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American TV Show 'The Wire' Breaks Into French Academia

Following the lead from a 2010 Harvard course on urban inequality, a French university is turning to the gritty television show "The Wire" as a unique tool for dissecting what is wrong in American society.

Article illustrative image Partner logo (HBO)


PARIS - To delve into the topic of social inequality in the United States, a French university has turned to a slice of American popular culture: the HBO series The Wire.

 The critically acclaimed show, created by former journalist David Simon, had previously been the subject of a course at Harvard, but now will be used by students at Paris' University Nanterre La Défense to look in on American social ills from the outside.

From January 13 to June 1, several seminars will take place within the walls of the university, the latest tribute to the gritty realism of a series depicting the largely African-American, crime-plagued neighborhoods of Baltimore. The course will focus on subjects such as the American city, the representation of African Americans and the role of institutions as they are depicted in The Wire.

According to the Paris Nanterre University teachers responsible for this seminar, the series provides a "critical" perspective of urban life in the United States, and is "an effective tool for discussing"  the topic of life inside America’s poor neighborhoods. Not ones to shy away from self-criticism, the French professors will also ask why such a show does not exist in France, which has its own urban and racial conflict.

Indeed, this is not the first time the series pops up in the French public debate. Stephane Gatignon, the mayor of Sevran, a town in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, has repeatedly referred to The Wire as a way to back his plan to decriminalize selling drugs as a way to reduce gang violence. 

In September 2010, Harvard professors Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson used the series in their course on urban inequality in America. 


Read the full story in French in Le Monde

Photo - HBO

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.

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