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      War by Other Means: Fighting “Radicalization” in France (2014–2019)

      Islamophobia Studies Journal
      Pluto Journals
      radicalization, France, War on Terror, nation-state, violence, social work


            In his lectures of 1976 at the Collège de France, “ Society must be defended “, Foucault reversed the famous Clausewitz's aphorism 1 and stated that “politics is the continuation of war by other means”. By doing so, he addressed a strong critique to the traditional theory of the State 1, which consisted in the refutation of the ontological distinction between modern government and war.

            Following on Foucault's remarks, this article aims to understand the form of power that rises through modern Islamophobia in France, and specifically via the struggle against what is called “radicalization”. Thus, the definition of “radicalization” is used by the State to re-establish its symbolic borders and to define the internal enemy, allowing the continuation of “the war by other means”. Therefore, the struggle against “radicalization” consists in at least two specific forms of power: the punishment, highlighted by the contemporary upheavals in antiterrorist justice, and the disciplinary apparatus designed to prevent “radicalization” through a psychopathological approach. Hence, a variety of institutions are mobilized for the surveillance and neutralization of Muslim populations, such as school, prison and social welfare.

            The article combines a short genealogy of the notion (within both academic and political fields) and the results of a long-term fieldwork conducted in France with relatives of those who went to jihad, as well as observations of antiterrorist trials and interviews with social workers. In both cases, the article aims to demonstrate that “radicalization” is the key notion that allows the State to re-impose its sovereignty on its subjects and territory.


            Author and article information

            Islamophobia Studies Journal
            Pluto Journals
            1 October 2020
            : 5
            : 2 ( doiID: 10.13169/islastudj.5.issue-2 )
            : 199-209
            PhD Candidate, Emile Durkheim Center (UMR 5116, CNRS, Sciences Po Bordeaux, université de Bordeaux)
            PhD Candidate, Maurice Halbwachs Center (UMR 8097, CNRS, ENS, EHESS), Lecturer (ATER) at Paris 8 University
            © Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Custom metadata

            Social & Behavioral Sciences
            nation-state,violence,social work,radicalization,France,War on Terror


            1. The will to enable dialogue between researchers of varied disciplines, public decision-takers, actors of intelligence, security, justice and education, has intensified in 2016. This is manifested through the completion of projects directly associating research and fields actors (for example, between police officers and archeologists concerning matters of antiquity trafficking) and by the realization of lasting collaborations between the CNRS and the ministries (of Interior, of Justice, of the Families …), and the collectivities, and administrations that have responded as well to the call of the CNRS (for example, the military intelligence directorate). A thematic school “Radicalizations” and workshops organized in the CNRS headquarters on the “Genesis of radicalization”, “Careers of terror”, “the impacts of the attacks” have allowed the researchers who answers the call to meet and form a new established scientific community on security matters. (Centre national de la recherche scientifique. 2016. Face aux attentats: un an de mobilisation au CNRS)

            2. www.najat-vallaud-belkacem.com/2017/02/08/installation-du-conseil-scientifique-sur-les-processus-de-radicalisation/ (accessed on June 6, 2019).

            3. The name was a reference to the geographical origins of the defendants. Cannes is a city in southern France, while Torcy is one of Paris' suburbs.

            4. “Une centaine de quartiers comme Molenbeek”, published on March 27, 2016, www.lepoint.fr/politique/patrick-kanner-fait-etat-d-une-centaine-de-molenbeek-en-france-27-03-2016-2028295_20.php (accessed on July 6, 2019).

            5. Outre la surveillance discrète des radicalisés par les services de renseignement, il existe un travail de contrôle et de suivi des lieux de rassemblement communautaire : vérification de la scolarisation des enfants dans les établissements hors contrat, contrôle de certains commerces, des lieux de rassemblement susceptibles de prôner l'islam radical. L'autre action c'est la prévention de la radicalisation avec un certain nombre d'actions menées en lien avec la commune et tous les acteurs locaux. Le but est de détecter les individus qui ont des comportements radicalisés et de les empêcher de basculer dans une dérive violente en les prenant en charge au titre de l'action sociale, de la politique de logement, l'insertion professionnelle. (www.leparisien.fr/faits-divers/laurent-nunez-personne-n-a-trouve-la-solution-miracle-a-la-deradicalisation-28-05-2019-8082090.php)

            6. “Radicalisation religieuse: les travailleurs sociaux en première ligne”, La Gazette des Communes, Club prévention sécurité, published on May 24, 2017, www.lagazettedescommunes.com/dossiers/radicalisation-religieuse-les-travailleurs-sociaux-en-premiere-ligne/ (accessed on July 6, 2019).

            7. Interview with a state official in charge of the prevention of radicalization, working in a prefecture from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, on August 6, 2017.

            8. Idem.

            9. Idem.

            10. Interview with a state official in charge of the prevention of radicalization, working in a prefecture from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, on November 2, 2017.

            11. “ Rapport fait au nom de la commission d'enquête sur la surveillance des filières et des individus djihadistes, par Eric Ciotti et Patrick Mennucci”, March 12, 2014.

            12. Interview with a social worker in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, employed by an association aiming at fighting radicalization partnered with the prefecture, on December 14, 2017.


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