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Republicanism Recast : How the "Veil Affairs" Transformed French Republican Ideology and Public Discourse (2004–2014)

Abstract : Since the law prohibiting the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools (2004), a gradual development has taken place in France. From the law banning full-face covering in public space (2010) to measures concerning the parents of students (2012) and the employees of private nurseries (2014), women wearing the Islamic headscarf have step-by-step been excluded from different spheres of public life. These measures have been publicly justified by the necessity of defending the French Republic or of reinvigorating its underlying principles. Through which political including discursive processes did the public promotion of republican values come to signify the exclusion of headscarf-wearing Muslim women from public spaces?My research tackles this question by employing a conceptual and discursive approach to the study of political ideology. More specifically, by focusing on the public discourses surrounding four so-called "veil affairs," my research sheds light on the gradual transformation of French republicanism – a complex construct through which political concepts gain meaning. Examining contemporary French republicanism through the context of the "veil affairs" reveals both continuity and change. Continuity, because the age-old principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity still form its cornerstone; and change, because newer ideals have modified the meaning of its conceptual core. In Chapter 4, "The Student's Headscarf: The Success of Sexularism," I analyze the beginning of this process. By examining the public controversy surrounding the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public schools, I show how French political elites gradually constructed the question of gender equality – which, historically, has been rather marginal in French republican thought – as a value adjacent to the principle of laïcité, thereby opening the door for further redefinitions. In Chapter 5, "The Burqa in Public Space: The Republican Social Order," my empirical analysis demonstrates that, in aiming to ban face-covering veils, French political and legal actors ended up reviving and transforming the notion of public order through the construction of a new definition of republican social order. Thus, French republicanism took an important turn towards the protection of "shared values." From a theoretical point of view, I argue that this shift implies a nascent transformation within the very core of the republican-ideological construct: the prioritization of fraternity over liberty and equality. Chapter 6, "Baby-Loup and Private Employment: From Discrimination to Social Cohesion," and Chapter 7, "'Veiled' Mothers and School Outings: Extending the Republican Social Norm," examine the consolidation and consequences of the transformed republican-ideological core: the prioritizing of the "common good" (intérêt public) over individual rights and freedoms. These chapters shed light on how political and legal actors applied the transformed republican ethos to new spheres and new groups of people. In doing so, they contributed to the emergence and entrenchment of a new discourse on social cohesion – one permeated by the requirement of individual religious neutrality and dependent on the exclusion of headscarf-wearing Muslim women from a variety of public spaces.
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Kaisa Vuoristo. Republicanism Recast : How the "Veil Affairs" Transformed French Republican Ideology and Public Discourse (2004–2014). Political science. Université Paris-Saclay; Université de Montréal, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017SACLN027⟩. ⟨tel-01609978⟩

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