Confronting the politics of denial

Nadia Kiwan*, Jim Wolfreys*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


In the summer of 2021, a series of posters produced by the Ministère de l’éducation nationale appeared on advertising spaces across France. They showed white and non-white students together in various educational and sporting settings with slogans that appeared to highlight a causal link between diversity and laïcité. ‘Permettre à Mihan et Aliyah de rire aux mêmes histoires, c’est ça la laïcité.’ ‘Permettre à Sacha et Neissa d’être dans le même bain, c’est ça, la laïcité’ (Ministère de l’Éducation nationale Citation2021). The posters appeared to be saying that it was laïcité that facilitated the integration of non-white students. Jean-Louis Bianco, former president of the Observatoire de la laïcité, a body criticised for not presenting a rigorous enough defence of laïcité and eventually dissolved that same summer, summed up widespread disquiet,

On renvoie aux enfants ce message: ‘Toi, tu n’es pas comme les autres parce que tu n’as pas la même couleur de peau, tu n’as pas la même religion.’ […] La conclusion qu’on en tire, c’est que la laïcité permet aux enfants issus de la diversité d’être des enfants comme les autres et que sans la laïcité ils n’y arriveraient pas. (Rey-Bethbeder Citation2021)

Along with an implicit message about race, transmitted via names and images, there appeared to be a silently transmitted message about religion, or religious symbols, whose absence was presumably also the achievement of laïcité. Render your faith invisible and then you can play, read and find friendship like this, too.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Issue number2
Early online date4 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to thank Gill Allwood and Martin O'Shaughnessy for inviting us to co-edit this special issue and are grateful to Oliver Davis for overseeing the process to its conclusion.


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