Humor, Satire, and Islam(ophobia) in France

Against the historical backdrop of political and polemical debates over integration and immigration (in particular, immigrants and their descendants who are racialized as Muslim), this course examines the variety of ways that comedians and cartoonists of various political affiliations have engaged differently with older traditions of anti-clericalism, secularism, and political satire to tackle issues relating to minority integration, race, (anti-)racism, and religion. We will also chart the gradual development of new forms of comedic performances and new spaces for minority comedians in contemporary France. In studying a wide range of comedic output over four and a half decades, this course explores the shifting boundaries of (good/bad) taste and “political correctness,” as well as discourses around freedom of speech as it relates to humor and satire. In doing so, we focus explicitly on how—as the object of anti-clerical, secular satire shifted from Catholicism to Islam—the targeting of Islam and Muslims has come to be understood as the litmus test for freedom of speech and the right to offend in contemporary French society.

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