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On Duty: The Aftershock of Police Violence in France


Professor Anna-Louise Milne’s work on the Co-Duties project explores historical debates on ‘rights versus duties’, namely in the context of actions of insubordination during the Algerian War, and in discourses of ‘duty’ in support of undocumented and displaced people. Her recent post considers contemporary configurations of ‘duty’ in the wake of police violence in France.

Police on duty in France

Professor Anna-Louise Milne is currently dedicating a period of research leave to the Co-Duties project, based at the Peace Research Institute Oslo and funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Her current work for the project is divided between two main objectives:  one, an exploration of the historical precedents for debates distinguishing and prioritizing ‘rights versus duties’, particularly in the context of actions of insubordination during the Algerian War; two, and the project of ‘listening for difference’ in how discourses of ‘duty’ may today be playing a role in current forms of civil disobedience in support of undocumented and displaced people, re-routing efforts to secure ‘rights’ to asylum and safe passage in the name of a duty of solidarity.

The fatal shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in Paris triggered widespread riots in France, with profound consequences. Initially, there was public support for police reform, but it shifted to outrage over property damage and calls for law and order. President Macron's emphasis on duty and obedience diverted attention from police accountability. The post suggests that contemporary political renewal lies in the evolution of the concept of duty, combining obligation with effectiveness and localized action to address deep-seated issues.