Posted on February 12, 2014

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) recently hosted France’s former Minister of Culture, Mr. Jack Lang, who led a discussion titled “Culture, Policies, and Politics.”

The interactive event featured Mr. Lang as special guest and drew upon his extensive international experience as he gave an overview of current cultural initiatives in Qatar, and addressed issues of regional and international concern.

Mr. Lang said, “Qatar is producing leading research and has developed rapidly in education, health, culture, and architecture.” He described Qatar’s museums and the Qatar National Library as particularly impressive and meaningful developments.

Regarding regional cultural concerns, Mr. Lang talked about the significant destruction of artifacts and historic sites in Aleppo, Syria, but explained that archaeological items are not Syria’s only treasures. “Syria is a beautiful country,” Lang said.  “Its population is highly educated and now it is suffering. I commend the Arab world for its support of Syria’s displaced, particularly those countries hosting Syrian refugees.”

In politics, Mr. Lang addressed the important progress in Tunisia and Morocco: “The Arab Spring was born in Tunisia.  Its recent adoption of a constitution and media freedom are very democratic. If we look at Morocco, the move toward ethnic equality that occurred recently in regard to Berbers and other groups is desirable and socially important.”

France’s Former Culture Minister [qatarisbooming.com].jpg

During the question and answer period, Mr. Lang fielded a variety of questions. For instance, regarding the making of policy, Lubna Kayyali, executive assistant to the dean, asked if the presence of a strong immigrant community in France affected the way with which Mr. Lang shaped his educational policies.  Mr. Lang replied that it had but not to the extent that one sees in countries with successive waves of immigration, such as the United States.

GU-Q student Talal Al Na’ma (Class of 2015) asked Mr. Lang if culture is used, or can be used, as a political tool.  Mr. Lang said, “I am convinced of the diplomatic power of cultural initiatives.  Cultural power is as important as military power and economic power.”

Dean of GU-Q Gerd Nonneman said: “Mr. Lang is the epitome of the sort of combination of culture, academe, and politics that is all too rare and that, in our own way, we aim to foster here at Georgetown.  Indeed, I’d like to think he is the ideal guest for us: one of our claims to fame is that we are unique in offering a major in Culture and Politics, also known as CULP. As it happens, we also offer training in French--as one of the two languages other than English (Arabic being the other one). Given Qatar’s membership in La Francophonie, that is doubly appropriate!  So, Mr. Lang’s record as a long-time Minister, his iconic status in the French cultural scene, as well as his current role in leading France’s world-renowned Institut du Monde Arabe, make his insights and experience of particular interest to our institution and community.  GU-Q is honored to have the opportunity to host someone of his stature and achievement.” 

In addition to his previous role as Minister of Culture, Mr. Lang also served as France’s Minister of Education. He has held positions with the National Assembly of France and the European Parliament. He was the President of France’s special envoy to Cuba and to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In August 2010, Mr. Lang was appointed to the United Nations as special adviser on piracy, which involved his advising on the prosecution of Somali pirates.

Mr. Lang is president of the Arab World Institute (AWI), which is known in France as Institut du Monde Arabe.  AWI was established in Paris to research and disseminate information about the Arab world.

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