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09:45 - 10:00   Welcome address by Annabelle Lever

The Project

10:00 - 12:30   The Satire and Democracy project: Overview and findings so far

Annabelle Lever - Sciences Po Paris
Lou Safra - Sciences Po Paris
Léa Antonicelli - Sciences Po Paris
Lluis de Nadal Alsina - University of Warwick
Santiago Sanchez-Pages - King's College London

External contributions

14:00 - 16:30    International and interdisciplinary perspectives
Polemics, satire and electoral politics in Romania in the XIX century

Silvia Marton - University of Bucharest

The paper discusses the role of polemics and satire in electoral politics in the pre-democratic culture of restricted suffrage. It uses the second half of the nineteenth century in Romania as a testing ground. The period marked a high point for both nation- and state-building. Two rival partners, the Liberal and the Conservative parties, dominated mainstream politics in Romania, a two-chamber liberal constitutional monarchy. Both parties shared a consensus on the importance of limited voting rights. The ample political freedoms, including freedom of expression and of the press, were counterweighed by the census-based voting system which allowed limited citizen access to politics and elections, and by low literacy levels.

The polemical vocabulary of excess and satire permeated the national and local press, occasional publications (like pamphlets), and even the official documents and the debates within Parliament. The paper will investigate the performativity of the polemical and satirical discourse when politics, politicians, and political practices were denounced amid fierce electoral rivalry between the two main contenders, the Liberals and the Conservatives. It will discuss (a) the reasons electoral rivalry was rhetorically built as a Manichean relationship. Its interest also lies with (b) how, in a pre-democratic culture of restricted suffrage, a “public” and a readership were imagined and described.

Que faire des stereotypes

Denis Ramond - Sciences Po and Université Gustave Eiffel

Fréquemment présents dans les œuvres satiriques et les caricatures, les stéréotypes (entendus comme des représentations figées et réductrices de groupes définis par leur identité) sont une arme efficace de dénonciation en ce qu’ils permettent, en une image ou en quelques symboles, de viser un groupe entier sans besoin d’explications. Or les stéréotypes sont aujourd’hui l’objet de nombreuses dénonciations, qu’elles proviennent d’associations, d’acteurs politiques ou de la société civile, et l’on ne compte plus les injonctions à « déconstruire », voire à « éradiquer » les représentations stéréotypées. On s’interrogera sur les tensions conceptuelles et les implications pratiques des dispositifs contemporains de lutte contre les stéréotypes : peut-on identifier des expressions stéréotypées ? Peut-on distinguer différents types de stéréotypes ? Les stéréotypes sont-ils une cible pertinente pour le droit ?

Encountering Charlie Hebdo:
Interviews with cartoonists on their work prior to the Danish Caricature Affair

Jane Weston Vauclair

This talk is based on interviews between 2003-2005 with cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, including Charb, Tignous and Wolinksi, on how they viewed the relationship between the critique of ideas and humour in their work. It sought out various conflicts and incongruities in the themes of their work, in order to consider the ways in which a 'humorous repertoire' emerges with a specific audience in mind.

A Hearing for Satire

Naomi Waltham-Smith - University of Warwick

In their introduction to a journal special issue playfully entitled “Comedy, an Issue,” Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai examine what they call “an antiracist racist joke.” In such a case, the source of the laughter oscillates between, on the one hand, deriving a certain pleasure from the racist slur and, on the other, feeling relief or catharsis when one takes the joke to be subjecting such racism to critical ridicule. Whether satire is a defence against charges of racism hinges on the somewhat unpredictable response of the audience. The category of antiracist racist joke provides an interesting vantage point from which to evaluate the particularly strenuous problems that satire poses for what philosophers call “uptake” - that is, what a listener hears or understands the satirist to be saying or doing.

While the theory of uptake is typically concerned with individual speakers and listeners, satire scandals—especially those that cause polarized national debates—call for a theory of collective or democratic uptake. If satire’s cruelty can involve feelings of superiority and resentment, I ask how the hearing it gets plays a part in forming imagined communities from which some people are excluded. Given the importance of listening publics for democracy, I ask whether public hearings would be one way to help resolve the fallouts from satire scandals.

Charlie Hebdo: In struggle for a minor art

Ayelet Lilti - Sciences Po

In an interview given to Le Monde two months after the assassination of Samuel Paty on October 16th, 2020, Riss, the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, remarked (December 18, 2020): “There is nothing sacred and we are not going to make ourselves sacred (…) Charlie as a newspaper doesn’t really matter. It is the ideas that we try to defend that are important and that are, I don’t want to say sacred, but vital.”

After the attempted assassination of Salman Rushdie in western New York last August, Riss takes up this idea in a column published in the same newspaper and urges artists and intellectuals to actively participate in ‘the fight against religious sacredness,’ and not to be satisfied only in the condemnation of these acts.

In this presentation, we will suggest that Charlie Hebdo’s critical stance against fundamentalism is closely associated with its fight against its own sacralized status. This ongoing struggle, we argue, is one against the symbolic position it gained after the attack, one that aims at regaining its traditional marginal position as a satirical magazine.


17:00 - 19:30    Satire and democracy

Agathe André - journalist and co-founder of Dessinez Créez Liberté
Lodi Marasescu - cartoonist, winner of the 2021 Prix Charlie for caricature
Miguel Villalba Sánchez - cartoonist
Xavier Gorce - cartoonist