Maneuvering Whiteness in France

Muslim Converts’ Ambivalent Encounters with Race

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Juliette Galonnier CERI, Sciences Po (Paris), France

Search for other papers by Juliette Galonnier in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access


This article examines the meanings of Whiteness in France by focusing on the specific case of White converts to Islam. By becoming Muslim, converts enter religious spaces in which they are a numerical minority. Usually unmarked and unnoticed, their Whiteness is now very much visible, prompting interrogations about their racial categorization. Faced with moral dilemmas on how to best position themselves ethically while holding a position of dominance, White converts to Islam resort to a variety of strategies to portray themselves as “good Muslims” and “good Whites.” Relying on ethnography and in-depth interviewing, this article explores the contradictions, inconsistencies, and ambivalences that characterize White identities in the French context.

Contributor Notes

Juliette Galonnier is Assistant Professor at CERI, Sciences Po (Paris). Her research investigates the social construction of racial and religious categories, and how they frequently intersect. She received in 2017 a joint PhD in Sociology from Sciences Po and Northwestern University. Entitled Choosing Faith and Facing Race: Converting to Islam in France and the United States, her dissertation was awarded the Best Dissertation Award of the American Sociological Association in 2018. She has published several chapters in edited volumes, and several articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Sociology of Religion, Social Compass, Archives de sciences sociales des religions, and Tracés. Email:

  • Collapse
  • Expand