Winter 2020

The Social Justice and Activism in France Program is the creation of faculty and administrators at the University of California. It is designed to introduce students to the core principles of social justice and political activism that are at the very heart of French society, as well as past and present social issues facing France and its multicultural population. The program is intended as a rewarding experience abroad for students interested in exploring social issues in context and affords them the opportunity to explore French history, culture, and language by using the city as a classroom.

Program dates:  January 6 - March 21, 2020

What you will study

  • A ten-week, team-taught lower-division City and Language course provides you with the tools you need to survive in your French language environment and to understand the historical markers in the city that trace the development of social justice and activism in France. Instruction in English and French. 5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units
  • Two ten-week upper-division Culture courses in the humanities and social sciences, taught in English. 5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units.

Content Courses

Fredrik Rönnbäck, Ph.D. 

One of the oldest traditions in France has been la contestation: a word that can be translated as questioning, entering into a dispute, confronting, protesting or simply contesting. French history has consequently borne the imprint of this long and lively history. More often than not these movements have been led by the youth, for whom protest was a means to bring about change and right what they viewed as wrong.
This course aims to journey through a number of such movements and investigate what was being contested, why, what was being proposed in its place, why and what was achieved as a result. We will start with the French Revolution of 1789. In the 19th century we will visit the barricades of 1848 and the Paris Commune, where the youth often paid with their lives for their ideals. We will analyze the texts of the thinkers and intellectuals who gave the youth the tools to question the status quo. Following these upheavals, we will continue into the 20th century, when the youth were faced with two cataclysmic wars in which their contestation became synonymous with choice, freedom and resistance. We will then concentrate on the movement that culminated in the year 1968, when the streets of Paris and other major cities witnessed an unprecedented level of contestation, challenging the all-powerful government of General de Gaulle. Here, too, we will study the texts that questioned authority. We will end with a glance at the beginning of the 21st century, where the youth—faced with the consequences of globalization, ecological concerns, unemployment at home and wars beyond their borders leading to major waves of migration—continue to confront and question what they view as unfair and unjust.

5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units.  Suggested subject areas for course transfer: Political Science, Urban Studies, Philosophy


Joav Toker

This course will explore the interconnectivity between the rapid evolution of media outlets and content, the contemporary 'banalization' of terrorist and other types of violence and their fallout over issues related to social justice in France and Europe.
The course will examine some recent forms of social confrontation and the way these confrontations are channeled on a grand scale through mass media, both 'old' and ''new'. We will interrogate the political, economic, cultural, and psychological implications, as well as the "spectatorship component," related to the growing, constant sharing of violence over public platforms and political agendas.
Different cases of social controversies will be studied and compared as we probe their relevance to some larger, technological and globalized frames of analysis. The course will examine the adjustments political institutions, social bodies and media actors have practiced when faced with these forms of protest in moments of crisis. We will also attempt to understand how, and to what extent, all these altered notions have impacted national, sectorial and class-oriented identities.

5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units.  Suggested subject areas for course transfer: Communication, Film and Media Studies, Sociology, French

Carole Viers-Andronico, Ph.D.

This interdisciplinary course will examine the socioeconomic and political disenfranchisement experienced by residents of the "other France"—a France comprised of working-class citizens often of immigrant origin and from France’s former colonies. It will introduce students to urban sociology by requiring that they focus on the particular problems experienced by social actors who live in economically and socially disfavored parts of Paris. Topics covered include urban sociological theories, de-facto segregation, poverty, crime, schooling, public policy, national identity, the negotiation of bi-culturality, and the French secularizing mission. Students will investigate these topics from a variety of sources, ranging from documentary film and photojournalism to literary and cinematic expressions. Via these sources, they will become familiar with a vibrant urban "vernacular" culture that contests issues pertaining to citizenship, racialization and representation.

5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units.  Suggested subject areas for course transfer:  Urban Studies, Sociology, Comparative Literature, French

City and Language course

82. The City as Public Forum and Unlocking French

City faculty:  Christina von Koehler, M. Phil.
French faculty:  Fontu, Petitjean, Ronnback

The city and language course introduces students to French history, culture, and language through team-taught instruction.
In the “City as Public Forum” sessions, students will be introduced to French history and culture through a series of lectures and site visits. Students will discover some of the fascinating ways the core principles of social justice were tested in theory and practice on the streets of Paris in the past and explore how they evolved into the pillars of French society today.
The course will focus on just how an ideal society should be forged, where all are free individuals and members of a cohesive community at the same time. Trying to make individuals believe—as religions do—in the primacy of the collective, and in its concomitant goal of protecting human rights, is at the core of social justice in France. From 52 B.C.E to today, France has been an exemplar of how—and how not—to construct a just society. To render these values visible, and therefore legible, to all by adding a physical dimension—whether constructive or destructive—to the usual means of establishing laws or setting policies, is what distinguishes the history of France’s capital city of Paris. Those who control Paris—be they monarchs, revolutionaries, or presidents, past and present—believe that erecting all kinds of physical structures will render their values concrete and immutable. The ideal French society did not always necessarily mean a democratic or inclusive one. Since the French Revolution, however, institutionalizing the concept of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” has been France’s greatest universal achievement and a source of constant upheaval, eliciting a unique form of secular activism that has led to targeting buildings and monuments that no longer reflect the collective’s values. Students will learn about how the diverse social actors, who constitute “the French,” continue to thrust their bodies and minds into the physical spaces of the public sphere in the pursuit of social justice.
In the “Unlocking French” sessions, students will learn targeted language skills through situational communication, so they will have the opportunity to use everything they learn as they go about their daily activities.

5.0 UC quarter/3.3 semester units.  Suggest subject areas for course transfer:  French, History, Urban Studies