Conference Summary

After a bitter period of decolonization, the empire once known as “la plus grande France” gave way to a constellation of French-speaking worlds, loosely known as “la francophonie.” Over the last decade, Francophone Studies has emerged as one of the most dynamic and complex fields of intellectual inquiry in French departments across the States. Politically manifest and interdisciplinary by nature, la francophonie transcends academia and informs intellectual debate with political, social, and economic realities

A two-day international conference, “Empire Lost: France and its Other Worlds” will examine the history, the tensions, and the future of francophonie, as both a political and an academic institution. Though often depicted in neo-imperialist tones, there are signs that la francophonie is emerging as an “alter-globalization” movement dedicated to preserving cultural diversity around the world. Does la francophonie indeed offer an example of how a multi-polar, -cultural, and -linguistic global order could take form? Can a cultural heritage born from the violence of history play a role in preventing further violence and oppression? Or does it simply repeat past hierarchical divisions between rich and poor nations? These are some of the questions that will be debated by scholars from literary, historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives.

Keynote Speakers:

Assia Djebar: Professor of Francophone literature at New York University; member of the Académie Française; novelist, translator, and filmaker.
Michel Serres: Professor of French at Stanford University; member of the Académie Française.


The Department of French and Italian, and The Program in Modern Thought and Literature.

Office of the Provost; School of Humanities and Sciences; Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie; Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages; Stanford Humanities Center; Department of Comparative Literature; Department of History; Taube Center for Jewish Studies; Center for African Studies; Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity; Department of Religious Studies; African and African American Studies; The European Forum.