2017 was my first year not working a full-time journalism job since I graduated from college. And when I started my history masters’ program in Paris last fall, I originally thought of it as the first step of a transition toward academia. I’d soon be devoted to my thesis, I told myself, and with little time to read about anything not related to my research. This did not last long.
The election of Trump felt downright apocalyptic. The morning after, I was working as an in-person translator for a long feature in a major American magazine. The French interview subject, more amused than distressed about the turn of events, was trying to make conversation about it: “Wow!” “I can’t believe it really happened, huh?!” “What do you think’s gonna happen next?” I felt embarrassed, anxious, vaguely ill, and, above all, powerless — not just stuck in whatever Ivory Tower I thought to have had foolishly and irrevocably entered, but also literally 3,000 miles away from the action. It seemed sort of absurd to be studying history abroad when real history was happening where I grew up.
I didn’t abandon my masters’. But with the presidential elections in France approaching in April 2017, I felt more compelled than ever to write. Next to the U.S., it’s the country I know best — and of which I’m also proud and fortunate enough to be a citizen. The political parallels already draw themselves during ordinary times, but they were especially acute this year: The presence of a populist far-right, a resurgent social-democratic left and the necessity of neoliberal forces to redefine and reinvent themselves under duress defines our collective moment.
Journalism is essential to political struggle. And I wanted to do my part. So while the world arguably got shittier in 2017, I tried to stay productive for my part. I think I was successful. Thanks in no small part to my various editors, I gradually left my comfort zone and took on pieces in a range of formats. Here are my favorites:
What began as a review of a memoir from an under-appreciated gay French socialist turned into a longer reflection on his life and why his politics remain relevant today.
Before his victory, I tried to unpack Emmanuel Macron’s phony outsider image as well as the dangers of his platform. I’ve since written similar pieces but this is the original!
In the heat of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s surge in the polls, I interviewed one of the candidate’s top advisers. It’s a lively and wide-ranging discussion in which Garrido lays out France Insoumise‘s view of populism, à la Mouffe and Laclau.
This is an old-fashioned labor story that features some unusual subjects.
I reviewed Gilles Kepel’s widely-applauded Terror in France for my favorite left-wing Catholic magazine. I was a little more critical than most reviewers in the States.
Along with Benjamin Lesire-Ogrel, I discovered the harrowing world inhabited by Moroccan journalists who refuse to sell out to the regime.
Stay tuned! I have a new piece I’m working on that I’m excited to publish soon. Happy Holidays.