Pr Romuald Fonkoua

Interview with the Director of the Lucien Paye Foundation

Tell us about your career and your arrival at the Cité internationale

I am a professor of French literature and Director of the International Centre for Francophone Studies at the Sorbonne, after having directed the Institute of French Literature at the University of Strasbourg and founded the Department of Letters at the University of Cergy-Pontoise (now Cergy Paris University). For a long time, my relations with the Cité internationale were almost non-existent. I remember participating in a conference there in the 1990s.

When I arrived at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris during the first quarter of this century, I was able to measure in concrete terms the history of relations between France and its former colonies in the field of education, and the importance that this place had for young Africans and West Indians between the 1930s (the generation of Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor) and the 1960s (the generation of Abdou Diouf). Their stay allowed them to discover each other in a place that has become mythical because it was a high place of education and culture, as well as a fruitful confrontation with all the other youths of the world (French, European and non-European).

What do you think makes the Cité internationale a unique campus in the world?

The Cité internationale universitaire de Paris is a unique place in the world because of the crossroads of all the young people of the world who transport there the stories of their peoples, their cultures and their civilisations. To paraphrase one of my favourite authors, the Martinique-born Édouard Glissant (who never lived at the Cité), they exchange there by exchanging without changing.

How does living in your house allow residents to have a different outlook on the world and how is it a springboard for their futures?

The Lucien Paye Foundation is one of the most mixed houses in the city. 55 nationalities live together in good understanding, conviviality and mutual respect. The circumstances linked to the worldwide development of the Covid-19 pandemic have shown that the Lucien Paye foundation can welcome all residents with respect and teach them the openness and dedication to others necessary for their future professional activity.

If you had to sum up the Cité internationale in one word, what would it be and why?

I would say two words: humanism and universalism.

Christophe Kerrero, Rector and president of the Foundation

Christophe Kerrero is an associate professor for modern literature, a master’s graduate in literature (University Paris C-Nanterre) and has a degree in advanced studies in modern literature (University Paris IV-Sorbonne) under the direction of Marc Fumaroli (Académie française). His career as a literature teacher, which began in 1991, led him to become a deputy headmaster at the lycée Pasteur à Neuilly-sur-Seine (2002-2007), then the Deputy Academy Inspector of the Seine-et-Marne (2007-2009). In 2009 he joined the office of the Ministry of National Education as the Technical Advisor for Cities, Priority Education and Sustainable Development. From 2010 to 2012 he was the Councillor to the Minister in charge of pedagogical affairs and equal opportunities.  In 2016 he became the General Director in charge of lycées in the Île-de-France region and then in 2017 he became the Chief of Staff to the Minister of National Education and Youth.