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Please join the upcoming French-Speaking Worlds: Then and Now talk with Éric Fassin.

Political Anti-Intellectualism. Academic Freedom and the Politics of Truth


Abstract: Academia is under siege. On the one hand, neoliberal reforms undermine liberal education. On the other, authoritarian regimes target critical thought. While the latter find intellectuals politically dangerous, the former assume that they are economically useless. This convergence accounts for the spread of anti-intellectualism worldwide, in the United States and in Russia, in Turkey and Hungary, India and Brazil. France is no exception. Clearly, it is not so much a cultural phenomenon, rooted in national histories, as a political one. These attacks are taking place, not despite, but because of academic freedom. Indeed, they are often waged in the name of freedom of speech. This is why it is crucial to differentiate the two principles: freedom of speech is about the right to express one’s opinion – one can say anything; academic freedom derives from the duty to pursue truth; one can thus say everything. In the world of “alternative facts,” post-truth has to be understood as an assault against, not only academia, but democracy itself.

Bio: Éric Fassin is a professor of sociology and gender studies at Paris 8 University, and a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France. He is affiliated with the first research center in gender studies in France, created in 2015, LEGS, CNRS/Paris-8/Paris-Nanterre. His research focuses on contemporary sexual and racial politics with a comparative, transnational perspective. Public interventions related to his scholarly work have long been part of his political work as a “sociologue engagé”.

Recent publications: In 2021, he co-edited with Salima Amari Femmes en rupture de ban, unpublished interviews with two Algerian women in France by Abdelmalek Sayad (Raisons d’Agir), and with Caroline Ibos an eBook entitled Défense et illustration des libertés académiques (Mediapart).

Forthcoming in 2024: State Anti-Intellectualism and the Politics of Gender & Race. Illiberal France and Beyond (CEU Press, Vienna) ; with Caroline Ibos, La Savante et le politique (Flammarion) ; with Joana Masó, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, una crítica de Marcel Duchamp (Arcadia, Barcelona); and Études de genre (Que Sais-Je?, PUF).

Hosted by the French-Speaking Worlds: Then and Now Research Group, sponsored by the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Research Unit and co-sponsored by the France-Stanford Center and Stanford Global Studies.

This event is part of Stanford Global Studies’ Global Research Workshop Program.