Selective Empathy

Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Naomi J. Andrews Santa Clara University

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During the 1830s and 1840s, romantic socialists in France wrote about three subjugated groups in the French empire: metropolitan workers, slaves in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies, and Algerian civilians. Although these three groups ostensibly shared similar conditions of deprivation and violent treatment at the hands of the French state, socialists depicted them in importantly different terms, with the effect of humanizing workers and slaves, while dehumanizing the Algerians suffering French conquest and colonization. This article explores these presentations and examines the way they worked together to champion the socialist priority, the emergent working classes of the July Monarchy, and to indirectly endorse the settler colonial project in Algeria.

Contributor Notes

Naomi J. Andrews is Associate Professor of History at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Socialism’s Muse: Gender in the Intellectual Landscape of French Romantic Socialism, and a series of articles on the engagement of romantic socialists with the French empire on the issues of colonial slavery and settler colonialism, both actively debated during the July Monarchy. E-mail:

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