Imen Neffati

Department of History

Research student


Thesis title: The Politics of Offence in Hara Kiri and Charlie Hebdo 1960-2015.




Thesis abstract:

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, this project will reassess anticlerical print culture and ideas of free speech in France.

My object of study is the anticlerical press, ranging from the journaux irresponsables — to use Charlie Hebdo's own formulation — through radical, satirical and mainstream journalistic forms that self-consciously used anticlerical discourse to challenge religious and political authority.

Expressing anticlerical humour in printed form, both textual and graphic, demonstrates its power to transgress, as in its capacity to visualise blasphemy.

Looking at the period from 1960 to January 2015, this project will explore how stock themes and images migrate across the anticlerical press, challenging contemporary boundaries of good taste and ideas of radical and moderate politics.

The project will focus on written and visual anticlerical polemic, in part to investigate the relationship between discursive or representational violence and actual physical violence.

The focus is on France as a country with an important anticlerical tradition with a majoritarian Catholic past and a multicultural present.

More commonly throughout Europe, the anticlerical position was in fact an anti-Catholic one and one principal research question is how Islam has been incorporated into the anticlerical lexicon: have the terms of the attack changed now they have an Islamic rather than a Catholic focus?

Other leading research questions will be how anticlerical culture has been both created and represented by the press and, in particular, how targeting religion has become emblematic of freedom of speech.

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2015 - present
  • MA Approches Hétérologiques du Monde Anglophone, Université de Perpignan, 2015
  • MA Crossways in Cultural Narratives, University of Sheffield, 2014
  • MA Women's Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, 2013
  • Fulbright FLTA, University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, 2012
  • BA English Literature, University of Tunis, 2006


Teaching activities
  • 6 years of EFL Teaching with the Ministry of Education in Tunisia.
  • 1 year of teaching Intermediate Arabic in University of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Publications and conferences

Conference and seminar papers:

  • 'Has Charlie Hebdo become Emblematic of Freedom of Speech', Media in Muslim Contexts Conference, Aga Khan University, (London 2016)
  • 'Is it possible to de-link the hate or fear against Muslims from racism against non-European people? Charlie Hebdo as a case study', Thinking Critically About Society Workshop, University of York (2016)
  • "The Nationalist Alibi: Muslim Woman Emancipation Under the Authoritarian Regime in Tunisia", The Language of Authoritarian Regimes Conference, University of Sheffield (2016)