Beyoncé successfully enters Normale-Sup

Entitled “Beyoncé: revivals and reappropriations”, the opening session of the ENS seminar is an opportunity to introduce several questions raised by the Queen B phenomenon. The singer, in March 2019, in Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 24, the public installed on the red seats of the Dussane room does not quite resemble those who usually frequent the corridors of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) on rue d’Ulm, in Paris. The majority of the young adults present are not pupils of the institution – or even students: one is a lawyer, the other works in a media agency, yet another for a cosmetics company. If the profiles are very diverse, almost all of them consider themselves first of all as fans of the singer Beyoncé. This is also the reason for their presence this evening: the idea that the prestigious school could devote a seminar to their idol piqued their curiosity.

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They are not the only ones: relayed by the general press as well as by influencers (like Marc Vivian Geromegnace, better known under the name of Marcus by the subscribers of Léna Situations), the announcement that the self-proclaimed queen of pop was going to be dubbed by the ENS made the buzz. The opening session of the student seminar, organized by Victor Kandelaft, Valentine Truchard and Joël Zouna, therefore attracts three times more people than an ordinary seminar. “I can’t wait to hear what they have to say on the subject”says Yelena before the start of the session, while a friend wonders if the fans will recognize themselves in the analyzes presented.

A Barthesian mythology

Entitled “Beyoncé: recoveries and reappropriations”, this opening session is an opportunity for the organizers and their first guest, the philosopher Richard Mèmeteau, to introduce several questions raised by the Queen B phenomenon. culturally and politically, rather than artistically: can Beyoncé be considered a Barthesian mythology of the 21st century?e century ? What is pop culture, what distinguishes it from mainstream, and who exactly is it for? Why is it so hard for the show’s drag queens RuPaul’s Drag Race, yet broken in the exercise, to parody the superstar? What does Beyoncé’s success say about today’s world? In an hour and a half, the presentation skilfully mixes registers, successively using Bourdieu and Madonna, TikTok videos and quotes from Susan Sontag, academic jargon and colloquial language, arousing both laughter and concentrated gazes in the room.

Many are those who, after the session of questions from the public, come to congratulate and thank the speakers. The young organizers finally breathe. Were they expecting this crowd? “We knew that the subject would attract audiences outside the school. We saw it as an opportunity to remind you that the Ecole Normale Supérieure is open to everyone, that you can attend a number of seminars there, and above all that knowledge has no limits”, explains Victor Kandelaft. The institution, temple of scholarly culture, has in fact opened up to other fields – its students distinguishing themselves precisely today by their ability to pass from one to the other –, but still struggles to attract and engage more socially diverse audiences. On the scale of this event, the objective seems to have been achieved: several listeners assure that they will come to attend the following sessions, which will address the themes of Afro-feminism and cultural appropriation. For school, taking Beyoncé seriously might have paid off.

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