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Obscuring Race

Franco-African Conversations about Colonial Reform and Racism after World War II and the Making of Colorblind France, 1945–1950

Emily Marker

In 1945, the first significant cohort of African, Caribbean, and Malagasy deputies were elected to the French National Assembly, where they participated in special parliamentary commissions tasked with colonial reform. This article traces the contours of postwar conversations about colonial policy, race, and racism that took shape in those commissions, as metropolitan and colonial deputies confronted these issues face-to-face, as ostensible equals, for the first time. Deputies of color tried to force frank discussions about racial inequality in their campaigns to reform political representation, working conditions, education, and compensation for Africans. Their metropolitan counterparts responded, however, by developing new code words and rhetorical strategies that deflected accusations of systemic racial inequality in postwar Greater France. The competing understandings and ways of talking about race and racism produced in this encounter helped consolidate a postwar speech regime of “colorblindness” that obscured the way racial logics were inscribed in the new institutions of the postwar Republic.

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“One Hand Washes the Other”

Social Capital and the Politics of Leisure in Guadeloupean Associations

Kathe Managan

Through a close look at events observed in three Guadeloupean voluntary associations—a retirees' club, a youth group, and a dance club—this essay examines the politics of leisure activities, helping to illuminate the ways that social capital operates in associations and how politics permeates everyday life on the French island of Guadeloupe. I consider the ways that Putnam's view of social capital differs from Bourdieu's. I argue associations are an important source of social capital for some marginalized members of Guadeloupean society who convert this social capital into economic, political, or social advancement. At the same time, social capital is unevenly accessible within associations and it operates in a context of political patronage. My data suggests that we need to rethink the concept of social capital to account for the complexity of the ways it works in society.

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Abstracts

Abstracts

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After the Exodus

Catholics and the Formation of Postcolonial Identity in Algeria

Darcie Fontaine

As French officials negotiated the terms of Algerian independence with the Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria (GPRA) in 1961–62, among the issues discussed was the future of the Christian population. After colonial occupation and armed struggle, in which the defense of “Christian civilization” in Algeria had been a major ideological justification for French violence against the Algerian population, the future of Christianity in postcolonial Algeria was not self-evident. This article examines how European Catholics negotiated their position in post-independence Algeria. I demonstrate that Catholic attempts to “become Algerian” and decolonize the Church were intertwined with global religious politics, economic necessities, and colonial history. Yet their continued presence in Algeria demonstrates that the standard narratives of postcolonial rupture between the European and Algerian populations do not hold up, for, in the early years of post-independence Algeria, European Catholics played an active role in the construction of the postcolonial nation.

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Bonnie Smith and the Mirror of History

Richard Ivan Jobs

In A Crooked Line (2005), Geoff Eley combines personal memoir with historiography to consider the changes to historical practice during his career, particularly the rise of social history and that of cultural history.* Both approaches, he says, foregrounded the histories of suppressed or hidden groups and both relied upon interdisciplinary methodologies to do so. Yet a bitter rift emerged between the adherents of each, particularly regarding historical claims to truth, a tension that he identifies as peaking in the mid-1980s. To exemplify the shifts underway, he focuses on the unusual structure and form of Carolyn Steedman’s 1986 book, Landscape for a Good Woman. While I have no quibbles with his choice, in this essay I want to point to another text from the same moment that deserves revisiting, particularly given the way it experiments with historical storytelling and the interplay of the professional and the personal. Bonnie Smith’s slim 1985 volume, Confessions of a Concierge, has arguably been overshadowed by her later work of monographs, collections, textbooks, and encyclopedia. As 2015 marks the thirtieth anniversary of its publication, as well as Bonnie Smith’s official retirement from Rutgers University, I offer here an evaluation of the book, consider its rather awkward reception, and situate it within concerns that continue to preoccupy historians of France and Europe.

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Book Reviews

Michael C Behrent and Eugenia C. Kiesling

Warren Breckman, Adventures of the Symbolic: Post-Marxism and Radical Democracy Review by Michael C. Behrent

Hugh Dauncey, French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History Review by Eugenia C. Kiesling

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“Brothers from South of the Mediterranean”

Decolonizing the Jewish “Family” during the Algerian War

Naomi Davidson

Almost all of Algeria's estimated 140,000 Jews had immigrated to France by the end of the Algerian War in 1962, many of them to the Paris region. Their arrival was a source of ambivalent hope for metropolitan Jewish religious and community leaders. This article demonstrates that the period of decolonization was one in which metropolitan Jewish leaders tried to simultaneously celebrate and efface Algerian Jewish difference. This struggle took place in local religious sites, where French and Algerian Jews were accustomed to a variety of liturgies, melodies, and behaviors. The tensions that erupted when Algerian Jews asserted their right to religious particularism should be read as evidence of the paradoxes of decolonization. While a near-century of colonial citizenship had made many Algerian Jews “French,” decolonization and migration to the metropole made them Arab in the eyes of many metropolitan Jews.

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The Catholic Origins of Economic Development after World War II

Giuliana Chamedes

The conceptual history of 'economic development' is often told as a US-centered story. The United States, according to the standard account, turned to economic development as a tool in its struggle for global dominance during the Cold War. In line with recent research, this article demonstrates that the post-World War II boom in economic development had European origins as well, and that it originated as a joint response to the Cold War and to the unraveling of European empires. In particular, emphasis is placed on the little-studied contribution of a French Catholic activist who helped redefine economic development in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Dominican Father Louis-Joseph Lebret stood at the head of an influential movement, which conceived of economic development as a way to save both France and Christianity in a moment of crisis for the French empire and for the Roman Catholic Church. In his writings, Lebret bestowed renewed legitimacy on the French 'civilizing mission.' He also revived elements of interwar Catholic thought to argue for the imperative of building a new moral-economic order that was neither communist nor capitalist. Far from a marginal historical actor, this theorist-practitioner was successful in his efforts, and gained followers for his vision of economic development in France, in Vatican City, at the United Nations, and in various former colonized countries.

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Decolonization and Religion in the French Empire

Giuliana Chamedes and Elizabeth A. Foster

Scholarly attention to decolonization in the French Empire and beyond has largely focused on the political transitions from colonies to nation-states. This introduction, and the essays in this special issue, present new ways of looking at decolonization by examining how religious communities and institutions imagined and experienced the end of French Empire. This approach adds valuable perspectives obscured by historiographical emphasis on French republican secularism and on the workings of the colonial state. Bringing together histories of religion and decolonization sheds new light on the late colonial period and the early successor states of the French empire. It also points to the importance of international institutions and transnational religious communities in the transitions at the end of empire.

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Explaining the Rise of the Front national

Political Rhetoric or Cultural Insecurity?

Arthur Goldhammer

Laurent Bouvet, L'Insécurité culturelle (Paris: Fayard, 2015).

Cécile Alduy and Stéphane Wahnich, Marine Le Pen prise aux mots: Décryptage du nouveau discours frontiste