Erik Bleich

Erik Bleich

dates de séjour

15/09/2014 - 15/07/2015


Sciences politiques

Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

Middlebury College (États-Unis)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Restricting Racist Speech in France : How Courts Draw the Line Between Free Speech and Hate Speech

Hate speech laws are highly controversial in liberal democracies, but we know little about the effect of these laws in practice. Are hate speech laws blunt tools for repressing controversial statements, have they largely failed to enforce provisions against egregious racist speech, or are they carefully-calibrated checks on harmful discourse? My project addresses this question through a systematic study of court cases in France. By assembling and analyzing each complaint of racist speech brought at the tribunal and appellate court level in the Paris region, and at Cour de Cassation level, it examines in detail how courts have applied France’s laws against racist hate speech. This project aims to shed light on the role that courts play in translating controversial hate speech laws into real-world rules about what citizens can and cannot say. It will also help us assess the merits of philosophical, legal, and political arguments that support or oppose the use of hate speech laws in liberal democracies.


Erik Bleich joined the Political Science department of Middlebury College in the fall of 1999 after receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has served as Director of European Studies and Director of International Politics & Economics, and is currently Professor of Political Science. His most recent book, The Freedom to Be Racist? How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism (Oxford University Press, 2011), explores how the United States and European liberal democracies balance a desire to promote freedom with the goal of curbing racism, focusing on hard cases in which people use liberal democratic freedoms to propagate racism. His broader research interests revolve around the topics of race and ethnicity in West European politics. His first book, Race Politics in Britain and France: Ideas and Policymaking since the 1960s (Cambridge University Press, 2003) examines how theories of ideas and policymaking help explain different race policy outcomes in the two countries. Since that time, he has published on topics such as hate crimes, political violence, the status of Muslims, the concept of Islamophobia, ethnic riots, theories of immigration and integration, and the legacies of colonial history on contemporary policymaking. His articles have appeared in journals such as World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, the European Political Science Review, West European Politics, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Theory & Society. He has also edited and contributed to the book Muslims and the State in the Post-9/11 West (Routledge, 2010), and co-edited and contribued to the book Migrants, Minorities and the Media : Information, representations and Pariticpation in the Public Sphere (Routledge 2017). 


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