Based on interviews with thirty-eight French retirees living in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, this article queries their reasons for migrating and investigates how they make sense of their life abroad. I consider Vietnam’s historical connection with the French empire as a possible component of lifestyle migration and meaning. This small-scale study indicates that colonial memories and historical ties between France and Vietnam do influence many interviewees’ choice of place of retirement. However, for most, the personal and social amenities afforded by a tropical life in the present tend to eventually displace such memories.
French Retirees in Nha Trang, Vietnam Today
Communism’s Cycling Counterculture in Interwar France
This article explores the evolving relationship of the Parti Communiste Français to cycling in the interwar years. It argues that communist press coverage of the sport enriches our understanding of how the Party evolved from a marginal force in the 1920s to a mass party that had forged both an effective and affective bond with large numbers of the French working class. It examines attempts to harness and manipulate working-class enthusiasm for cycling and to project through its coverage of the sport an idealized image of the French worker. Reading sport history into the Party’s political trajectory in the interwar years reveals how the appeal to the emotions was fundamental to its evolving image as a national workers party, but also how the Party had to make accommodations between a Soviet ideal and the realities of French working-class sports culture.
The Coronation of Bokassa the First and the (Failed) Manufacture of Charisma
This article explores the appropriation and translation of historical notions of “empire” into the modern era through close examination of the short-lived Central African Empire, imagined and brought to life by the flamboyant Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Curiously, in an era in which the formerly colonized francophone African nations were increasingly seeking to signal rejection of their French heritage, Bokassa presented his empire as a modern corollary to the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. This article draws on original research in French and US diplomatic archives to argue that we can understand the empire as a failed attempt to manufacture charisma, approaching farce before devolving into horror.
Asylum Reform, Parents’ Groups, and Disability Rights in France, 1968–1975
Following the deaths of fourteen children at a children’s residential facility in Froissy in November 1968, a moment of national interest in France in the challenges facing disabled children led parents’ associations to press for systemic reform. Concomitantly, social critiques following the protests of May 1968 focused on poor institutional conditions as evidence of society’s failures. Though government inquiry into the incident placed the blame on the proprietors, media reports and advocates asserted the failure of the French government to protect the disabled. This viewpoint aligned with the rhetoric of reformers seeking to dismantle institutions to instigate social change. However, an alliance of reformers and parents’ groups did not materialize, even after the important reforms of the law of 30 June 1975. That law articulated the government’s commitment to the equality of disabled citizens, but it had limited impact due to its failure to address conditions for the mentally disabled.
West African University Students between Metropolitan France and Dakar
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.
Sport, Aging, and Neoliberalism in Contemporary France
Hugh Dauncey and Jonathan Ervine
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.
The Contested Memorialization of a Massacre
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.
Body and Whiteness Through the Lens of Blackness
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.
A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France
Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz
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.
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.