Bérurier Noir’s “Folklore of the World Slums”: Multiculturalism, Punk Rock and the “End of History” in 1980’s France

By Sylvain David.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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My paper reflects on the integration, by the 1980’s French punk rock band Bérurier Noir, of international sociopolitical references (both historical and contemporary, such as the plight of the American Indians, the Vietnamese War, or the Palestinian uprising). This foray into multiculturalism can be understood as a countermeasure against the rise of chauvinistic discourses (most notably from the Front National), but also as a means to transcend the ambient drabness of the local “cités” (housing projects). But how can this so-called “Folklore de la zone mondiale” (Folklore of the World Slums) be understood in the broader context of the global society that, at the same moment, was redefining itself? For if encouraging a dialogue between different cultures, through a federating form of music, constituted a valid approach towards instilling a climate of solidarity and respect in the French “banlieues” (suburbs), amalgamating disparate cultural references through the melting pot of rock’n’roll can also be seen as a diverted way of submitting them to Western hegemony. My paper therefore revolves around the following question: does punk (and alternative) rock music represent, as it claims, a vector of social progress and diversity, or does it result, on the contrary, in an implicit assimilation of cultural differences? My reflection on this topic is guided by the works of political and cultural essayist Philippe Muray, who has given thought to this alleged absence of social and intellectual dialectics in contemporary France, a phenomenon to which he refers – from a Hegelian perspective – as an “End of History”.

Keywords: Bérurier Noir (1983-1989), 1980’s French Punk and Alternative Rock, Internationalist Sociopolitical Discourse, Antiracism, Intercultural Dialogue, Globalization, Implicit Cultural Assimilation, “End of History” (Absence of Social Dialectics)

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.353-360. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 562.038KB).

Dr. Sylvain David

Assistant Professor, Études françaises (French Department), Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Sylvain David is an Assistant Professor in the Département d’études françaises (French Department) of Concordia University (Montréal). Specializing in 20th century French literature, his research interests are, among others: representations of “post-history” in contemporary fiction; and punk as an aesthetic. Recent publications include an essay on contemporary philosophy: Cioran. Un héroïsme à rebours (Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2006); a collective work (co-edited with François-Emmanuël Boucher and Janusz Przychodzen) on the aesthetics of peace: La Paix. Esthétiques d’une éthique (Peter Lang, 2007); and articles on the French punk movement: Enfants de la balle : politiques du football dans le rock alternatif européen (in Yan Hamel, Geneviève Lafrance and Benoît Melançon (eds.), Des mots et des muscles ! Représentations des pratiques sportives, Nota Bene, 2004), and Un imaginaire de l’animosité. Le groupe punk Métal Urbain (1976-1978) (Marie-Hélène Larochelle (ed.), Invectives et violences verbales dans le discours littéraire, Presses de l’Université Laval, 2007).

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