Thematic Area 3: Identities, Cultures, Contacts

Identities, cultures and contacts are the three subjects at the core of the research carried out by three teams of historians, all members of Framespa: Team 4 - Religions, cultures, power; Team 9 - Diasporas; Team 10 -GRIH, the Immediate History Research Group. The historical period covered is vast, stretching from the Middle Ages to the present day. 

Team 4, mainly composed of medievalists, concentrates on the theme of Identities by questioning notions of urban identity, identity crises and religious dissent. Team 9, on the other hand, devotes a great deal of its time to Jewish history, over a long time-frame, in two main workshops - (i) the history of Jewish integration into modern societies, and (ii) anti-Semitism and the Shoah. The Jewish paradigm is also used to investigate other minorities at odds with questions of identity, interaction and violence. This is of particular relevance to the Huguenots (French Protestants) and their expulsions within and from Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Work in progress involves the study of the Law of Return and the links between minority memories and national memories; the publication, in French, of a biographical dictionary of the French Protestants from 1789 to 2000 (Dictionnaire Biographique des protestants français de 1789 à 2000); and new culturally-based assessments of colonization and immigrant memory. Since 2002 the team has been publishing a six-monthly review: Diasporas: Histoire et Sociétés concentrating on the comparative history of minorities and their identities.

Another line of approach to the construction of political and cultural identities is the study of power/nation ideologies and of the conflicts thereby engendered, especially religious and political violence from the Middle Ages up to the present day. Team 10 takes as its brief identity movements from the early 20th to the beginning of the 21st century - identities in dissolution (the Communist bloc, the colonial world...), identities in formation (Europe), in renewal (Germanic Europe, the Shia revival in the Middle East) and regional conflicts (ex-Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes...). The team focuses on contemporary identity studies with regard to both spectra and scale, from the local to the national and international; they also take a special interest in identities in crisis - be they religious, ethnic or cultural - during the 20th century.

We start from the premise that cultures, in all their plurality, are intimately linked with medieval identities and urban lifestyles, plus all those intellectual, literary and artistic power constructs which typify the Western world at the end of the Middle Ages.

Cultural policy and the consumption of cultural goods are studied from the Middle Ages up until our own time. Particular attention is paid to those new cultures which have arisen during the 20th century; photography, cinema, television, strip cartoons and so on; official cultures (local or state-run); and to how the culturally engaged live out their cultural experience.

Cultures, in the plural, are themselves the result of more or less peaceful contacts from the time of the Crusades onwards, through the colonial period and up to decolonization. One example of the themes which the team deals with would be: colonization and cultural tourism in the Maghreb; and the area of French-African relations as seen through the memories of immigrants to mainland France.