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Innovative Honors Thesis Research in Francophone Studies

Two French and Francophone Studies seniors recently defended their honors theses. Zarine Kharazian and Paul Naanou both conducted innovative research and received highest honors following the oral defense of their work. Financial support through the McCormack-Reboussin and the Charles Center, respectively, helped make these ground-breaking studies possible. Their work shows the interdisciplinarity and relevance to current social issues that characterize French and Francophone Studies at W&M.

Paul Naanou’s “Qui me rendra présent : Francophone Representations of Lebanese Civil War Memory”, directed by Prof. Magali Compan
Highest Honors

Being of Syrian origin, Paul Naanou had always been fascinated by Levantine history and traditions. So when he became aware of Lebanon’s rich francophone history, he just had to figure out how it fit into the region’s wider narrative. Paul recognizes the importance of memory and collective trauma in relation to the current conflict in Syria, as well.

IMG_0419During Paul’s sophomore year of college, he applied for a Charles Center summer grant to go and meet the Lebanese francophone poet Nada Skaff and do archival research in Paris. For Paul, meeting Nada was a highlight of his college experience because the time spent with her gave him a visceral understanding of how living in French in a Lebanese context is just as authentic as living in Arabic. Moreover, having discussions with her about her own literature gave him insight into how diverse and rich the construction of a Lebanese experience can be.

In Paul’s senior year, he decided to pursue a honors thesis with Prof. Magali Compan that not only looked at the impact of the French language on Lebanese history, but of violence (namely the Lebanese Civil War) as well. Paul says, “I feel so fortunate to have been able to bring attention to Lebanese francophone texts because the experience permitted me to share with the others the reality that all peoples make sense of suffering and violence through different ways and we need to be attuned to them because they can help us articulate our own hallowing experiences. If anything, struggle is a universal reality and rather than let us divide us, I thinking delving into art from a place as seemingly opposed to us as Lebanon enables us to bridge cultural divides and better understand ourselves.”

Zarine Kharazian’s “Yet Another French Exception: The Right To Be Forgotten”
Co-Directors: Professors Maryse Fauvel and Michael Leruth
Highest Honors

Zarine Kharazian’s research focuses on France’s seemingly unique stance on “right to be forgotten” with regard to internet search engines like Google. Her work was made possible through the generous support provided by the McCormack-Reboussin scholarship, which funded archival research in Paris over the summer of 2016. Furthermore, a research internship at Sciences-Po, Paris, through the Internships in Francophone Europe (IFE) program, facilitated access to the Cujas Law library as well as the Sciences-Po library.

FullSizeRender (2)In 2015, the European Court of Justice established an online “right to be forgotten” in Europe. Under this right to be forgotten, individuals may request that search engines delist links that reference their personal information from search results. Search engines need not grant these requests, but they are now obligated to review them.

While the Court’s decision to establish the right to be forgotten certainly ignited a debate among Western privacy scholars and policymakers hailing from both sides of the Atlantic, no country has participated in the debate with as much fervor as has France. Zarine’s thesis addresses the following question: What explains France’s unique sense of urgency with regard to digital right to be forgotten? She argues that French privacy jurisprudence does not sufficiently explain France’s attitude and actions in the right to be forgotten debate, as most scholars have suggested. Rather, extralegal factors – namely, long-established societal “mentalités” with regard to the modern state’s responsibility to shield individuals’ honor and reputation from excessive public scrutiny and France’s enduring antagonism towards US digital hegemony – bear most of the explanatory weight.