Immigration and the Salience of Racial Boundaries Among French Workers

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author:
Michèle Lamont Princeton University

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In recent years, surveys have consistently shown relatively high levels of racism and xenophobia in France. In particular, a 1999 Harris poll conducted for the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme revealed that 68 percent of the respondents in a national sample declared themselves somewhat racist; 61 percent believed that there are too many foreigners in France; 63 percent believed that there are too many Arabs (up 12 percent compared with 1998); and 38 percent believed that there are too many blacks (up 8 percent compared with 1998).1 Against the backdrop of a long, difficult, and partly repressed colonial past, a full 28 percent of French voters have, since 1983, voted at least once for the openly racist and anti-Semitic Front National.2 These results clash with the popular image of a Republican France, where the dominant political ideology affirms that the ascribed characteristics of citizens are irrelevant to their participation in the polity.

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