Francophonie et études francophones: considérations historiques et métacritiques sur quelques concepts majeurs

François Provenzano


The so called French-speaking world is much more than a community of speakers using the same language. Since the era of decolonization, language has become a major economical stake for France, as well as an important symbolic struggle against Anglo-Saxon linguistic and political hegemony. In the academic context also, the developments of Francophone studies demonstrate a current preoccupation with integrating francophone reality into the common encyclopaedia. This paper steps back from such contemporary debates. Analysing the historical and epistemological backgrounds from which francophone projects have been emerging since the end of the nineteenth century, the paper discusses a number of useful concepts for approaching francophone realities. I argue that the main difficulty of the theoretical work in this field is the diversity of definitions of the object, as well as the inability to separate it from ideological content. Starting with the so called first occurrence of the word ‘francophonie’, I examine the institutional, sociolinguistic, poetical and socioliterary definitions that have attempted to explain the constitutive dimensions of an abstract francophone unity. Taking a metacritical point of view, and inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological works on the one hand and discursive approaches on the other, this article hopes to present pointers for future research into the study of French-speaking zones, peoples and cultures.


French-speaking world; Epistemology; Literature; Discourse analysis

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