Charlie Hebdo and French Collective Memory: Origins of the Right to Caricature

  • Lyombe EkoEmail author


The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack was a blow to the French body politic. In order to make sense of the unprecedented event and to reaffirm its faith in its secular republican institutions, the rule of law, freedom of expression, and especially the right to caricature, the French establishment sought refuge in its republican collective memory. This chapter focuses on the philosophical foundations and milestones of French collective memory, which underpins and explains French reaction to the terrorist attacks. The premise is that the contemporary regime of freedom of expression in France is a hard-earned positive right that emerged from negative collective memory—centuries-long political, religious, and ideological struggles—whose turning point was the French Revolution of 1789. That Revolution spawned the national dogma of secular republicanism and anti-clericalism, erected blasphemy into a sacred right/rite, and ultimately led to the unique French counter-establishmentarian regime of separation of church and state. Under this Catho-secular system, the State is a counter-church that owns and maintains more than 80 historic cathedrals and other iconic religious edifices.


Secular republicanism Blasphemy The right to caricature Freedom of expression Collective memory 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Journalism and Creative MediaTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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