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French lecture explores the politics of walls and barriers

- September 26, 2014

Keynote speaker Alexandra Novosseloff (left) with Dal Political Science prof Ruben Zaiotti take part in a panel discussion. (Ariane Hanlon photo)

Building a wall is never the way to achieve one’s goals.

This was the message shared by Alexandra Novosseloff, author of Des Murs Entre les Hommes (“Walls Between Men”) as she addressed a large audience of French-speaking Nova Scotians last Friday at Halifax's Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Dr. Novosseloff spoke about political, territorial and security walls as part of the Royal Society of Canada's Open Academy series called “Enjeux de la Mondialisation,” or “the Stakes of Globalization” Also participating in the public debate which followed the talk was Ruben Zaiotti of Dalhousie’s Department of Political Science, as well as Marc Doucet from Saint Mary’s University. They contributed to the topic by addressing the similarities between the ideas of borders and walls, but also how they act in opposition of one another.

Dalhousie's Department of French and Saint Mary’s were two of the event’s sponsors, along with the University of King’s College Interdisciplinary Studies Department, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the Royal Society of Canada, the Community Counsel of Grand-Havre, Francophone Immigration, and the French Alliance.

Conducted entirely in French, the event was a wonderful opportunity for Nova Scotia’s French speaking population to participate without any level of language barrier.  It was a pleasure to hear a variety of dialects swirling around the room as this clearly close-knit community mingled upon entering.

Creating (and breaking down) barriers

Dr. Novosseloff spoke in the context of this year being the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, she said, there are more political walls in the world than there were at the moment the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Amongst these are the Berm in the Sahara, the Frontier Wall between the USA and Mexico, the Israeli West Bank barrier, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. She went on to say that while some of these walls were literal and others figurative, they all failed to accomplish their goals and the all engendered animosity between the “good” side of the wall and the “bad” side of the wall.

As the floor opened up to debate, it was clear that some people agreed with Dr. Novosseloff’s assessments, others disagreed, with still others eager to learn more. Dr. Doucet and Dr. Zaiotti were very helpful in placing issues into context and offering comparisons between walls and friendly borders. Many people spoke passionately about their opinions, while others just asked questions.

The event was, overall, one of great liveliness and educational value. “The importance of holding events such as this one in French is immeasurable” one woman told me in French as we wandered out. It was quite clear that the French-speaking community of Halifax and Nova Scotia was grateful to be able to experience such a charismatic speaker and academic who was speaking to them in their own mother tongue.


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