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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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The Legal Construction of the Notion of Anti-White Racism in France

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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Mass-Market Paperbacks and Integration Politics

Johanna Schuster-Craig

Abstract

“Integration” refers to multiple arenas in German migration politics, including journalistic discourse, public policy, and cultural logics about incorporating immigrants and refugees into the nation. This article examines two non-fiction narratives, Das Ende der Geduld by Kirsten Heisig and Muslim Girls by Sineb El Masrar, to explore how each author characterizes integration from opposite sides of the political spectrum. In integration politics, adolescence is often construed as a problem, which—when improperly managed—leads to the criminalization or radicalization of youth of color. Comparative analysis of these two texts shows that institutions such as the school and the criminal justice system produce adolescence as a problem for integration and as a way to avoid acknowledging institutionalized inequity. These two examples exist as part of a longer genealogy of authors using mass-market paperbacks to comment on integration politics.

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Memories of Migration

Commemoration, Contestation, and Migrant Integration in the United Kingdom and Germany

Barbara Laubenthal and Kevin Myers

Abstract

Based on key concepts of memory studies, this article investigates how immigration is remembered in two different societies: the United Kingdom and Germany. Starting from the assumption that social remembering has the potential to encourage the integration of migrants, we analyze in several case studies how civil society organizations and government actors remember historical immigration processes and how the immigrant past is reflected in popular culture. Our analysis shows that both countries have several factors in common with regard to the role of immigration in collective memory. A common feature is the marginal status accorded to migration and, when it is remembered, the highly restricted role offered to immigrants. However, our studies also reveal that memory can become an important mode for the integration of migrants if it is used as a form of political activism and if organizations proactively use the past to make demands for the incorporation of immigrants.

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Novel Reviews

Taryn Tavener-Smith and Tom Rowe

David Mitchell, Slade House (London: Sceptre, 2015), 233 pp. £6.99

Musa Okwonga, In the End, It Was All about Love (London: Rough Trade Books, 2021), 98 pp. £11.99

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The Post-Deportation Desperation and Refunneling of Aspirations of the Mexicans Deported from the United States

Agnieszka Radziwinowiczówna

Abstract

This article uses Carling's aspiration/ability model and the social anchoring concept proposed by Grzymala-Kazlowska to explain the post-deportation experience of Mexicans deported from the United States of America. I analyze how deported people's aspirations are shaped by US migration policies and by their families, as well as by local community obligations. The data comes from seven years of longitudinal research in a rural community in Oaxaca. I conclude that under the immobility regime produced by the US for the deported Mexicans, their aspirations of remigration evolve into desperation. Often unable to remigrate to the US, they are stuck in a limbo of desperation until they refunnel their aspirations and anchor them in Mexico. At the same time, they resynchronize their life courses with other community members.

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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.