Azouz Begag [ France ]
Azouz Begag was born in Lyon in 1957 and is a well-known writer, sociologist, economist and politician. His parents emigrated from Algeria to France in 1949. Begag grew up in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, until his family moved to the historic centre of the city. He was the victim of racism and discrimination at school. In spite of his intention to return to Algeria, where he used to spend the summer with his brothers, he made up his mind when he was in his mid-twenties, and finally stayed in France. From 1980 on he was employed by the Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities in Lyon, and a scientist at the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), one of the biggest research centres in Europe. In 1984 Begag obtained his doctorate in economics at the Université Lyon 2. His thesis had the title »L’Immigré et sa ville« (tr.: The immigrant and his city), and discussed sociological studies on the mobility and identity of urban migrants. He became a visiting professor at Cornell University in the State of New York in 1988.
However, Azouz Begag, did not focus exclusively on his scientific work. In 1986, he published the autobiographical novel for young people »Le Gone du Chaâba« (1986; tr.: The kid from the shantytown), a detailed and humorous reflection of his memories as the child of a guest-worker, and a discussion on double identities and the difference between different migrant generations. The novel was awarded numerous prizes, and turned into a film in 1998. Begag has written more than two dozen children’s and youth books since, as well as novels, essays and non-fiction about cultural and political topics. He has always focused in particular on the issue of immigration and integration.
In 2004 he became a member of the Economic and Social Council. From 2005 to 2007 he was Associate Minister for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities under the then ruling Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Begag, the politician, has fought on all levels for diversity in society. In this context, he once said: »I have organized my cabinet accordingly. Its diversity is a mirror of France today.« Begag was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 2005 and received the Ordre national du Mérite in the same year. His most recent publication is the essay »C’est quand il y en a beaucoup~...« (2011; tr.: It’s when there is much of it…), which explores current dangers and problems of French contemporary society on the basis of his many years of experience as a sociologist and politician. Azouz Begag is also a sponsor of the NGO »Bibliothèques Sans Frontières« (tr.: Libraries without Frontiers), which struggles globally to open and support libraries. Begag lives in Paris.
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