D3.2 Country Report | July 2021

Authors: Stephen W. Sawyer, Roman Zinigrad – The American University of Paris, Center for Critical Democracy Studies

This report traces the main trends of radicalisation in France by identifying three historical “hotspots”, which speak to the specificities of political, economic and cultural development and tensions that structure the French socio-political reality. “Hotspots” represent a culmination of general radicalisation trends and provide meaningful insights into their rise and expansion. Instances of radicalisation qualify as “hotspots” for the purpose of WP3.2 only if these are (1) premeditated (and potentially scalable acts) of (2) extremist violence (3) with significant duration that are (4) committed by radicalized individuals (5) linked to a radicalized milieu. The analysis of trends of radicalisation as they are reflected in the chosen case-studies consists of four principal stages.

In viewing these trends, the consortium experts are called to correlate the hotspots with macro, meso, and micro circumstances of the violent acts, outline the climate that facilitated them, and situate them on the injustice-grievance-alienationpolarisation (I-GAP) spectrum.

The three hotspots identified for the purposes of this report are characteristic of the current trends of extremist violence in France. They are representative products of their time, socio-political climate, networks, and, most importantly for the purposes of this report, of the motivations driving radicalised individuals to transform their convictions into violent action. The choice and investigation of the three case studies in this report account for the fact that drawing sweeping generalisations from one hotspot to a trend risk essentialising one incident of violence and mistaking an exception for the rule. Each of the hotspots analysed above reverberated widely in the mainstream and fringe media and remain embedded in the French public consciousness no less than in the collective memory of radical violent circles. They also had broad political, legal, and social implications.