«THE EVENT OF CHARLIE HEBDO Imaginaries of Freedom and Control» (Berghahn Books) is out!


This book on the the Charlie Hebdo shootings of last January was edited by Alessandro (GIAP). Below you can find the table of content and the full introductory chapter of this brand new publication.


The January 2015 shooting at the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the subsequent attacks that took place in the Île-de-France region were staggeringly violent events. They sparked an enormous discussion among citizens and intellectuals from around Europe and beyond. By analyzing the effects the attacks have had in various spheres of social life, including the political, ideology, collective imaginaries, the media, and education, this collection of essays aims to serve as a contribution as well as a critical response to that discussion. The volume observes that the events being attributed to Charlie Hebdo go beyond sensationalist reports of the mainstream media, transcend the spatial confines of nation states, and lend themselves to an ever-expanding number of mutating discursive formations.

Table of contents 

  1. Introduction: The Event of Charlie Hebdo – Imaginaries of Freedom and Control
    Bjørn Enge Bertelsen and Alessandro Zagato
  2. The Barbariat and Democratic Tolerance
    Knut Rio
  3. Charlie Hebdo: The West and the Sacred
    Axel Rudi
  4. The Thoughtcrimes of an Eight-Year-Old
    Maria Dyveke Styve
  5. Imaginaries of Violence and Surrogates for Politics
    Alessandro Zagato
  6. Where Were You, Charlie? Contesting Voices of Political Activism in the Wake of a Tragedy
    Mari Hanssen Korsbrekke
  7. Moral, All-Too Moral: Satire, Morality, and Charlie Hebdo
    Jacob Hjortsberg
  8. On Blasphemy: The Paradoxes of Protecting and Mocking God
    Theodoros Rakopoulos

Introduction: The Event of Charlie Hebdo – Imaginaries of Freedom and Control
Bjørn Enge Bertelsen and Alessandro Zagato

It’s about a guy falling off the fiftieth floor of a skyscraper.
On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself:
So far so good …
So far so good …
How you fall doesn’t matter.
It’s how you land.
This is what a background voice says in the initial scene of the 1995 French film La Haine (Hate), directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. In the last scene, when Hubert (one of the protagonists, a migrant background young man from the banlieues, the multi-ethnic Parisian suburbs) and a policeman deliberately point guns at each other, the same sentence is repeated but with a slight modification, where the subject ‘guy’ is replaced with ‘society’: “It’s about a society in free fall.” Kassowitz’s imagery and words evoke a scenario of urgency, desperation, and passive, almost suicidal—certainly nihilistic—acceptance of the impending final outcome. They perfectly encompass the sense one gets when witnessing events such as the 7 January 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the subsequent attacks that took place in the Île-deFrance region. The figure of the fall and imminent impact represents the current zeitgeist and the sense of finitude shaping it. It points to a present that “from whatever angle you approach it … offers no way out” (Invisible Committee 2007) and where, as has been repeated by many, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,”1 the totalizing economic and social system that is leading the planet to environmental and social catastrophe. One can assume that a similar desperate feeling of closure, lack of hope, and agency led a group of men in their twenties, who had grown up in the banlieues, to get involved in a violent and suicidal mission such as that performed in Paris early this year. Beyond the crude materiality of their act, which is not the main point of analysis in this volume, some critical questions need to be considered. Symbolically, who or what was the target of those bullets? How did Charlie Hebdo come to represent
absolute evil in the eyes of the attackers—an enemy that needed to be eliminated even at the cost of taking human life? What led so many people to identify immediately and simultaneously with the victims of the shootings and the value of freedom of speech, which the journal all of a sudden seemed to fully embody? Which imaginaries has this violent occurrence invigorated or reactivated? And, finally, what do the political and state responses tell us about current social orders in France and beyond? Inspired by such questions, the present volume aims primarily to be a contribution and a critical response to
the enormous and varied amount of discussion that this violent and spectacular event has ignited among citizens and intellectuals from around Europe and beyond. Our aim here is not to propose an alternative or more detailed reconstruction of what occurred during the attacks but to analyze the effects that they have had in various spheres of social life, including politics, the state, ideology, collective imaginaries, the media, and education, among others. We start from the observation that the events being popularly attributed to Charlie Hebdo go beyond the sensationalist headlines of the mainstream media, transcend the spatial confines of nation-states, and lend themselves to an ever-expanding number of mutating discursive formations.

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