Ecology, inequality, and climate politics: the case of France and the Yellow Vest movement (les Gilets Jaunes)

PhD fellow Ingeborg Misje Bergem and visiting professors Erik Neveu and Olivier Baisnée present current research and theorization on ecology as a political issue in France and on the Yellow Vest movement.

In 2018, protests against increased gasoline prices in France quickly birthed a new social movement entitled Les Gilets Jaunes – or, the Yellow Vests. This political measure was a part of President Macron’s “ecological transition”. While rooted in demands to lower gasoline prices, the movement quickly became a general opposition to the French government’s general tax, energy, and wage policies. Many scholars and politicians found it hard to classify the movement according to conventional political scales – while rooted in a loose working-class subjectivity generally associated with the Left, it was also placed in tension with environmentalist movements, with some elements of the movement bearing affinity with right-wing perspectives. Whatever its ideological orientation, the movement quickly became a social, political, and cultural phenomenon across the West, and has been called the largest social movement in France since May 68. It spawned several offshoots and instigated large-scale blockades and demonstrations which occasionally turned violent. In this seminar, three scholars address the following questions: How has ecology been treated as a political problem in France in the years since 1968? What does the Yellow Vest movement mean for overarching political conflicts on ecology, energy, climate, class, and inequality? And what place did police violence and online activism have during the Yellow Vest movement?

The Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages (ILOS), in cooperation with the seminar group SMOKE (Sosial mobilisering og klimaendring) at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography (ISS), invite all interested in social movements and French politics to a seminar which will address these questions. Ingeborg Misje Bergem, PhD research fellow at ILOS (HF), Erik Neveu, professor emeritus in sociology at the University of Rennes, and Olivier Baisnée, associate professor at Sciences Po Toulouse, will each present a short paper, followed by audience questions and discussions. 

The seminar is open to the public, and is organized in connection with Ingeborg Misje Bergem’s midway assessment. The seminar will be held in English.



Erik Ludvig Sunnemark, ISS

Kjerstin Aukrust, associate professor in French literature and area studies, UiO (moderator)



Erik Neveu

How did ecology become a public and political problem in France? 1970-2020


Ingeborg Misje Bergem

Ecology, inequality and the Yellow vest movement


Olivier Baisnée

Bearing witness of police violence: online activism during the YVM



General round of discussion



Questions from the audience

Tags: Social movements, Inequality, Climate, PhD
Published May 20, 2022 2:50 PM - Last modified May 20, 2022 2:50 PM