Colloque is a go

For those who were curious, Le grand tournant colloque will be held as scheduled this Thursday and Friday. That’s good, because I arrived in Paris Monday morning, and I’d have to figure out something else to do if the colloque had been cancelled.

This is in contrast to the dozen or so French academic meetings that have been cancelled (according to H-France). I guess there’s an advantage to holding the colloque on a military base. There’ll be more security than initially planned, no doubt, and the venue generally doesn’t qualify as a soft target even when the French aren’t being vigilant against pirates:

And they thought the security at the Stade de France was tough

And they thought the security at the Stade de France was tough

So now I can add a second item to my terrorism tourism:

  1. Flying to France several weeks after 9/11.
  2. Visiting Paris a few days after 13/11 (I don’t think it’s been long enough for them to settle on a name for the attacks).

It’s all about probabilities.

Finally, an unrelated, half-formed, reaction from watching French coverage of the terrorist attacks. In my Western Civ classes I always play La Marseillaise (musical nationalism), and point out its revolutionary origins reflected in the violent language. Particularly the last part of the chorus: “Let impure blood water our furrows” (Qu’un sang impur, Abreuve nos sillons) – the impure blood belonging to the invading soldiers, of course. I’ve always wondered how modern French people view those lyrics – strikes me as pretty bloody.*

So now, after the attacks, various crowds have spontaneously broken out in singing La Marseillaise: fans exiting the Stade de France the night of the attacks, yesterday’s Congress meeting at Versailles… Which makes me wonder yet again how the lyrics are heard today. Personally I cringe a little – particularly given the nature of the attacks, and imaging how Daesh might riff on the lyrics – but maybe the lyrics are background noise for the French?

* I initially added that “at least the Star-Spangled Banner limits its violence to decontextualized bombs bursting in air.” But now that I’ve bothered to check the lyrics, it turns out there’s more than one verse! (Who knew?) And the third verse includes this line, of which I was equally unaware: “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.” I believe the Mexican national anthem has a similar line about enemy blood watering their fields, so I guess a little blood is symbolically spilled when most anthems are sung. Maybe there’s some lesson in there about nationalism…

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4 responses to “Colloque is a go”

  1. Martin Gibson says :

    France and England are playing a football international at Wembley Stadium in London tonight. British newspapers have printed the lyrics to La Marseillaise, some also providing an English translation, and they will be shown on the screens in the stadium in the hope that the England fans will join in. Normally the away team’s anthem is played first but they will be reversed tonight as this is expected to give more emphasis to La Marseillaise.

  2. Erik Von Norden says :

    Some of us across the pond feel that “America the Beautiful” would be a better national anthem.

    • jostwald says :

      Or, for a bit of fun, we could make it “My Country Tis of Thee”. But if we did drop “Star-Spangled Banner,” it wouldn’t be any fun watching singers botch those high notes.

  3. jostwald says :

    Forgot to cite David Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680-1800 (Harvard), where he mentions the longer history of blood-watered furrows. Page 250 note 8.

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