Between Resistance and the State

Caribbean Activism and the Invention of a National Memory of Slavery in France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Itay Lotem University of Westminster

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Between 1998 and 2006, the memory of slavery in France developed from a marginalized issue into a priority of the state. This article examines the process in which community activists and state actors interacted with and against one another to integrate remembrance and the commemoration of slavery and its abolitions into a Republican national narrative. It focuses on a series of actions from the protests against the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in 1998 to the creation of the 10 May National Memorial Day to Slavery and Its Abolitions in 2006. Basing its analysis on oral history interviews and various publications, this article argues that “memory activists”—and particularly new anti-racist groups—mobilized the memory of slavery to address issues of community identity and resistance within the context of twenty-first-century republicanism. In so doing, they articulated a new kind of black identity in France.

Contributor Notes

Itay Lotem is a Postdoctoral Fellow in French Language and Culture at the University of Westminster in London. He completed his Ph.D. about the memory of empire in Britain and France in 2016 from Queen Mary University of London. His research interests include memory politics, the history of immigration and anti-racist activism in Britain and France. His latest article, published with Modern and Contemporary France, explored anti-racist activists’ appropriation of colonial history as means of addressing race-relations in France. E-mail:

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