Few events in the French twentieth century have been as richly commemorated as May ’68. May’s fiftieth anniversary in 2018 provoked a veritable commemorative frenzy, with five major exhibitions in the Paris region alone. These shows were accompanied by new books by leading French scholars, re-editions of classic texts, commemorative magazines, an online exhibit at the Nanterre campus of the Université de Paris, and two outdoor poster displays in central Paris. This illustrated talk examines the capital’s fiftieth anniversary exhibitions on May ‘68 in the context of recent scholarship on the event and its commemorative history, as well as on 1960s youth. It pays particular attention to the shows mounted by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Archives nationales, and the municipality of Paris, the last of which aestheticized the events and ended by funneling visitors into a shop selling May-themed souvenirs, including commemorative paving stones priced at 280 or 380 euros.
Susan Whitney is Associate Professor of History at Carleton University, where she also served as Associate Dean (Undergraduate Affairs) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2008 to 2011 and 2015 to 2017. An historian of youth, she is the author of Mobilizing Youth: Communists and Catholics in Interwar France (Duke, 2009). She is preparing a chapter on 1960s youth culture for the Routledge Handbook of French History and has a chapter in A Cultural History of Youth in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). In 2018, Professor Whitney received Carleton’s Graduate Mentoring Award for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.