- introduce yourself ! What is your role at the University of Rouen-Normandy?
I am Fouad Laroussi, professor of linguistics. I ran the Dylis Language Lab for about ten years (Language dynamics at the site). I work on multilingualism, linguistic communication, and linguistic and institutional la Francophonie. Last September, I was elected the new director ofInterdisciplinary Human Society Research Institute (IRIHS). In this context, we are organizing a Francophonie symposium from March 13 to 17, 2023.
- So you’ve been the new director of IRIHS since September, can you tell us what exactly that is?
It is a research consortium. All of the University of Rouen-Normandy’s laboratories in the Humanities and Social Sciences (SHS) are affiliated with IRIHS. There are thirteen. This ranges from law to sports, via literature, linguistics or economics. IRIHS aims to promote and support interdisciplinary research in SHS that is conducted within the laboratories with which it is affiliated, in particular through calls for projects. He also manages multidisciplinary structuring projects.
- How can we combine several laboratories? Are there joint ventures?
Although there are substantive hubs within IRIHS relating to issues developed by the laboratories, the institute is not required to coordinate work between laboratories. The laboratories are disciplinary and conduct research related to their specialties: linguistics, law, history, etc. But there are also interdisciplinary or interdisciplinary projects that align with IRIHS science policy: promoting interdisciplinarity in the humanities and social sciences. Whatever the problem, the method of approaching it through different disciplinary perspectives brings much stronger reading, observation and analysis than a monodiscipline perspective that is only implemented through networks of analysis in a single discipline.
Among the projects managed by IRIHS, we can mention the PIA3 project (educational innovation areas) Supported by INSPE or the cross-sectional COP HERL project following the Lubrizol fire that brings together geologists, sociologists, geographers and/or psychologists. Research in the humanities and social sciences is above all interdisciplinary research, because the issues are increasingly complex. To understand these complexities, a monodisciplinary view is no longer sufficient.
- You are also responsible for organizing the week of Francophonie, which will take place from 13 to 17 March at the Mont Saint-Aignan campus. Can you tell us more?
This week is part of a national programme. Every year in March, France celebrates La Francophonie Week in France and abroad as well as in all francophone countries. The tradition at the University of Rouen-Normandy is to organize this event every year, with a guest country. The 2023 project, with Tunisia as the country of honour, dates back to 2019. But due to Covid-19, everything has been cancelled. So we resume this project this year.
Francophonie, I’ve been working on this issue for years. I think being able to speak French is a real advantage, even if it’s not our mother tongue. It’s editorial, richness, these are values. Today, in a world increasingly turning in on itself, we need these values of exchange, sharing and tolerance. French as a second or foreign language is always an enrichment for French speakers. That is why we celebrate the French Language Week in all its diversity, whether it is French in France or French from Tunisia, Senegal or Quebec.
This year, we welcome Tunisia as a guest country for very specific reasons. In 2022, Tunisia will host the 18th Francophone Summit, with all French-speaking heads of state present. Moreover, 2023 celebrates its 120th anniversaryH Anniversary of the birth of a symbolic figure of the Francophonie: Habib Bourguiba. He was one of the founding fathers of Institutional Francophonie with Leopold Sedar Senghor. We wanted to see in hindsight what became of the situation for the French in Tunisia, 23 years after his disappearance. What can we do today with Bourguiba’s sometimes threatened legacy? As a young university student, in my imagination, France was certainly a country of colonialism, but also a country of human rights, fine gastronomy, and Enlightenment philosophers. French must always be the language that transmits these values.
- What is the purpose of this event?
The University of Rouen-Normandy insists on another aspect, which is open science. Sometimes we researchers are criticized for using certain terms that are difficult for the general public to understand. Open science is about making research accessible to the general public. La Semaine de la Francophonie can be considered a concrete example of open science. The organization of both animation or university activities aimed at a more enlightened audience, and other activities such as slam dunks, concerts, cinema, or high school and college student choirs from the Academy, aimed at a general audience, stems from this desire to open the university to all. In other words, it is about ‘popularizing’ the research done at the university so that the general public can also come to the university. This is not a fortress in which knowledge intended only for the informed public is produced. We also try to bring in an audience that is not used to hanging out within its walls.
- Is it necessary for a French university to highlight these links with other countries?
The university, in a globalized world, is obliged today to have links with other institutions of higher education, especially abroad, especially in the francophone world. Personalities like Léopold Sedar Senghor, Habib Bourguiba and many others are former students who came to study in France. When they returned home and took the fate of their country into their own hands, they maintained strong linguistic and cultural ties to France. These links are maintained thanks to the French language that we celebrate during the respective week. The students of the Francophonie, who are currently in French universities, are among other things the representatives of the Francophonie at home. It is important, for the Francophonie, to promote values that oppose all kinds of obscurantism, withdrawal into oneself, and contempt for others. French is the language of the Enlightenment, rejecting division and detouring.
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