• The social facts and sexual fantasies that made the French maid 'la soubrette'

    Yva Richard, vers 1930. Yva Richard, vers 1930.

    La soubrette is an evocative term for French maids rooted in 19th-century French bourgeois culture whereby female domestics were also, both in fantasy and reality, a wealthy household's sexual servant. Camille Favre, an expert in 19th- and 20th- century erotic literature in France, tells Joseph Confavreux how the soubrette became a figure of eroticism and pornography, and the social practices that lay behind the image.

  • IMF 'no longer adapted to the global economy'

     © dr © dr

    Brazil is one of the world's rising economic powers, and a new and vigorous force on the international scene where it has championed the demand that emerging nations be given a greater role in international governance, notably in the current race of candidates to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Here, Sebastião Velasco (photo), a renowned Brazilian professor of political sciences and international relations, charts the evolution of Brazil into one of the world's largest democracies and fast-growing economic powers, and analyses its role in promoting a new world order.

  • Anything but civil: Vichy's servants of persecution

    The painful history of the Vichy administration's collaboration with the Nazi occupation continues to fascinate even the younger generation of French historians. In a recently-published book, Laurent Joly, 34, details how France's public servants became the tools of the persecution and deportation of French Jews, divided into two separate administratiive bodies that were major cogs in the process of the Holocaust. He talks here to Antoine Perraud about those who formed a monstrous machine.
  • Sexual harassment and the 'before and after DSK' effect on France


    During an appearance before New York's Supreme Court on Monday, former IMF chief and French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn entered a plea of ‘not guilty' to charges that he sexually assaulted and attempted to rape a maid at a Manhattan hotel. Whatever the outcome of the case, for which Strauss-Kahn is next due in court on July 18th, it has already sparked a passionate national debate in France over what many see as a compliant culture towards the abusive behaviour of men in power. Here, Joseph Confavreux interviews one of France's leading specialists in moral and sexual harassment, the US-trained psychiatrist Marie-France Hirigoyen (photo), who explains why she believes there will be "a before and an after DSK" effect on French public attitudes to a problem until now taboo.

  • The philosophy shining behind the work of Stanley Kubrick

     © Warner Bros Entertainment © Warner Bros Entertainment

    Ever wondered what links German philosophers Nietzsche and Heidegger with axe-wielding hotel winter caretaker Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson, pictured) in Stanley Kubrick's all-time great horror movie The Shining? A book just published in France throws fresh light on US film director Kubrick's phenomenal works, including Doctor Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Full Metal Jacket, by focusing on the philosophical ideas behind the US director's fascination with the contradictions and ambivalence of humankind. Its author, Sam Azulys, tells Clément Sénéchal why Kubrick's films are "a dialectical springboard".

  • The divide between France and its police


    Last month French interior minister Claude Guéant announced a drive to put thousands more police on the streets to create "a climate of security" and called on senior officers to encourage closer relations with local populations. But the relationship between the police and public in France has long been a troubled one, rooted in history and pervaded by a strong mistrust on both sides. In an interview with Mediapart, Christian Mouhanna, a researcher and academic specialised in police and judicial issues, identifies the causes and explains why so many attempts to bridge the divide have failed, creating an increasing malaise within the police itself.

  • Iceland closer to becoming offshore hacks' haven

    Smari McCarthy © Thordis Reynisdottir Smari McCarthy © Thordis Reynisdottir

    In June 2010, the Icelandic government started on a vast legal and technical project aimed at turning the island into an aggressively protective haven for investigative journalism and internet freedom. Baptised the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, it hopes to launch in 2012 and could eventually host most of the world's online press. Here, Ludovic Lamant talks to the project's co-founder and spokesman Smári McCarthy (photo) on its reasons for being and its development so far.

  • The sleazy, easy anti-Semitism that blights French politics


    When a political ally of Nicolas Sarkozy recently labelled Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and a potential Socialist Party rival candidate in next year's presidential elections, as lacking true French peasant roots, he was echoing a longstanding French tradition of anti-Semitic mud-slinging in politics. In this detailed interview with Mediapart's Antoine Perraud, the eminent historian and sociologist Pierre Birnbaum, author of several books on anti-Semitism and French politics, details the myths behind French intolerance of Jewish political leaders.

  • The joys and sorrows of the extraordinary Stéphane Hessel

     © Voix de l'Enfant/Indigène éditions © Voix de l'Enfant/Indigène éditions

    The outspoken French social and political campaigner Stéphane Hessel (pictured), whose recent best-selling manifesto Time for Outrage became an inspiration for social protest movements worldwide, died during the night of February 26th, aged 95. Born German, Hessel was seven years’ old when he arrived in France, becoming a naturalised citizen after which, at the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Resistance movement. He was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp from where he escaped during transfer to Bergen-Belsen. After the war, he helped draft the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was appointed as an honorary ‘Ambassador of France' for special government missions abroad. Hessel detailed his extraordinary life, his political engagement and his cultural influences in this revealing interview with Sylvain Bourmeau, first published by Mediapart in 2011. He began by explaining how his escape from execution in Germany in 1944 left him with a purpose he had to fulfil.

  • 'We just lost the chance to rethink capitalism' laments Stiglitz


    "The moment of rethinking capitalism in America has gone", bemoans Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel prize in economics, former World Bank chief economist and now professor of economics at Columbia University, in this exclusive interview with Mediapart. Stiglitz says the height of the current economic crisis was a lost opportunity to re-order the economy, "one of those rare moments, many of us thought a Roosevelt-ian moment" but "as soon as the fire was brought down, the political influences of the banks came back."