Julia Raith (CAS 2021), pursuing double honors in French and International Relations; research funded by the Robert A. Fowkes Research Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding student research on European culture.
Indivisibility: The French Political Class’ 18th Century Response to Radical Islamic Terrorism?
In my thesis, I look back at national homogeneity in the thought of 18th-century philosophers such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire to understand why the concept of “la République indivisible” reappears every time there is a terrorist attack, whether it be the Charlie Hebdo attack, the November 2015 Paris attacks, or, most recently, the beheading of a history teacher. France’s entire political class, regardless of party affiliation, sees radical Islam as a separatist movement – a force that seeks to divide the nation and create a rift between its citizen – when dealing with this new constant threat of terrorism. It is striking to note that the French Revolution used precisely the same rhetoric when dealing with the “enemies from within,” real or fantasized. The Jacobin opposition to federalism as a structure lacking homogeneity and therefore liable to weaken the state, also finds interesting contemporary echoes in the current political crises. My aim is to show this presence of 18th century political thought, through the concept of “indivisibility,” in the ways in which an anti-separatist response is systematically mobilized with each terrorist attack. In the process of highlighting this anti-separatist response of the political class, I will also be thoroughly discussing controversial French policy that has been passed in the name of “indivisibility,” with a focus on policy marginalizing Muslim women in France.