What is French Talks?

Welcoming French and Malaysian experts, it aims at creating a space of dialogue, and a bridge between the two countries and their cultures. This is particularly timely in this new Malaysia where people are willing to express their views.

Organised by the Embassy of France in Malaysia and Alliance Française de Kuala Lumpur.

Talks conducted in English.

Upcoming French Talks in September

[French Talks] In Conversation With Shih Li-Kow: A Malaysian Book, A Success in France
Talk conducted in English 
Free entrance upon RSVP 
Monday 23 September, 8pm @ AFKL  

A Malaysian writing sensation! Her novel “The Sum of Our Follies” has won a top French literary award in 2018. The prize is called the "Prix du Premier Roman étranger"("First Novel Award, in the foreign category"). Shih-Li Kow came to light with her first book of short stories, “Ripples and other stories”, in 2009, which was immediately shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

A writer, literary translator and publisher. He has been living in Asia for the past 15 years and made Malaysia home 10 years ago. He founded and curates Lettres de Malaisie, a French-language webzine dedicated to literature from and about Malaysia. In 2015 he launched Editions Jentayu, a publishing venture focusing on pan-Asian literature and literary translation. Its main publication is the eponymous Jentayu review, a biannual literary journal dedicated to writings from Asia translated into French.


Past Events:

The Problem of Rainforest and Elephant Conservation
A comparative French-Malaysian look

22 July  2019

Central Africa and South Eastern Asia have experienced considerable deforestation rates following road, plantation and infrastructure developments, often at the expense of natural ecosystems, along with rainfall deficit and temperature increase. By 2020, it will be time to re-evaluate and decide how we can find an acceptable balance between sustainable development and conservation of natural ecosystems. During the talk Professor Pierre-Michel Forget will share his thoughts as a tropical ecologist who studied a natural forest during the last 35 years; Dr. Ee Phin Wong will present the conservation challenges of Asian elephants in human-managed landscapes. They both observed the consequences of conflict between humans and wildlife, forest degradation and +1°C temperature increase across the planet. Ecologists, environmentalists and politics have no other option than to struggle, interact and find a solution to protect forest cover and save biodiversity, the most difficult equation in order to mitigate global warming below 1.5°C.

On Pencak Silat Martial Art in Malaysia Society
A French Anthropologist view
By Gabriel Facal, Anthropologist

24 June 2019

In Malaysia, pencak silat is a martial initiation that counts thousands of schools, as well as regional associations and a national federation. In many villages and urban neighborhoods, initiation groups are at the core of the sociocultural life. They gather the local communities during collective rituals, prepare the young men and women for their mundane existence and their afterlife, and convey a particular ethos to the initiates. Moreover, the schools are connected to political and religious issues. Apart from the cosmologies, techniques, rituals and modes of transmission, we will describe the pencak silat practice groups’ position towards state nationalism, regional identities’ tensions as well as political evolutions since the 2000s.

Palm Oil: A French Economist’s View
In conversation with Dr Jean-Marc RODA

Journalist/moderator: Julian Ng

13 May 2019

This talk will explore the underlying economic questions in the discussions on palm oil. It will aim at giving a broader picture to answer the questions raised by the development of palm oil production, which has become a key commodity for Malaysia’s economy, a trend powered by the increasing consumption of vegetable oils globally. Who produces palm oil; where and how is it produced? What is the economic and social impact of oil palm cultivation in Malaysia? What is ‘sustainable’ palm oil?

Defending Women’s Rights: Today and Tomorrow
By Anne-Cecile MAILFERT, Rozana ISA     Moderator: Freda Liu (BFM)

18 March 2019

This month we will have the pleasure of hosting a discussion on the issue of women's rights between Rozana Isa, executive director of Sister in Islam forum, and Anne-Cécile Mailfert, founder of the French foundation "Fondation des femmes". This French Talk will be moderated by Freda Liu, Producer/Presenter for the Enterprise show which airs on BFM. The speakers, both experienced activists, will share their experiences in advocating women's rights in Malaysia and France and reflect on the way ahead for us: what methods can be used most effectively to advocate women's rights today? In the light of the recent #metoo movement and its ripples worldwide, to what extent are women's rights to be understood universally or adapted to specific cultural contexts? How much progress still needs to be done to ensure equal rights between men and women ?

Malaysian Gastronomy: Past, Present and Future.  
By Eric Olmedo - Social Anthropologist - The National University of Malaysia

18 February 2019

A rapid survey of the world restaurant scene shows that there is little presence of Malaysian “gastronomic” restaurants all over the globe. One can be tempted to ponder on the reasons behind such a fact, which implicitly validates the assumption that possessing gastronomy matters. The social functions of gastronomy vary from one country to another: it may serve as tourism pulling factor - as demonstrated by the rise of the culinary tourism phenomenon; or being politically instrumental as a form of soft power in the context of international relations. In Malaysia, gastronomy is often correlated with the quest for a national identity, as well as with a process of cultural decolonization. Literature shows that the term “gastronomy” carries different meanings and may blur the boundaries with competing concepts such as “cuisine” or “fine dining”, with or without nationalistic feature. In this presentation, I wish to segregate the concept of gastronomy from the one of national cuisine. I will also argue that being endowed with a high cuisine produces symbolic capital that may give Malaysia soft power in the realm of international politics. Finally, I will suggest that Malaysian gastronomy can be “invented” in the sociological acceptance of the term, but not without prior in-depth historical and anthropological investigation. I will take the opportunity to dwell a bit in the history of food both in Malaysia and France, using comparative analysis with the French experience. We shall finish our conference with the proposal of a methodology to enable the process of “gastronomisation” for Malaysia.

Is there a Malaysian way of thinking Islam?
By Dr. Mohd. Azam Mohd. Adil, Deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia, and Dr. David Delfolie,  co-director of Institut Pondok Perancis (Kuala Lumpur). Moderator Zakiah Koya (The Star journalist). 

14 January 2019

This talk will explore the question of whether there is a specifically Malaysian way of thinking Islam. It will be the first of a series of discussions on Islam, which will be programmed later in 2019. These discussions will aim to allow for an exchange of views and experiences between France in Malaysia on religion and the place it occupies in our societies. 

Following the discussion between the two speakers, there will be a Q&A session.


What plants talk about 
by Prof. Soizic Prado -French Chemist of Natural Products and professor at the French National Museum of Natural History.

3 December 2018

Plants are actively communicating and interacting with each other for instance to warn specific neighbors of possible incoming stress.
Plants also harbor a huge diversity of microorganisms with which they communicate.
These plant -plant or plant-microbes communications are mediated by the production of various small signals either volatiles or diffusible molecules which constitute thus a real language. All these molecular dialogues are dynamics and do strongly impact the plant fitness.
Isolation and structure identification of these compounds as well as their mechanism of action constitute a real challenge for Scientifics.
Indeed, beyond the ecological interests, deciphering this communication could have important impact on various sectors such as agronomics.
What are these chemical signals? Where and when are they produced? Do all plants emit such chemicals? And what happens to other plants and microorganism when they “detect” such compounds?

On Globalisation and Cultural Identities.
By world renowned French novelist, Jean-Christophe Rufin. Moderator: Ahmad Fuad Ramat (BFM Radio)

19 November 2018

This November, we have the pleasure to welcome the world renowned French novelist, Jean-Christophe Rufin. Historian, writer and former French Ambassador to Senegal, Rufin is also the co-founder of NGO Action Against Hunger and one of the pioneers of Doctors Without Borders
Rufin’s fiction includes the Prix Goncourt-award winning The Abyssinian (1997) and Brazil Red (2001).  We live in an age of contradictions: greater communication and interconnections are leading to more intense calls for cultures to be defended from 'Others’.
With so much of the world levelled to become similar, how do we regard 'difference' and 'uniqueness' in ways that do not fall into the trappings of reactionary politics? What will happen to 'the Nation’?
J-C Rufin will be discussing his views on Globalisation and Cultural Identities with Ahmad Fuad Ramat, Lecturer at the School of Media, Languages and Cultures at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and co-host of the BFM radio show “Night School”.

From Paris to Setiu
by Dr. Jarina Mohd Jani (PhD), Head of Setiu Wetlands Field Research Station, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu 

22 October  2018

 A talk about understanding the reality of climate change among coastal fishers by Dr. Jarina Mohd Jani (PhD), Head of Setiu Wetlands Field Research Station, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu 

Smart Cities

18 September 2018

Present various approaches on the use of data for the development of smart cities in the context of Malaysia & France, to open a multi-cultural dialogue on those issues.
Maimunah JAFFAR - Head Department Planning & Compliance (Sustainability and Smart City) at Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) – Malaysia
Dr.-Ing. Sian Lun LAU - Head of Department/Assoc. Professor at the Department of Computing and Information Systems, Faculty of Science and Technology, Sunway University – Malaysia
Sandrine MATHON - in charge of data uses in the IT department in Toulouse Métropole – France
Gilles GESQUIÈRE - Scientific leader of LabEx IMU (Intelligence of Urban World) – France


11 July 2018

A conference by Historian Mr. Law Siak Hong about The Heritage of Pangkor Island and its present




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