The Night of Ideas 2021 at the Collège de France, in partnership with RFI

The 6th edition of the Night of ideas will be held on Thursday, January 28, 2021 on the theme “Close”.

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Text by: RFI Follow

6 min

The Collège de France, in partnership with Radio France internationale, is once again participating in 2021 in the Night of Ideas, presented by the Institut français.

On January 28, live and on video on RFI from 8:10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Paris time) from the Marguerite de Navarre amphitheater of the Collège de France, three round tables hosted by RFI journalists.

Assane Diop, Caroline Lachowsky and Pascal Paradou explore the theme of the 2021 edition of the Night of ideas: loved ones. 


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From whom, to what can we say "close" in this year when the term distancing has imposed itself on everyone, on all continents?

We immediately think of the urgency of rapprochement, of new solidarities to be reestablished or created in the face of divisions of all kinds, and of the ideas and tools necessary for this, in order to counterbalance the dissolution of ties and the withdrawal. individualist or nationalist.

But this requirement must be accompanied by a reflection on the very idea of ​​distance, on its perceptual, cognitive and mathematical foundations, on its extraordinary use, both theoretical and practical, in the multiplication of the maps which cover our world. borders and limits but also allow us to model it, to understand it and to act on it.

Finally, it remains to be seen whether there exists, in the relationship to oneself, to others, to objects and to the cultures of the world, a "good distance", a point of view that is neither too distant nor too close, and of where they could be better understood, appreciated, loved?

This question is also imposed on researchers, journalists, cultural passers-by, and all those whose job is to create mediations, to build links for a common world where differences are articulated more than they are. 'oppose.  



1. Who is my neighbor? 

8:10 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Fraternity, hospitality, solidarity: crises of all kinds weaken these ideals.

The figure of the neighbor, the one to whom we owe mutual aid and assistance in the name of our common humanity, is blurred by new barriers: individual selfishness, questioning of family and intergenerational ties, difficulties in "forming society", nationalist withdrawal, crisis multilateralism… Everyone prefers their "island in the street", to use the expression of the American sociologist Martin Sanchez-Jankowski.

Faced with this apparent erosion of solidarity, what value does the notion of neighbor still have for us?

In this age of globalization, are there concrete ways for the “islands” to come together into an archipelago?

So that my neighbor is not only the one who resembles me more or less, but the one in whom I recognize the identity of our condition?  

The Night of Ideas: Who is my neighbor?

Journalist moderator:

 Assane Diop


Samantha Besson,

lawyer, specialist in public international law and European law,

professor at the Collège de France on the chair "International law of institutions" 



sociologist and demographer,

professor at the Collège de France on the “Migrations and society” chair. 



, Franco-Senegalese entrepreneur and president of the Africa Committee of Medef International.  



, General Delegate of Emmaus international. 

2. Which maps for which distances?

9:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

How to measure and represent distances?

Their apprehension is first of all a perceptual and cognitive faculty that we share with other animals, whose extraordinary orientation capacities constitute the biological basis of our ideas of territory or border.

Beyond that, mathematics has made it possible to develop a representation and an advanced understanding of space and flows, a geography and increasingly precise maps of reality, up to describing the structure of the universe.

How do all these maps of different kinds fit together to open up the field of our knowledge?

What do they say about us, our appetite for knowledge and the tools we have designed to understand the world, from near to far?  

The Night of Ideas: Which maps for which distances?

Journalist moderator:

 Caroline Lachowsky


Françoise Combes


 astrophysicist, professor at the Collège de France on the “Galaxies and cosmology” chair, researcher at the Paris Observatory.  

Christian Grataloup, 

geohistorian, professor emeritus at Paris Diderot University. 

Sabrina Krief, 

veterinarian and ecologist, specialist in great apes, professor at the National Museum of Natural History. 




professor at the Collège de France on the “Data Sciences” chair. 

3. Is 

there a good distance? 


Getting away sometimes allows you to get closer.

In these times of pandemic and social distancing, the right distance is a metric, but also a scientific and critical issue.

In human sciences as in experimental sciences, the position of the observer supposes to detach oneself, to move away as one looks at a work of art, to have the overall view without losing the detail.

To see well, to see better, the gap is necessary and always paradoxical: distance from fiction to form a body, from the scientific researcher in order to provide better care, from history to apprehend the present and to better account for the living.

The debate between cultural appropriation and interbreeding also illustrates the Rimbaldian aphorism "I is another".

The Night of Ideas: Is there a good distance?

Journalist moderator:

 Pascal Paradou


N'Goné Fall, 

curator and consultant in cultural engineering, general curator of Africa 2020. 

William Marx

, writer, essayist, critic and historian of literature, professor at the Collège de France on the “Comparative Literatures” chair. 

Olivia Rosenthal, 

writer, playwright and performer, co-director of the master's degree in literary creation at the University of Paris 8. 

Hugues de Thé


 doctor and biologist, professor at the Collège de France on the “Cellular and molecular oncology” chair. 

►Full program of the

Night of ideas here

►Site of the Collège de France:

► Institut français website:


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