A Return to the Grandmother of Modern Activism

The Myth of the Larzac Struggle as the Symbol of French Collective Action


  • Janneke Drent




Collective Memory, Myth-making, Larzac Struggle, Grassroots Activism, Social Movement Audiences, Social Imaginary


From 1971 to 1981, a group of 103 farming families living on the French Larzac plateau united to protect their sheep farms and land from expropriation to create space for the planned extension of the nearby Larzac military camp. Five decades later, the name ‘Larzac’ still remains part of French collective memory as a symbol of local activism, directly contesting the legitimacy of nationwide centralised decision-making. This article analyses how the myth of the Larzac struggle as the grandmother of small-scale French collective action first emerged in French media coverage, as well as engagement by both the Larzac farmers and activists of the Occitan regionalist movement. It also shows how the continuous reappropriation of this myth has shaped other newer kinds of protest, as the memory of the Larzac is mobilised to speak to issues that are still relevant today, namely the protection of local regional identity and culture writ large.