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Law & Disorder:

Understanding the French Protests

On June 27th in a suburb of Paris, police stopped a young man of African descent, Nahel Merzouk, after a series of traffic violations, only stopping after getting stuck at a red light. While what happened next is still under investigation, the initial police report (the car was about to run over the officers) was quickly disproven by video evidence. This incident comes among a rise in officer involved shootings throughout France, which has disproportionately involved minorities. This incident tipped off several days and nights of protests and violence, with over $1 billion worth of damage and dystopian images coming from across the country.

Why has this incident, one in a series of many, been the spark that lit the fire? How has the government responded? What reforms are needed to address community grievances?

We explore this, and other questions, in a World Affairs Council of New Hampshire's rapid response program. Joined by Vivien Schmidt, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration; Professor of International Relations & Political Science, Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, this event will provide the audience with a historical understanding of the tense relationship between the police and their communities in France, how the system has impacted minority communities, why this killing has sparked widespread protests, and what this all means for the future of France.

About the Speaker

Vivien Schmidt is Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, Professor of International Relations and Political Science in the Pardee School at Boston University, and served as founding Director of BU’s Center for the Study of Europe.  Schmidt is also Honorary Professor at LUISS University in Rome, serves as co-chair of the European Union Seminar at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University, and has been a visiting professor or scholar at Sciences Po-Paris, Nuffield College, Oxford, the Free University of Berlin, the European University Institute, the University of Paris, and the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, among others. 

Schmidt has published extensively on European political economy, institutions, and democracy as well as on the role of ideas and discourse in political analysis (discursive institutionalism), with thirteen books, over 300 articles, and numerous policy briefs for European institutions.  Schmidt’s latest book Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy: Governing by Rules and Ruling by Numbers in the Eurozone (Oxford 2020)—received the Best Book Award  (2021) of the Ideas, Knowledge and Politics section of the American Political Science Association and Honorable Mention for the Best Book Award (2022) of the European Union Studies Association. Her earlier monograph Democracy in Europe (Oxford 2006) was named in 2015 by the European Parliament as one of the ‘100 Books on Europe to Remember.’  

Recent honors and awards include decoration as Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor, the European Union Studies Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an Honorary Doctorate from Universit√© Libre de Bruxelles, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for her current project on the ‘rhetoric of discontent,’ a transatlantic investigation of populism.

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