A White Race Blindness?

Abstract Universalism and the Unspeakable Making of Race

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author: Sarah Mazouz1
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  • 1 Conseil National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Centre d'Études et de Recherches Administratives, Politiques et Sociales, France Sarah.Mazouz@cnrs.fr
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Abstract

Drawing on observations and on interviews conducted in a préfecture and in a municipalité of the Paris periphery, this article analyzes how republican universalism operates as a “particularizing” tool that enacts Whiteness. Starting from the paradoxical situation in which White state officials are reluctant to engage with the notion of racial discrimination when they are keen to ascribe racial categories to people of color, I argue that race blindness is in fact a form of White blindness to racialization. People of color who subscribe to the ideology of colorblindness tend to adopt a position whereby their loyalty toward the requirement of race blindness is supposed to protect them from suspicions raised by the racialized identity they are assigned to. But in practice, this stance internalizes the way they are viewed by Whites. The article concludes by discussing the link between White race blindness and the failure of republican policies against racial discrimination.

Contributor Notes

Sarah Mazouz is a Tenured Researcher at the Conseil National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Centre d'Études et de Recherches Administratives, Politiques et Sociales. Her main research topics are antidiscrimination policies in France and citizenship politics in France and in Germany. Her work draws on ethnography. It also leans on critical race studies, legal consciousness studies, and the critical anthropology of morals as well as the sociology of public policies. She is the author of La République et ses autres: Politiques de l'altérité dans la France des années 2000 (Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2017) and of Race (Paris, Anamosa, 2020) as well as the coauthor of At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions (London: Pluto Press, 2015). Email: Sarah.Mazouz@cnrs.fr

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