The Explosion

A conversation exploring oral testimonies from the May '68 uprising and its aftermath


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions


Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce The Explosion, a conversation exploring oral testimonies from the May '68 uprising and its aftermath, featuring writer and translator Mitchell Abidor in dialogue with Jean-Michel Rabaté, curator of discursive programs at Slought. The event will take place on Tuesday, April 17 from 6-7:30pm.

The upheavals that shook France in May 1968 were exciting, dangerous, creative and influential, changing European politics to this day. Students demonstrated, workers went on general strike, factories and universities were occupied. At the height of its fervor, the movement brought the entire national economy to a halt. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution. As we approach the 50th anniversary, Abidor and Rabaté will revisit these momentous actions as documented in May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising (Pluto Press, London, 2018), a forthcoming collection of interviews with twenty-one witnesses.

Abidor's May Made Me provides eye-opening oral testimonies of the rebels. By listening to the voices of students and workers, as opposed to that of their leaders, May '68 appears not just as a mass event, but rather as an event driven by millions of individuals, achieving a mosaic human portrait of France at the time. The discussion will also engage how these explosive experiences changed both those who took part and the course of history.

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Mitchell Abidor is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. He has translated texts from French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Esperanto for the Marxists Internet Archive and has published numerous books, including Voices of the Paris Commune and Death to Bourgeois Society: The Propagandists of the Deed.

Jean-Michel Rabaté is a curator at Slought Foundation and a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

"What struck me when workers went to the university faculty was how they discussed how we were going to construct a new society, what it was going to be. What would self-management mean, how would it be done. We discussed the war in Vietnam, and the black protest movement in the US excited an enormous number of people. All these themes were discussed. There was a dream-like side to it, a resemblance to the Paris Commune in the sense that nothing was settled, and even though de Gaulle was not gone we had already moved on to the future society."

— José Chatroussat, Rouen