He is one of the new faces of the Borne government. Historian Pap Ndiaye was appointed Minister of National Education and Youth on Friday May 20, announced the Secretary General of the Elysee Palace, Alexis Kohler, replacing Jean-Michel Blanquer who remained on rue de Grenelle for five years. The school is presented as one of the three major projects of Emmanuel Macron’s new five-year term.

This 55-year-old French academic, specialist in the social history of the United States and minorities was until now at the head of the French National Museum of the History of Immigration. In the spring of 2021, he was appointed to this position by Emmanuel Macron who was calling for new blood. Worried about the identity tensions that have been rising in France in recent years, the Head of State was looking for a place, and a person, to calm the debate. “A year before the presidential election, the president wanted a symbolic change at the museum, explained to World, Mercedes Erra, co-founder of the communication agency BETC and president of the board of directors of the Palais de la Porte-Dorée, in June 2021 A media director, peacemaker, who would come out of the conservatives’ seraglio. »

According to sociologist Michel Wieviorka, the reality would be very political: “The head of state wanted to send a political signal to counterbalance the positions of ministers Jean-Michel Blanquer [education], Frédérique Vidal [higher education] and Gérald Darmanin [interior] . All three have notably denounced in recent months the “ravaging Islamo-leftism”.

Master of his emotions

In early February 2021, when Frédérique Vidal sparked the controversy over “Islamo-leftism” at university, Pap Ndiaye sensed the danger. But “I had the obligation to intervene, otherwise I would lose all credibility”, he explained to Le Monde in 2021. On France Inter, he took his softest voice to strike: “This term of Islamo-leftism does not designate any reality at the university. What strikes me above all is the degree of ignorance of the political world of the research that is carried out at the university in the social sciences and the humanities. »

Perfectly in control of his emotions, the brother of Marie NDiaye, winner of the Femina and Goncourt awards, also knows how to frame those of others. Valentine Umansky, curator of the Tate Modern in London, who knew him as a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), never heard him raise his voice: “He never goes into conflict, even with the hottest people, it’s disarming in every sense of the word. »

Since he wrote La Condition noire (Calmann-Lévy) in 2008, the first notorious study of French-style black studies, Pap Ndiaye’s popularity has risen among politicians, reassured by his side detached from the struggle between races and class struggle. They have also seen it at work in cultural institutions. In 2019, the Musée d’Orsay included him in the scientific committee of the exhibition “The Black Model, from Géricault to Matisse”, great success of the year. His models are saxophonists, writers – Aimé Césaire, the poet of negritude, is his idol.