Part of the Department of History's 2014-2015 lecture series, This Just In: History and the Headlines

In recent years, the French and international media have offered readers, listeners, and viewers "shocking" revelations regarding the program of French nuclear testing that began in the Algerian Sahara in February 1960. The fourth world power to acquire the atomic bomb, France entered the club atomique during a violent period of decolonization that would only decades later be acknowledged officially by the French government as an "Algerian War". Exploring representations of the first French atomic test that took place in the Sahara, this public lecture will consider the culture of the bomb in France from this initial detonation to the present. What did a "national" bomb mean to a French Republic and citizens who were also experiencing the impact of a variety of postwar transformations? The spectacle of the bombe atomique in 1960 was and remains an event that cannot be understood outside the contexts of the postwar demographic explosion known as "le baby boom," the development of a mass, consumer society, the waning of empire, and the emergence of new political and social movements. The quintessential weapon and emblem of the Cold War, the bomb was a cultural as well as a military matter, the subject of deep fascination and fear. What, then, were and remain its cultural impact and traces? What and how did the French population learn and think about their nation's bomb? How did the launch of a nuclear weapons and testing program affect France's role in the international community? What have been the legacies of that first test in 1960, and how do contemporary headlines frame and mobilize that history in the present?

This is a free event and is open to the general public. Reserve your spot using the form below.


Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at SFU. Her book, Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars, examines representations of the future and the futuristic between 1918 and 1939. She is also the host of New Books in French Studies, a monthly podcast featuring interviews with scholars of France and the Francophone world about their latest books. 

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 5:30 PM

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