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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Visiting prof to delve into French democracy

As a part of the Texas A&M Grand Challenge “Strengthening Democracy” initiative, Martial Foucault will speak at Wednesday’s seminar, “The State of the French Democracy.”
Foucault is a university professor in political science at Sciences Po Paris, director of CEVIPOF and associate researcher at the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Public Policy Evaluation.
Guy Whitten, director of the European Union Center and political science professor, said the event will focus on public opinion and public policy of the French government.
Whitten said although these will be the main focuses, it is likely the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a terrorism shooting by Muslim extremists on the satirical newspaper that took place earlier this month, will come up in the lecture or the Q&A portion of the presentation.
“I’m sure [Charlie Hebdo] is going to come up,” Whitten said. “We had made the arrangements a while ago, you know to get these guys on your calendar you have to get them months in advance, and so we made the arrangements before we knew anything about the events, but I would imagine he’ll say something about it.”
Whitten said Foucault has a focus in public opinion, including public opinion toward the French-Muslim community.
“[He’s] been studying a long-time public opinion toward the Muslim community, which is a substantial community in France, and the way that France’s global involvements come back to France, and so in a way Charlie Hebdo is just the latest in a long series of events that have shaped public opinion and public policy in France,” Whitten said.
Richard Golsan, director for the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research and international studies professor with a focus in French, said going to lectures featuring speakers from around the globe such as Foucault are important because the world is becoming more globalized.
“Nobody lives in isolation from other countries or other cultures,” Golsan said. “In France the problems and issues coming up are the issues we deal with in a different context, so if you study the reaction of one Western democracy and how it’s forced to deal with issues like immigration, that provides insight into how we, our American democracy, has to deal with that.”
Golsan said the state of the French democracy is complicated, and not understanding foreign cultures is a reason violence like the Charlie Hebdo attack occurs.
“Most acts of Islamic fundamentalist aggression have been against Jews in the past and while the second episode was where four Jews at a kosher store were executed, Charlie Hebdo was a broader attack against essentially the freedom of the press and Western democracies,” Golsan said.
Golsan said he looks forward to students learning more about French politics, through Foucault and other French speakers coming to visit Texas A&M this semester through the separate funding of the France/Texas A&M University Institute.
Haley Coates, an international studies senior who was living only a few miles from the Charlie Hebdo offices at the time of the attack, said her time in Paris made her realize the importance of learning about the French government and Western issues.
“In a sense, Charlie Hebdo showed us that we are allies for bigger causes such as the freedom of speech, such as democracy and freedom of expression,” Coates said. “But I think there are also very fundamental differences we need to learn about each other that I think need to be understood to create better political connections.”
The luncheon will be at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Students interested in attending should RSVP online.
This event will be sponsored by The European Union Center, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts; The Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, Bush School of Government and Public Service; and The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Texas A&M University.

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