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“Sur la table: Food, Identity and the Jews in Modern France”

“Sur la table: Food, Identity and the Jews in Modern France”

Published on April 19, 2013
Opening of the Conference by Professeur Pierre Birnbaum - Remarks by Ambassador François Delattre

La Maison Française, April 15, 2013

Cher Professeur, Dear Professor Pierre Birnbaum,

Dear President Knapp,

Dear Dean Barratt,

Dear Professor Josselit,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by telling our American friends how close we feel to them after the tragic events in Boston today. Our thoughts and sympathy go to the victims of these bombings, their families and loved ones.

So let me express France’s full support to the people of Boston and to America at this painful moment.

It is an honor for our Cultural Attaché Emilienne Baneth-Nouailhetas and for me to welcome you here to the Maison Française for this exceptional event and to have in our midst one of France’s pre-eminent historians and political theorists.

Dear Professor Birnbaum, your work on minority relations and political sociology has earned you international renown and your books, such as "Les Deux maisons" or "La république et le cochon" have been acclaimed world-wide for the ground-breaking connections they establish between citizenship and cultural identities; Cher Professor, you are one of France’s leading political sociologists and a wonderful ambassador for French knowledge and critical thinking.

It’s a great privilege to have you with us and for us this evening.

I would like to thank The George Washington University for having taken the initiative of this invitation, and for tirelessly promoting French language, culture, and scholarship. The French Embassy values the work of The George Washington University, one of the most dynamic and academically impressive universities in this area; and I am particularly happy that its many partnerships with France keep expanding, in all fields of research and education.

I would also also like to salute the distinguished and lively Judaic Studies Program, which invited you, Professor, to deliver its annual Frieda Kobernick Fleischman Lecture this year – and of course I am particularly pleased that this prestigious lecture is taking place here, at the Maison française. One of the Program’s highlights, this endowed lecture brings celebrated writers, historians and artists to George Washington University and to the larger DC community to reflect on the multiple aspects of the Jewish experience.
The theme of your residency at GWU, temptingly entitled “Food fête: the cultural politics of eating in France” combines the specifics of this Jewish experience and cultural heritage with very French preoccupations: politics and food. This connection is as important for our understanding of contemporary France as it is ground-breaking for the social sciences.

In the course of your research, you have drawn on a wide range of sources, including menus from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. By brilliantly bringing together the study of gastronomie with the history of the Jews, you highlight the cultural politics of food and the processes by which the French transformed food into an area of citizenship.

Once again, it is an honor and a pleasure to have you here for this exceptional occasion. Thank you, Professor Birnbaum, for sharing your scholarship with us; I also want to thank George Washington University and Professor Josselit for having made this event possible and thereby further strengthening our partnership./.