Versions and Variations of “What is Paris Noir?”

The entire Paris Noir cohort after their last class on July 21st.

The entire Paris Noir cohort after their last class on July 21st.

In the Cafe de Flore, the same cafe James Baldwin wrote Go Tell It On The Mountain, sits four students from the SU Paris Noir program. Last week was their final week of their study abroad excursion as they explored versions and variations of the theme “what is paris noir?”

“Paris Noir is understanding and analyzing differences, language, history, translation and borders,” says C’Ara McCrea, Sports Management and Accounting major at Syracuse University. The students had the opportunity to use the 20 arrondissements of Paris as their classroom as they explored and questioned spaces. For example, Morehouse College student Casey Jones mentioned his thoughts on the Champs Elysses and how he questioned whose history was being told along the avenue.

UnknownCheyenne Cheathem, Broadcast and Digital journalism student at Syracuse University, said, “we were able to see parts of Paris that weren’t the traditional parts. I never felt like a tourist in Paris, but more like a student; someone who was really learning and embracing the culture instead of just consuming the culture.” Navigating the 20 arrondissements allowed them to form their own questions and opinions of spaces and sites of memory.

The most important take away the students received from the program was the idea of the return and their symbols of survival. Priscilla Azaglo says, “When we arrived in Paris, each of us were challenged in different ways. So as we begin to return home, we have to think about what we plan on doing for our communities to challenge others.” The students have to consider how they will translate their experience across borders.

While the program has concluded, “Paris Noir is [still] on the move!”

On Becoming Paris Noir

Paris Noir students

Paris Noir students Bodeline Dautruche, Callie Bass, Camilla Bell, Courtney Garvin, Imani Shaw, and Jaye Harris

The students on the SU Abroad summer program “Paris Noir” are closing out on the first part of the program, “On Becoming Paris Noir,” and diving into the complexities of “What is Paris Noir? Versions and Variations on the Theme.” In honoring the jazz framework, I conversed with six of the students at the Jardin du Luxembourg to get their perspective of “On Becoming Paris Noir.” What they ‘played’ back to me, were three amazing themes…

Home is a not a place, but yet a concept

“I have used the ‘on your own’ portion of the program to get lost in a sense, to learn how to truly become Paris and to make the city my home.” – Bodeline Dautruche

Camilla Bell, a sociology of education graduate student, said, “On becoming Paris Noir is a cultural immersion. As the syllabus says, you are not just here as a tourist but you are a student immersed into the culture(s) of Paris and that is the essence of the program.” Camilla’s roommate, Jaye Harris, echoed her sentiments. Jaye Harris grew up in Paris and she finds herself re-exploring what she called home. “Paris has been one of the longest places I have ever lived and I was sheltered in the area I was raised. There is so much more to Paris than the corner I am used to, and I’m excited to explore home much more.”

Language matters and what is identity?

“The whole idea of race is completely shaken from what I’m used to back at home. It’s not only about learning about your culture, but the melting pot that is this Diaspora.” – Courtney Garvin

Paris Noir

Paris Noir students visit Sadio Bee, a Senegalese fashion designer

“Coming into week two, I’ve thought more about identity and placement. Going halfway around the world and seeing how identity plays a different role, makes me think about my placement in the world,” says Bodeline Dautruche, a junior African American Studies major. The program uses the city as the classroom for students to explore identity, language, and placement. What they find are different variations of ‘race’ and identity. Callie Bass is a dual major in African American and Child & Family Studies and she, too, looks at the concept of ‘race’ differently. “Coming from the United States, we’re more consciously aware of race. Here, race is subtle. While the concept may still be present, it isn’t as present as it would be in the US.”

Cultural and Social Immersion

“We’ve learned about literature, art, fashion and more. Those different areas of knowledge is necessary to become ‘Paris Noir’.” – Imani Shaw

At Cafe de Flore with author Jake Lamar

At Cafe de Flore with author Jake Lamar

With the different aspects of the program, students have come into their own and realized what it means to be culturally and socially immersed into Paris. “The visit to the Louvre has been my favorite part of the program thus far. Learning about different time periods and what they believed to be important during that time period,” says Imani. The museum visits are a learning experiment, as the students look at art and history through a different lens. This can also be said about the restaurant visits. “Visiting the different restaurants and seeing how things are at a much slower pace has been my favorite part. Here you have time to converse with the people you are eating with,” says Courtney. The weekly group dinners throughout the program have afforded the students the opportunity to understand that dining out isn’t a necessity, but a cultural and social part of daily life.

These six students, along with their classmates, have taken the concepts of the course and have applied it to everyday living in the city. As they enter into the next stage of the program, these concepts will become more complex. Camilla eloquently said, “In the beginning we have this perception of what becoming Paris Noir is and I think it will be interesting to see how in the last couple of weeks the notion of Paris Noir will become more complex. It will be interesting to see how Dr. Mayes will weave the last three weeks together to get a deeper perspective, or even different lens, of Paris Noir.”