Notice

Responsibility | Responsibility | Occurs when a person speaks in another’s name or place. This can include more or less legitimate ways of speaking on behalf of another, presenting oneself as representative of a group or social category, or even of appropriating another’s speech.

Who exactly is speaking when we speak? Who do we make speak for us? One can hear a surprising variety of enunciative positions in Jacques Chirac’s 2007 speech marking the end of his term: President, citizen, government, Chirac the man, even the People of France. This collection of examples of responsibility seeks to understand the ways in which different bodies (individual, collective, symbolic) can be contained, implied in, or suggested by a given instance of speech.

We have identified three main types of relationships that a speaker can have with these bodies or labels: speaking in someone’s name (representation), speaking as something (belonging), and speaking for someone or something (substitution).

Representation

Responsibility can take the form of representation, that is to say, speaking “in X’s name.” A speaker can state the body they are speaking for by virtue of an explicit relationship that has been established between them: I am legitimately qualified to represent someone else speaking. This leads us to ask about the modes of legitimation that underpin such a relationship (a mandate, the law, a vote, experience), or in other words, the conditions that have been assembled to make this taking up of responsibility intelligible, fair, indisputable, etc.

The French president’s function gives the person expressing themselves the ability to speak in the name of the people. Thus, when Nicolas Sarkozy gives Dany Boon the Legion of Honor, he says: “Today all of France thanks you, Dany…” The whole of the French people is implied behind the presidential body: as president, I can speak in the name of the people (see also We are now the generation of the heart of the fight back).

On the other hand, in this speech given at the first Conference of Black Writers and Artists held at the Sorbonne in 1956, Aimé Césaire clearly delimits the responsibility of the “we” he is speaking for and about (Black intellectuals): he refrains from extending this responsibility to that of representing or speaking for the whole of the people (see also Répressif, Je vis moi aussi, I want to report a fight, Au nom de Dieu, and Chokolomo chokolomo). Yet, in her 2012 presidential campaign, Eva Joly maintains her belonging to a specific social category all while aspiring to represent an entire people.

Belonging

There can be different relationships of belonging, that is to say different forms of responsibility when speaking “as X.” I speak as (I belong to the category of) a woman, worker, poet, resistance fighter, Black, American democrat, etc. This strategy allows one to orient how one’s discourse is received, to specify its implications in a given context, but it does not constitute a form of responsibility as such: I am not necessarily speaking in the name of the category I belong to. However, it is still easy to shift this presentation (of oneself) toward a form of representation (of the category I am a member of), as can be heard in Daniel Balavoine’s speech to François Mitterand. One can hear the same type of shift in this electoral message by Arlette Laguiller, or even more spectacularly (“we are” = “they are” = “all of France”) in this commentary of France’s 1998 World Cup victory (see also Ça fait dix ans…, Ce que nous défendons, and You must change your ways).

The act of speaking as X establishes a potentially controversial relationship with the act of speaking as this X. This form of responsibility’s legitimacy can be an object of controversy, as in this talk show excerpt; or it can be something to handle with caution, like the fact that Emmanuelle Béart, invited to speak on television as a witness to the expulsion of undocumented migrants from the Saint-Bernard Church in 1996, prefaces her speech by saying “I am here as a woman,” bringing an unexpected category to the forefront of the discussion, given what she usually represents on television—an actress (see also J’ai des positions politiques or Il n’y a que des faux témoins).

Substitution

Another possible relationship is one of substitution, or one of appropriation that has been more or less consented to. One does not only speak as or in the name of another, but instead of them. My speech stands for the speech of another; I am a place-holder; I speak in people’s places. This can be heard with the girls from the film L’Esquive, or here when Claude Levi-Strauss speaks of a colleague’s moods, or even when Angelo Badalamenti tells the story of the birth of the Twin Peaks soundtrack (see also Il est tombé assez amoureux, En plus i s’fout d’ma gueule, La pomponnette, and Baguette de merde).

In this interview, Malcolm X speaks not only in the name of Black people or as a Black person but, oddly, in the name of the category of slaves, to which he claims to belong: “The same slave master who owned us put his last name on us to denote his property.” He thus takes on the legacy of slavery and its responsibility to such a degree that it becomes a form of identification: he is literally speaking for slaves here—that is, in their place—to the extent that they do not have (or never had) the right to speak.

It is indeed to illustrate her advice that this media coach pretends she is quoting her dining companion. Speaking for others is a widespread practice among politicians, especially during election night, when they use simple numbers to deduce that all kinds of things have been said by voters. Comedian Christophe Alévêque plays with this very form of deception by pretending to extract one voice from a range of very different opinions.

This form of substitution can take place during the process of copying something (see La pomme-frite classique or C’est gentil d’accepter de me parler). But quoting someone can also fall within this category, as here with Jacques Lacan, who is ordered by the person interviewing him to specify what kind of responsibility he feels for what he has just said in Freud’s place.

When the person whose voice we are appropriating is present, substitution can appear to be violent: such is the case when Arletty speaks to his employee Martha all while speaking for her, or when Michel Drucker retranslates what Serge Gainsbourg has said to Whitney Houston from English to English. In an even more twisted example, we can hear Jacques Martin compelling a child to act by pretending to speak to the public (“This young man who will take the stage without me telling him to is Jean-Sébastien”) then hear the stubborn refutation of the person whose actions he intends to predict.

In certain cases, the limit between two subjects, the person speaking and the person being spoken for, can become blurry. Substitution tends toward identification. Such is the case in this relaxation recording aimed for children about to fall asleep. It is definitely the case with people possessed by demons, as can be heard in certain certified recordings. It might also be the case with this Britney Spears fan on YouTube who does not speak in the singer’s name (as her agent, friend, or lawyer might do) but literally in her place, caught in an intense process of empathy and identification which (truly or falsely) flirts with schizophrenic behavior. But who is speaking, for and about whom, in this marabout’s advertisement written in the third person?

Occurs when a person speaks in another’s name or place. This can include more or less legitimate ways of speaking on behalf of another, presenting oneself as representative of a group or social category, or even of appropriating another’s speech.

Who exactly is speaking when we speak? Who do we make speak for us? One can hear a surprising variety of enunciative positions in Jacques Chirac’s 2007 speech marking the end of his term: President, citizen, government, Chirac the man, even the People of France. This collection of examples of responsibility seeks to understand the ways in which different bodies (individual, collective, symbolic) can be contained, implied in, or suggested by a given instance of speech.

We have identified three main types of relationships that a speaker can have with these bodies or labels: speaking in someone’s name (representation), speaking as something (belonging), and speaking for someone or something (substitution).

Representation

Responsibility can take the form of representation, that is to say, speaking “in X’s name.” A speaker can state the body they are speaking for by virtue of an explicit relationship that has been established between them: I am legitimately qualified to represent someone else speaking. This leads us to ask about the modes of legitimation that underpin such a relationship (a mandate, the law, a vote, experience), or in other words, the conditions that have been assembled to make this taking up of responsibility intelligible, fair, indisputable, etc.

The French president’s function gives the person expressing themselves the ability to speak in the name of the people. Thus, when Nicolas Sarkozy gives Dany Boon the Legion of Honor, he says: “Today all of France thanks you, Dany…” The whole of the French people is implied behind the presidential body: as president, I can speak in the name of the people (see also We are now the generation of the heart of the fight back).

On the other hand, in this speech given at the first Conference of Black Writers and Artists held at the Sorbonne in 1956, Aimé Césaire clearly delimits the responsibility of the “we” he is speaking for and about (Black intellectuals): he refrains from extending this responsibility to that of representing or speaking for the whole of the people (see also Répressif, Je vis moi aussi, I want to report a fight, Au nom de Dieu, and Chokolomo chokolomo). Yet, in her 2012 presidential campaign, Eva Joly maintains her belonging to a specific social category all while aspiring to represent an entire people.

Belonging

There can be different relationships of belonging, that is to say different forms of responsibility when speaking “as X.” I speak as (I belong to the category of) a woman, worker, poet, resistance fighter, Black, American democrat, etc. This strategy allows one to orient how one’s discourse is received, to specify its implications in a given context, but it does not constitute a form of responsibility as such: I am not necessarily speaking in the name of the category I belong to. However, it is still easy to shift this presentation (of oneself) toward a form of representation (of the category I am a member of), as can be heard in Daniel Balavoine’s speech to François Mitterand. One can hear the same type of shift in this electoral message by Arlette Laguiller, or even more spectacularly (“we are” = “they are” = “all of France”) in this commentary of France’s 1998 World Cup victory (see also Ça fait dix ans…, Ce que nous défendons, and You must change your ways).

The act of speaking as X establishes a potentially controversial relationship with the act of speaking as this X. This form of responsibility’s legitimacy can be an object of controversy, as in this talk show excerpt; or it can be something to handle with caution, like the fact that Emmanuelle Béart, invited to speak on television as a witness to the expulsion of undocumented migrants from the Saint-Bernard Church in 1996, prefaces her speech by saying “I am here as a woman,” bringing an unexpected category to the forefront of the discussion, given what she usually represents on television—an actress (see also J’ai des positions politiques or Il n’y a que des faux témoins).

Substitution

Another possible relationship is one of substitution, or one of appropriation that has been more or less consented to. One does not only speak as or in the name of another, but instead of them. My speech stands for the speech of another; I am a place-holder; I speak in people’s places. This can be heard with the girls from the film L’Esquive, or here when Claude Levi-Strauss speaks of a colleague’s moods, or even when Angelo Badalamenti tells the story of the birth of the Twin Peaks soundtrack (see also Il est tombé assez amoureux, En plus i s’fout d’ma gueule, La pomponnette, and Baguette de merde).

In this interview, Malcolm X speaks not only in the name of Black people or as a Black person but, oddly, in the name of the category of slaves, to which he claims to belong: “The same slave master who owned us put his last name on us to denote his property.” He thus takes on the legacy of slavery and its responsibility to such a degree that it becomes a form of identification: he is literally speaking for slaves here—that is, in their place—to the extent that they do not have (or never had) the right to speak.

It is indeed to illustrate her advice that this media coach pretends she is quoting her dining companion. Speaking for others is a widespread practice among politicians, especially during election night, when they use simple numbers to deduce that all kinds of things have been said by voters. Comedian Christophe Alévêque plays with this very form of deception by pretending to extract one voice from a range of very different opinions.

This form of substitution can take place during the process of copying something (see La pomme-frite classique or C’est gentil d’accepter de me parler). But quoting someone can also fall within this category, as here with Jacques Lacan, who is ordered by the person interviewing him to specify what kind of responsibility he feels for what he has just said in Freud’s place.

When the person whose voice we are appropriating is present, substitution can appear to be violent: such is the case when Arletty speaks to his employee Martha all while speaking for her, or when Michel Drucker retranslates what Serge Gainsbourg has said to Whitney Houston from English to English. In an even more twisted example, we can hear Jacques Martin compelling a child to act by pretending to speak to the public (“This young man who will take the stage without me telling him to is Jean-Sébastien”) then hear the stubborn refutation of the person whose actions he intends to predict.

In certain cases, the limit between two subjects, the person speaking and the person being spoken for, can become blurry. Substitution tends toward identification. Such is the case in this relaxation recording aimed for children about to fall asleep. It is definitely the case with people possessed by demons, as can be heard in certain certified recordings. It might also be the case with this Britney Spears fan on YouTube who does not speak in the singer’s name (as her agent, friend, or lawyer might do) but literally in her place, caught in an intense process of empathy and identification which (truly or falsely) flirts with schizophrenic behavior. But who is speaking, for and about whom, in this marabout’s advertisement written in the third person?

Index
  • Arrête de faire le clown

    Doc Gynéco and Mustapha, excerpt of the show On n’est pas couché, France 2, 2007.

  • Au nom de Dieu

    Scene from a coronation, excerpt of the documentary Die Grosse Stille by Philip Gröning, 2006.

  • Avec une brutalité énorme

    Speech of a union leader after an action at the Ministry of Labor, 2019.

  • Baguette de merde

    Conversation with friends, personal recording by Pierre-Yves Macé, 2011.

  • Bonheur national brut

    Nicolas Sarkozy, excerpt of a speech giving Dany Boon the badges of the Legion of Honor, 2009.

  • C'est ça la réalité

    Emmanuel Macron, présentation du "Plan Banlieues" à l’Élysée, 2018

  • C'est ça qu'ils ont élu

    Marie-Georges Buffet, excerpt of an election night party, TF1, 2007.

  • C'est pas de moi, c'est René Char

    Nicolas Sarkozy, excerpt of a speech presenting the medals of the Legion of Honor to Dany Boon, 2009.

  • C'est quelqu'un qui euhm

    Ariane Dubillard on her father, France Culture, 2013.

  • Ce que nous défendons

    Interruption of the 8 o’clock news hour by the Group of Occasional and Precarious Workers, France 2, 2003.

  • Céleste n'oubliez pas

    Céleste Albaret, excerpt of the show Portrait souvenir, ORTF, 1962.

  • Champions du monde

    Eugène Saccomano, excerpt of commentary from the World Cup, Europe 1, 1998.

  • Chokolomo chokolomo

    Pastor Steve Foss, excerpt of the video 1-55 Revival Explosion of Power, the 2000s.

  • Cinq minutes d'expression

    Geoffroy Didier, excerpt of a speech at the LGBT meeting for equality, 2012.

  • D'abord je voudrais dire

    Emmanuelle Béart, excerpt of an interview for the France 2 news hour, 1996.

  • Deze vrouwen

    Excerpt from a belgian imam's preach, YouTube video, 2012.

  • En plus i s'fout d'ma gueule

    Thierry Roland and Jean-Michel Larqué, excerpt of an off-air discussion, 2000s.

  • Et ! le terrorisme

    Excerpt from a radicalization prevention training, personal recording, 2016.

  • Gagner la scène

    Jacques Martin, excerpt of the show L'École des fans, France 2, 1990s.

  • How do you take their energy ?

    Possessed child, excerpt from the recording Okkulte Stimmen, Recordings of Unseen Intelligences, 1905–2007.

     
  • I wanna report a fight

    Joe Brandon, excerpt of his plea at the Madden trial, 2012.

  • I was a typical Canadian

    Excerpt of a jihadist speech posted online, 2014.

  • If only this one is ours

    Danez Smith, public reading of his poem Dear White America, 2014.

  • Il est tombé assez amoureux

    Dominique Bagouet, excerpt of an interview for television, 1988.

  • Il était ch'timi

    Speech at a retirement celebration, excerpt of the film Chers camarades by Gérard Vidal, 2004.

  • Il n'y a que des faux témoins

    Paule Thévenin, excerpt of the documentary La Véritable Histoire d'Artaud le Momo by Gérard Mordillat and Jérome Prieur, 1993.

  • Je vis moi aussi

    Maître Rose-Marie Capitaine, excerpt of the documentary Cours d'assises, crimes et châtiments by Amal Moghaizel, 2008.

  • La balle ou la tasse

    Dialogue between a neuro-psychologist and her patient, excerpt from the documentary Journey to the center of the brain, France Culture, 2018.

  • La pomme-frite classique

    Claude Vega, excerpt of an impression of Louis de Funès, 1950s.

  • La Pomponnette

    Raimu, excerpt of the film La Femme du boulanger by Marcel Pagnol, 1938.

  • Le nègre il t'emmerde

    Audrey Pulvar, excerpt of the radio show A rebrousse poil', France Inter, 2010.

  • Leave Britney Alone

    Chris Crocker, excerpt of the video “Leave Britney alone,” posted on YouTube, 2007.

  • Les français sont étonnants

    Christophe Alévêque, excerpt of the show On n'est pas couché, France 2, 2007.

  • Les gens

    Hallway conversation, personal recording by Nicolas Rollet, 2010.

  • Les problèmes de la jeunesse

    Daniel Balavoine, François Mitterrand, excerpt of the Midi2 news hour, Antenne 2, 1980.

  • Lowie me disait

    Claude Levi-Strauss and Georges Charbonnier, excerpt of Grands Entretiens, France Culture, 1959.

  • Marthe

    Arletty, conversation taken from the recording Entretien avec Marc Laudelout, 1982.

  • Moi j'ai vu des chibanis pleurer

    Prise de parole d’un résident du foyer ADOMA, vidéo postée sur Facebook, 2015

  • My name is

    Malcom X, excerpt of the television show City Desk, 1963.

  • Notre rôle

    Aimé Césaire, excerpt of a speech to the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists, La Sorbonne, 1956.

  • On joue tous les ballons

    A rugby coach showing support before a game, 2008.

  • On nous déportait en masse

    Jean-Paul Sartre, extrait d'une lecture de l'article La République du silence, 1944.

  • Rebelle sans cause

    Doc Gynéco and Laurent Ruquier, excerpt of the show On n’est pas couché, France 2, 2007.

  • Répressif

    Roland Barthes, excerpt of Comment vivre ensemble, lecture at the Collège de France, 1976-1977.

  • She loves this country

    Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, excerpt from a debate at the Republican Party primaries, 2015.

  • Show me what you got

    Afida Turner, excerpt of the show Carré VIIIP, TF1, 2011.

  • That's beautiful, Angelo

    Angelo Badalamenti, excerpt of the documentary Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks by Charles de Lauzirika, 2007.

  • Va faire une carrière avec ça

    Nicolas Sarkozy, excerpt of a speech presenting the medals of the Legion of Honor to Dany Boon, 2009.

  • Vas-y, parle

    Sara Forestier, Sabrina Ouazani, Nanou Benhamou, Aurélie Ganito, excerpt of the film L'Esquive by Abdellatif Kechiche, 2004.

  • Venez voir Ouattara Akué

    Ouattara Akué, excerpt of a show on Radio Cocody, 2012.

  • We want change

    Barack Obama, excerpt of a speech in New Hampshire, 2008.

  • We will prevail

    George W. Bush, statement to the country, 2003.

  • What would he say ?

    Bill Clinton, excerpt of a speech in tribute to Martin Luther King, 1993.

  • You are superb

    Michel Drucker, Whitney Houston and Serge Gainsbourg, excerpt of the show Champs Elysées, Antenne 2, 1986.

  • You must change your ways

    Severn Suzuki, excerpt of a speech to the United Nations, 1992.

  • You will listen to my voice

    Excerpt of a recording for putting children to sleep, unknown source.

Et ! le terrorisme

Excerpt from a radicalization prevention training, personal recording, 2016.

Il était ch'timi

Speech at a retirement celebration, excerpt of the film Chers camarades by Gérard Vidal, 2004.