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Navigating the Fourth Republic

West African University Students between Metropolitan France and Dakar

Harry Gamble

Abstract

Through the end of the Third Republic, only tiny numbers of West African students managed to study at France's universities. Barriers to higher education began to fall after World War II, especially after African populations collectively gained citizenship. Higher education became a high-stakes policy area, as French officials and West African students and politicians vied to influence the parameters and possibilities of the postwar order. Amid escalating concerns about West African student migrations to the metropole, French officials eventually opened an Institute of Higher Studies in Dakar. However, this inchoate institution ended up highlighting the fundamental ambiguities of overseas citizenship. As West African students turned increasingly to anti-colonial activism, French authorities finally committed to establishing a full university in Dakar. Paradoxically, the construction and consolidation of this French university took place during the period of active decolonization.

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Obscene or Exemplary? Robert Marchand's Cycling World Hour Record

Sport, Aging, and Neoliberalism in Contemporary France

Hugh Dauncey and Jonathan Ervine

Abstract

The cycling world hour record for riders over 105 years old set in 2017 by Robert Marchand was much discussed in France in a context of neoliberal discourses about work and retirement. Within a debate about work characterized by desires to encourage “active aging,” Marchand's sporting athletic effort was variously perceived as exemplary hard work and productive old age, or as an obscene abuse of athleticism. This article examines the reception of Marchand's record within the wider context of contemporary neoliberal trends in French politics, culture, and society. It considers Marchand's working life, active sporting retirement, and left-wing politics. It shows how media coverage and public discussion of the sporting “work” of his “performance” exemplified competing discourses in France's national discussions about neoliberalism.

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The Rue d'Isly, Algiers, 26 March 1962

The Contested Memorialization of a Massacre

Fiona Barclay

Abstract

This article examines the memorial discourses surrounding the massacre that occurred on 26 March 1962 when, in the week following the Franco–FLN ceasefire, French soldiers opened fire on a demonstration of unarmed European settler civilians, killing forty-six and wounding two hundred. Largely unknown among wider French society, references to the massacre have become a staple of the pied-noir activist discourse of victimhood, often advanced as evidence that they had no choice but to leave Algeria in 1962. The article draws on French and Algerian press articles, as well as online, print, and film publications produced by the repatriated European population. It reveals how settlers’ narratives first dehistoricized the massacre and then invested it with a significance that drew on multidirectional memories borrowed from a range of sometimes jarring international contexts. The analysis accounts for why the massacre contributed to the repatriated settler community's sense of identity and relationship to the wider French nation.

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Corps et blanchité au prisme de la Blackness

Body and Whiteness Through the Lens of Blackness

Sarah Fila-Bakabadio

Abstract

This article examines Whiteness from the perspective of the concept of Blackness and the production of Black gazes upon Whiteness. The goal is neither to reverse old schemes nor to establish a new asymmetric duality, but to come back to the first space in which political, social, and visual dynamics are formed—the body. In doing so, the article shows that the notions and tools developed by Blackness Studies and Critical Race Theories enable the analysis of the role of corporeality in the joint construction of Whiteness and Blackness.

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Introduction

A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France

Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

France is an overwhelmingly majority-White nation. Yet the French majority is reluctant to identify as White, and French social science has tended to eschew Whiteness as an object of inquiry. Inspired by critical race theory and critical Whiteness studies, this interdisciplinary special issue offers a new look at White identities in France. It does so not to recenter Whiteness by giving it prominence, but to expose and critique White dominance. This introduction examines the global and local dimensions of Whiteness, before identifying three salient dimensions of its French version: the ideology of the race-blind universalist republic; the past and present practice of French colonialism, slavery, and rule across overseas territories; and the racialization of people of Muslim or North African backgrounds as non-White.

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Mathias Möschel

Abstract

This article focuses on the legal construction of the notion of anti-White racism in France. By analyzing cases litigated under criminal law, it describes how a right-wing NGO has been promoting this notion via a litigation strategy since the late 1980s, initially with only limited success. Public debates in mainstream media in the 2000s and intervention by more traditional antiracist NGOs in courts have since contributed to a creeping acceptance of anti-White racism both within courtrooms and in broader public discourse. This increased recognition of anti-White racism is highly problematic from a critical race and critical Whiteness perspective.

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Maneuvering Whiteness in France

Muslim Converts’ Ambivalent Encounters with Race

Juliette Galonnier

Abstract

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.

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“White” Guadeloupeans of “Mixed” Ancestry

Complicating Analyses of Whiteness and White Supremacy

Ary Gordien

Abstract

This article explores the various ways in which Guadeloupeans of mixed African and European ancestry who are perceived as White self-identify in relation to their family and individual trajectories. This partial analysis is based on half-dozen semistructured interviews carried out in the course of researching nationalism, race, and ethnicity in Guadeloupe. Complicating rigid definitions of Whiteness and White supremacy, this article interprets the intricate meanings of Whiteness in the specific context of Guadeloupe, and its complex articulation with material and symbolic privilege.

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A White Race Blindness?

Abstract Universalism and the Unspeakable Making of Race

Sarah Mazouz

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.

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The Whiteness of French Food

Law, Race, and Eating Culture in France

Mathilde Cohen

Abstract

Food is fundamental to French identity. So too is the denial of structural racism and racial identity. Both tenets are central to the nation's self-definition, making them all the more important to think about together. This article purports to identify and critique a form of “French food Whiteness” (blanchité alimentaire), that is, the use of food and eating practices to reify and reinforce Whiteness as the dominant racial identity. To do so, it develops four case studies of how law elevates a fiction of homogenous French/White food as superior and normative at the expense of alternative ways of eating and their eaters—the law of geographical indications, school lunches, citizenship, and cultural heritage.