I Predict a Riot: France in Flames w/ Nabila Ramdani

29 Oct 2023 – 13:45 - 15:15 GMT
Battle of Ideas Festival
Room 511, Church House
Great Smith Street

Battle of Ideas Festival will be hosting an exclusive talk with Nabila Ramdani, author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic.

Over recent years, France has seemed to be constantly in flames. Thousands taking to the streets, mass arrests, vehicles set ablaze, buildings ransacked. The most recent unrest came after an unarmed teenager, Nahel Merzouk, was shot by police following a car chase in Nanterre. The riots afterwards were perhaps the most violent yet, and reflect how many from France’s migrant communities, often in segregated and deprived banlieue housing estates, feel totally disconnected from and discriminated against by the French authorities.

Taking to the streets has not been confined to the marginalised. Earlier this year, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used Article 49.4 of the French constitution to force through President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension-reform plan without a vote in parliament. As a result, millions were up in arms. Public militancy was so intense that a planned visit by King Charles was postponed.

And who can forget the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), dressed in their unmistakable hi-viz jackets, blockading highways and petrol stations, occupying roundabouts and toll booths, and marching through town centres. These protests in 2018 were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax, but escalated to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo that became associated with international grassroots resistance to technocratic rule, far and wide.

This contemporary France seems far removed from the romanticised ideal of a liberal, secular republic based on a revolutionary land of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Institutionalised rioting, racial segregation, deep-seated religious tensions – from the Charlie Hebdo massacre to the state’s burqa ban, heavy-handed, paramilitary style policing is now the order of the day. What on earth has happened?

When Macron was first elected president in 2017, he talked hopefully of a better, fairer future and promised to overcome the left-right divide, to rule by consensus. Now, as Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist of Algerian descent and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic argues, Macron rules by decree over an increasingly divided society.

Ramdani, herself born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb, will discuss these shifts along with a panel of respondents.

About the book:

A French-Algerian journalist’s stark critique of her crisis-ridden country—how does France work, how did it get here, and how can it change?

France—the romanticised, revolutionary land of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all—is failing. Reform is urgently needed. This book is a powerful indictment of the status quo, and a highly original perspective on the challenges to which the nation must rise.

Fixing France cover

Nabila Ramdani is not from the establishment elite: she is a marginalised insider, born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb. With unflinching clarity, she probes the fault lines of her struggling country, exposing the Fifth Republic as an archaic system which emerged from Algeria’s cataclysmic War of Independence.

Today, a monarchical President Macron shows little interest in democracy, while a far-right party founded by Nazi collaborators threatens to replace him. Segregation, institutionalised rioting, economic injustice, the debasement of women, a monolithic education system, deep-seated racial and religious discrimination, paramilitary policing, terrorism and extremism, and a duplicitous foreign policy all fuel the growing crisis.

Ramdani offers real hope: the broken French Republic can, and must, be fixed.

About the speakers:

Nabila Ramdani is a French author of Algerian descent who works as a journalist, academic and broadcaster. Nabila began her award-winning journalistic career in the BBC Paris Bureau. She has since broadcast for outlets including Sky News, Al Jazeera and CNN, and has written extensively for The GuardianThe Daily MailThe Washington Post and others. Educated at Paris VII University and the London School of Economics (LSE), Nabila has taught at the University of Oxford and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor for the online magazine spiked and host of The spiked podcast. He campaigns for democracy and free speech. He also appears regularly in the media, including the BBC, Sky News, ITV and GB News.

Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.