-Michel Blanquer, who served the full five years of Macron’s first term—making him the longest serving education minister since literally the 1860s—who will be best remembered for having embarked on a maniacal campaign—for which he enjoyed the wholehearted support of Macron and the entire political class save part of the left—against “wokisme,” “islamo-gauchisme,” the inevitable “communautarisme” and other nefarious ideologies from the Anglo-Saxon world seen to pose an existential threat to the French educational system, if not to France tout court—and this while the educational system is in the midst of major crises (low salaries, declining standards, inequalities among schools, an impending shortage of teachers, to name just a few). Blanquer even went so far as to sponsor an academic-sounding conference on “wokismeat the Sorbonne this past January.

As for what the apparent Anglo-Saxon-inspired ideologies in question are, the sharp, definitely woke Paris-based American journalist Cole Stangler nailed it.

He could have added that if you believe that racism is a problem in France and you’re white, that makes you a “wokiste.”

Macron’s appointing Ndiaye to succeed Blanquer is, as political scientist Frédéric Sawicki tweeted, akin to him hypothetically replacing Bruno Le Maire at Bercy with Thomas Piketty. As for Macron’s motivations, certain pundits have speculated that he’s reconnecting with the American-style political liberalism of his 2017 campaign, which he forgot about once elected. Others see an opportunistic triangulation to the left in view of the upcoming legislative elections and the unexpected challenge posed by the Jean-Luc Mélenchon-led NUPES (which I will weigh in on next month, before the election). It has been reported that Macron’s Africa policy advisers told him that naming Ndiaye to a high-profile ministerial post could help repair France’s presently damaged standing in its former African colonies—where an effective anti-French Russian propaganda campaign has been at work.

Whatever the case, Ndiaye’s appointment has caused a collective freak-out on the hard and extreme-right—with Marine Le Pen, Éric Zemmour, and Bolloré media talking heads leading the charge—but also the Printemps Républicain crowd and other extreme centrists. Jean-Michel Aphatie captured the reaction well.

Ndiaye gave The Brookings Institution’s annual Raymond Aron Lecture last June 24th, titled “Black Lives Matter and the antiracist movement in France,” which may be watched on YouTube here. As it was moderated by my friend Camille Busette—the director of Brookings’ Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative—I made sure to watch it live on Zoom. A very good lecture and discussion.

From 2008, here’s a 12-minute interview with Ndiaye on France 24’s English service, on the occasion of the publication of his best-known book, La Condition noire: Essai sur une minorité française (which Ndiaye’s detractors have certainly not read, even if they say they have).

Edwy Plenel links to a few videos of Ndiaye here.

For the record, another interesting Macron/Borne appointment is that of the Franco-Lebanese Rima Abdul-Malak as Minister of Culture. As she has not been a public personality, I didn’t know a thing about her but she was apparently greatly appreciated in the world of culture as a cultural adviser at the Élysée and, before that, at the Paris city hall (she has also been the French cultural attaché in New York). The leftist political scientist Philippe Marlière, for one, gives her the thumbs up.

Dont acte.

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