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Laicité: Religious Freedom or State Repression? - LAN00065I

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Ms. Geraldine Enjelvin
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

A concept deeply rooted in French history and one of the key principles underpinning French society, la laïcité has shaped French institutions and minds over centuries. Originally proposed as a way to mitigate the tensions caused by the power struggle between the State and the Catholic church at the turn of the 20th century, it has since infiltrated many societal debates and controversies.

The module will explore the complexity of the concept of laïcité from cultural, historical, and political perspectives. Whilst gaining in-depth knowledge, students will learn to distinguish between facts and opinions and adopt different viewpoints when assessing related debates.

Related modules

Pre-requisite module

Understanding French-speaking Cultures and Societies

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The module will:

  • Explain how the principle was born and how it evolved within the French republican tradition

  • Examine the legislative framework and its practical implications

  • Discuss how the concept can be interpreted differently, e.g nouvelle laïcité, laïcité positive

  • Examine the many controversies surrounding its application in contemporary France, e.g. discriminations towards the muslim communities

  • Consider why it is often misunderstood outside France and confused with secularism

  • Analyse the link between laïcité and other societal issues, e,g, immigration, Islam, women’s rights

  • Compare the “laïcité à la française” with other secular systems outside France

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to :

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key facts related to laïcité

  • Critically evaluate its interpretations and practical applications

  • Compare and contrast different cultural perspectives

  • Interpret and analyse primary and secondary sources

  • Demonstrate independent study skills and pursue personal research on the topics discussed

  • Formulate and justify arguments related to the subject matter

  • Communicate in both spoken and written French with increased confidence and accuracy

Module content

The topics covered might include:

  • L’émergence du concept de laïcité

  • Laïcité et sécularisation de la société française

  • La IIIe République et la loi de 1905

  • La laïcité dans l’empire colonial français

  • Nouvelle laïcité et controverses autour du voile

  • Laïcité et Islam

  • Laïcité identitaire et extrême droite

  • Laïcités dans le monde


Task Length % of module mark
Open Paper
N/A 60
Video presentation
N/A 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Open Paper
N/A 60
Video presentation
N/A 40

Module feedback

Formative assessment and feedback

  • Formative tasks done individually or in groups throughout the module

  • Feedback will include written comments and oral feedback during class discussions.

Summative assessment and feedback

Students will be given written feedback and marks for their work within the University mandated schedule.

Indicative reading

Baubérot, J. (2014) La laïcité falsifiée. Paris: La Découverte.

Baubérot, J. (2015) Les sept laïcités françaises: le modèle français de laïcité n’existe pas. Paris: Maison des sciences de l’homme.

Baubérot, J. (2020) Les laïcités dans le monde. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France / Humensis.

Cadène, N. (2016) 50 notions clés sur la laïcité pour les nuls. Paris: First.

Khan, P. (2005) La laïcité. Idées recues. Paris: La Découverte

Kintzler, C. (2014) Penser la laïcité. Paris: Minerve

La Morena, F. (2019) Laïcité: une question de frontière(s). Paris: Lexis Nexis

Oubrou, T. (2021) Quelle place pour l’islam dans la république. Paris: First.

Raynaud, P. (2019) La laïcité: histoire d’une singularité française. Paris: Gallimard

Régis, D. et Leschi, D. (2016) La laïcité au quotidien: guide pratique. Paris: Gallimard

Zuber, V. (2017) La laïcité en France et dans le monde. Paris: La Documentation française

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.