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Madeline Woker, Caroline Ford, and Jonathan Gosnell

Owen White, The Blood of the Colony: Wine and the Rise and Fall of French Algeria (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020).

Andrea E. Duffy, Nomad’s Land: Pastoralism and French Environmental Policy in the Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

Charlotte Ann Legg, The New White Race: Settler Colonialism and the Press in French Algeria, 1860–1914 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021)

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A “Capital of Hope and Disappointments”

North African Families in Marseille Shantytowns and Social Housing

Dustin Alan Harris

This article traces the history of specialized social housing for North African families living in shantytowns in Marseille from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. During the Algerian War, social housing assistance formed part of a welfare network that exclusively sought to “integrate” Algerian migrants into French society. Through shantytown clearance and rehousing initiatives, government officials and social service providers encouraged shantytown-dwelling Algerian families to adopt the customs of France’s majority White population. Following the Algerian War, France moved away from delivering Algerian-focused welfare and instead developed an expanded immigrant welfare network. Despite this shift, some officials and social service providers remained fixated on the presence and ethno-racial differences of Algerians and other North Africans in Marseille’s shantytowns. Into the mid-1970s, this fixation shaped local social assistance and produced discord between the promise and implementation of specialized social housing that hindered shantytown-dwelling North African families’ incorporation into French society.

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Decorating Mothers, Defining Maternity

The Invention of the French Family Medal and the Rise of Profamily Ideology in 1920s France

Hannah M. Stamler

This article offers a detailed analysis of the symbolism and early operation of the Family Medal, a maternity award created by the French government in 1920. Launched at a time when the women’s rights were fiercely debated and when politicians feared for the longevity of the “French race,” this article claims the medal as a revealing tool of state efforts at gender and racial retrenchment. Honoring mothers who were moral and metropolitan, the medal represented an early attempt at institutionalizing a conservative and racialized vision of motherhood that would find fuller expression in the 1939 Family Code, itself a blueprint of Vichy family law.

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Martin Mourre

This article focuses on the Thiaroye massacre on 1 December 1944. Senegalese tirailleurs returning from Europe were killed by their officers simply for claiming the money they were owed. In this article I do not focus on the course of events, nor even on their political consequences, but rather on the way the events were explained by French authorities just after the tragedy. I take as my subject the biographies of several figures from the French state who were involved in the narration of these events. I try to see how these men were socialised in similar spaces. I am more specifically interested in the methods used by these administrations to write about the massacre. This article helps to better understand the French imperial state and the violence in the colonies and the link between military violence and political violence.

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Refusing the “Gift” of Integration

Narratives of Migration at the Galerie des dons

Abigail E. Celis

France’s Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (MNHI) was founded in Paris in 2007, with the stated mission to change popular perceptions on immigration at a time of rising xenophobia. Within the MNHI is the Galerie des dons, an exhibition space dedicated to personal objects donated by immigrants and their families. Combining a museological and a new materialism approach, this article analyzes the textual mediation, spatial organization, material qualities, and social biographies of objects in the Galerie des dons collection as it existed from 2014 to 2019 in order to evaluate the MNHI’s “new” narratives of immigration. It concludes that while the curatorial choices tend to reproduce an integration-oriented story of immigration, the individual objects in the Galerie serve as dissenting voices that complicate the institutional narrative.

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Transitioning Out of the Great War through Cinema

Self-Reflection and Distancing in L’Atlantide (1921) by Jacques Feyder

Leïla Ennaïli

This article contributes to the discussions about the ways in which societies phase out (or not) of long periods of war by focusing on Jacques Feyder’s film L’Atlantide (Queen of Atlantis) (1921) through the perspective of the challenges France faced after World War I. I argue that carefully crafted entertainment products such as L’Atlantide contributed to a slow “demobilization” of the mind in France. A distancing/reflecting mechanism at the heart of the film is twofold: it tackles fundamental changes brought about by the war, such as the degree of violence that permeated society, while providing the escapism of a colonial backdrop. This analysis proposes to read L’Atlantide as a text symptomatic of a time when World War I was in everyone’s mind and when it had yet to be “digested.”

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Colonial Legacy

French Retirees in Nha Trang, Vietnam Today

Anne Raffin

Abstract

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.

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Hammer and Cycle

Communism's Cycling Counterculture in Interwar France

Martin Hurcombe

Abstract

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.

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Imperial Farce?

The Coronation of Bokassa the First and the (Failed) Manufacture of Charisma

Jason Yackee

Abstract

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.

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Les Enfants Perdus

Asylum Reform, Parents’ Groups, and Disability Rights in France, 1968–1975

Jonathyne Briggs

Abstract

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.