A Transatlantic Festival
Liberté d’expression, Free Speech, and “Cancel Culture”

Friday, April 23–Sunday, April 25, 2021
LIVE Online • In English

Co-presented by La Maison française of NYU, The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US, and FIAF

This April, three leading French cultural organizations based in New York bring together more than a dozen thinkers from the U.S. and France for a transatlantic festival investigating the state of liberté d’expression or free speech in the age of what has been called “cancel culture.”

Presented entirely online over the weekend of April 23 to 25, the festival features three in-depth conversations, each one centering on a hot-button issue: Religion on Friday, April 23 at 1pm ET; Sexuality on Saturday, April 24 at 1pm ET; and Race on Sunday, April 25 at 1pm ET.

Additionally, Tania de Montaigne’s performance Noire, a theatrical adaptation of her eponymous book about the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., will be available to stream throughout the weekend, from April 23–25. A live talk with Tania de Montaigne will take place on Saturday, April 24 at 5pm ET.

About the Festival

Both fundamental rights in France and the United States, liberté d’expression and free speech seem to be equivalent. Yet their definitions and applications differ markedly in each country, as evidenced by media coverage of recent events.

Throughout this festival, writers, philosophers, journalists, and artists from France and the United States will try to understand and clarify misunderstandings of the respect of freedom and its limits in both nations, focusing on the subjects of religion, sexuality, and race.

  • Read More
    • Traditional, liberal-leaning American media often portray the French principle of laïcité (sometimes incorrectly translated as “secularism”) as a restriction on religious freedom, particularly that of Muslims, evidenced by the debates sparked by the assassination of French teacher Samuel Paty. And behind the freedom of morals, it suspects an underlying sexism, proof of which some American media find in the sexual harassment scandals in France that have recently been brought to light.

      Conversely, the French press is regularly shocked by American puritanism and communitarianism, which, some say, lead to censorship of free speech in the media, at universities, and in the cultural realm.

      Despite this deep intellectual friction, the seismic impact of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have been felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Emboldened to speak up, citizens of both countries have taken it upon themselves to redefine public figures’ legacies, leading to the rise of a so-called “cancel culture”.

Talk I: Religion

Friday, April 23, 2021 at 1pm ET
LIVE Online • In English

Keynote Speaker: Suzanne Nossel
With Philippe Lançon, Caroline Fourest
Moderated by Emily Hamilton

What does religious freedom mean in the public sphere? The French concept of laïcité, the result of a long historical struggle of the Republic against the power of the Church, has no equivalent in the US. Many Americans even consider it liberticidal for its apparent limitations on religious practice and observance. Are these concerns valid or a misconstruction? Is there still support for free speech when it comes to religion?

  • About the Speakers
    • Suzanne Nossel is Chief Executive Officer at PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All (HarperCollins, 2020). She previously served as Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. She served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, playing a leading role in US engagement on human right issues, and in the Clinton Administration as Deputy to the US Ambassador for UN Management and Reform. Nossel coined the term “Smart Power,” which was the title of a 2004 article she published in Foreign Affairs magazine. She is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in The New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times.

      Philippe Lançon is a French journalist who writes for Libération and a critic and educator of Latin American literature. He is also a contributor to the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and was seriously wounded in the terrorist attack perpetrated against that publication on January 7, 2015. His memoir, Le Lambeau—translated into English as Disturbance: Surviving Charlie Hebdo (Europa Editions, 2019)—won the 2018 Prix Femina, Prix du Roman News, and Prix Renaudot Jury’s Special Prize, and was named Best Book of the Year by the magazines Lire and Les Inrockuptibles. He is the author of the novels Les îles (2011) and L’Élan (2013).

      Caroline Fourest is a French filmmaker, writer and journalist. She has authored numerous essays and books, including Éloge du blasphème (Grasset 2015), Le Génie de la laïcité : La laïcité n’est pas un glaive mais un bouclier (Grasset 2016), and most recently Génération Offensée: De la police de la culture à la police de la pensée. She is the director of the internationally acclaimed feature length film, Soeurs d’Armes, about a group of Kurdish and Yezidi women fighters who take on ISIS. She worked at Charlie Hebdo from 2005–2009 and is currently a columnist for the weekly Paris-based magazine, Marianne.

      Emily Hamilton is Executive Director of Justice for Kurds, a non-profit organization which raises awareness for the Kurdish cause in the United States, France, and abroad. She is founder of Hampstead Rose, an agency for international cross-cultural projects, and a contributor to La Règle du Jeu journal. Hamilton was previously the Director of Development and Communications at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.

Watch On Demand

Talk II: Sexuality

Saturday, April 24, 2021 at 1pm ET
LIVE Online • In English

Keynote Speaker: Laura Kipnis
With Laure Murat, Manon Garcia
Moderated by Lauren Wolfe

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, which originated in the US, France began reconsidering its stance towards sex and sexual liberation. Its attitudes that had fostered a culture of seduction and gallantry have been accused of also allowing a pattern of harassment and sexual assault. Some critics complained that this movement, born on social media, went too far, creating a climate of paranoia that limits free behavior instead of building a healthier framework for relationships. How has this movement evolved and changed over the years and should social media become a public court of opinion?

  • About the Speakers
    • Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic and former video artist whose work focuses on sexual politics, aesthetics, shame, emotion, acting out, moral messiness, and various other crevices of the American psyche. The most recent of her seven books is Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (HarperCollins, 2017). Kipnis is a professor in the Department of Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University where she teaches filmmaking. She has previously taught at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), University of Michigan, New York University, Columbia University School of the Arts, University of British Columbia, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has written for The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Slate, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Playboy, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum.

      Laure Murat is the Director of the Center for European and Russian Studies at UCLA, and professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies. She specializes in cultural studies, history of psychiatry, and queer theory. She is the author of several books, including La Maison du docteur Blanche (Lattès, 2001, Goncourt Prize of Biography and Critics Circle Prize of the Académie française), Passage de l’Odéon (Fayard, 2003), La Loi du genre (Fayard, 2006), L’Homme qui se prenait pour Napoléon (Gallimard, 2011, Femina Prize for non-fiction), Towards a Political History of Psychiatry (Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 2014), Relire (Flammarion, 2015), Flaubert à la Motte-Picquet (Flammarion, 2015), and Ceci n’est pas une ville (Flammarion, 2016).

      Manon Garcia is a French philosopher. She is currently a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and will be an assistant professor of philosophy at Yale University starting in July 2021. She is the author of We Are Not Born Submissive: How Patriarchy Shapes Women’s Lives (Princeton University Press, 2021).

      Lauren Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and photographer who has written for publications from The Atlantic to The Guardian. She is a former columnist at Foreign Policy magazine, and director and creator of WMC WomenUnderSiegeProject.org, a journalism initiative on sexualized violence in conflict originated by Gloria Steinem at the Women’s Media Center in New York. Wolfe also served on the advisory committee of the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. In 2014, she was given a “What Better Looks Like” Award for making a “compassionate and innovative contribution” to improving the world, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation named her a finalist for the Trust Women Journalist Award.

Watch On Demand

Talk III: Race

Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 1pm ET
LIVE Online • In English

Keynote Speaker: Thomas Chatterton Williams
With Nell Irvin Painter, Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci
Moderated by James McAuley

The denunciation of racism, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, has put questions of systemic discrimination in the US and in France into relief. But these two countries, with their different histories, have a distinct relationship to the notion of race, a word that is even taboo in France. While the United States grapples with a long history of slavery, France is often blamed for its supposed colorblindness and the difficulty it faces in addressing its colonial legacy. How do these different narratives translate into contemporary debates, such as accusations of historical revisionism or criticism of cultural appropriation?

  • About the Speakers
    • Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of Losing My Cool (Penguin Books, 2011) and Self-Portrait in Black and White (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019). He is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, a columnist at Harper’s, where he launched “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” (July 7, 2020) signed by 153 public figures denouncing the intolerance of opposing views. He is a 2019 New America Fellow and a visiting fellow at AEI. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Le Monde and many other places, and has been collected in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing.

      Nell Irvin Painter is an American historian and a visual artist. She is Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University. Her books include Standing at Armageddon: The United States 1877-1919 (W. W. Norton, 1989), Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol (W. W. Norton, 1999), Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (Oxford, 2005) and The History of White People (W. W. Norton, 2010).

      Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci is a researcher at The Center for Research in History, Art History and the History of Italy and Alpine Countries (CHRIPA), where she serves as Adjunct Director. She is also Associate Researcher at the Center for the Cultural History of Contemporary Societies at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Her Ph.D dissertation was on the history of fascism in Sicily, after which her research shifted to the history of the Mafia. More recently her work has focused on the history of anti-Semitism in France and Italy. She is the author of L’italie Fasciste et la Persécution des Juifs (Perrin, 2007) and Totalitarisme fasciste (CNRS 2018).

      James McAuley is a Global Opinions contributing columnist focusing on French and European politics and culture for The Washington Post. He is the author of The House of Fragile Things, a history of Dreyfus-era France, which will be published by Yale University Press in June 2021.

Watch on Demand

Noire by Tania de Montaigne

Performance: Noire
By Tania de Montaigne
Directed by Stéphane Foenkinos
Translation by Nicholas Elliott

Friday, April 23–Sunday, April 25, 2021
Online • In French with English subtitles

In Montgomery, Alabama, on the 2:30pm bus on March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give her seat to a white passenger. Despite threats, she remained seated. Thrown in jail, she decides to plead not guilty and to sue the city. No one before her had dared this.

Based on Tania de Montaigne’s eponymous novel, Noire is the story of this heroine, still alive but forgotten. Noire is also a portrait of this legendary city, where Martin Luther King, a 26-year-old pastor, and Rosa Parks, an unknown 40-year-old seamstress, crossed paths. Noire is the story of a fight that still goes on against racist violence and injustice.

Conversation with Tania de Montaigne
Saturday, April 24, 2021 at 5pm ET

LIVE Online • In English

Tania de Montaigne will share her creative process behind the performance of Noire and discuss what inspired her to bring the story of this little-known American heroine to a French stage. The talk will be moderated by specialist in US History Esther Cyna.

  • About the Team
    • Tania de Montaigne is the author of novels and essays including Noire, la vie méconnue de Claudette Colvin (Grasset, 2015). She won the 2015 Simone Veil Prize and was a finalist for the Grand Prix des Lectrices de ELLE in 2016. Her most recent essay, L’Assignation, les Noirs n’existent pas (Grasset, 2018), received the Prix de la laïcité in 2018. Her first play Le Plus Beau Jour premiered at the Avignon Festival in 2013, directed by Anne Suarez and Rémi Bichet. Her second play, , directed by Léa Moussy with Xavier Thiam and Fabrice Moussy, premiered at Ciné 13 in May 2017 as part of the festival “Mise en capsules”.

      Stéphane Foenkinos is a director, writer, and casting director. Since 1997, he has collaborated on more than 60 feature films with Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Doillon, François Ozon, André Téchiné, Claude Chabrol, Coline Serreau, Valérie Lemercier, Danièle Thompson, Catherine Corsini, Florent Siri, Peter Greenaway, Robert Zemeckis, Terrence Malick, and the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises, among others. Encouraged by Jacques Doillon to work together, Stéphane collaborated with his brother David to write and directed the award-winning short film Une histoire de pieds (2005). In 2011, they adapted David Foenkinos’s best-selling novel La Délicatesse into feature film of the same name, starring Audrey Tautou and François Damiens. The film was nominated for two César Awards and released in more than 35 countries. In 2017, they released Jalouse, starring Karin Viard. They are currently preparing their third feature film.

      Esther Cyna is a historian of race and education in the U.S. She obtained a Ph.D. in History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2021 and teaches American history at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle in Paris. Her research focuses on the history of racism in public education in the U.S. South in the 20th century.

  • About La Maison française of New York University
    • For over sixty years, La Maison Française of New York University has served as a major forum for cultural exchange between the French-speaking world and the United States. Its rich program of lectures, symposia, concerts, screenings, exhibitions, and festivals provides an invaluable resource to the university community, as well as the general public. One of the most active French centers on an American campus, La Maison Française of NYU is recognized as a Center of Excellence by the French Embassy in the United States.

      Learn more at as.nyu.edu/research-centers/maisonfrancaise

  • About The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States
    • The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals, and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions, and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts.

      Learn more at frenchculture.org