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La Police de l'Air

Amateur Radio and the Politics of Aural Surveillance in France, 1921-1940

Derek W. Vaillant

As France wrestles over the uses and societal impact of digital media and the Internet, it is instructive to recall another era of communications innovation, namely the introduction of interwar radio to the French public, and the government's reaction to controversial applications by the citizenry. Recent scholarship has underscored the importance of interwar radio broadcasting to France and its territories. Less explored, however, is the work of amateur user/developers who shaped the radio medium as an instrument of speaking, as well as listening. Determined to manage applications of radio, the French Interior Ministry formed a Police de l'Air to monitor France's airwaves, including the activities of amateur radio users (i.e., hams), whose lawful (and sometimes unlawful) use of point-to-point and broadcast communication had begun to significantly disrupt the government's effort to dictate the future forms and uses of radio. Against a backdrop of political crisis and attempts to manage print and electronic communication and dissent, the skirmishes between the Police de l'Air and amateur radio users reveal historical aspects of contemporary debates over use, access, and qualifications to speak and be heard in mediated cultural and political settings.

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Aimé Césaire as Poet, Rebel, Statesman

William F.S. Miles

On 17 April 2008, at the age of ninety-four, the foremost Black French intellectual-cum-politician of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries passed away. Born in the northwestern fishing village of Basse Pointe on the southeastern Caribbean island of Martinique on 26 June 1913, Aimé Césaire rose from humble beginnings to become a giant in the annals of colonial and postcolonial francophone literature. As the holder of several elected offices, from city mayor of the capital of Martinique to representative in the National Assembly of France, he was also a significant political actor. He was largely responsible for the legislation that, following World War II, elevated four of France’s “Old Colonies” in the West Indies and Indian Ocean into full French states (départements). A dozen years later he founded a political party that would struggle to roll back the very assimilating, deculturalizing processes that statehood (départementalisation) unleashed.

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Have They Learnt to Swim?

Ingolfur Blühdorn

“Liquid modernity” is a concept that Zygmunt Bauman suggested to

describe a certain condition in advanced modern societies where changeability,

unpredictability, and unreliability have become core features

determining individual life and social interaction.1 Diminishing party loyalty

and increasing voter volatility, erratic but often vociferous articulation

of political preferences and participation, and a marked shift towards populism

all belong to the political fallout from Bauman’s condition of liquidity.

With his notion of the “fluid five-party system,” Oskar Niedermayer has

further developed the metaphor.2 On the one hand, his concept attempts

to capture the new structural characteristics of the German party system,

i.e., its fragmentation and structural asymmetry. On the other hand, it

seeks to capture the changed relationship between the individual parties,

specifically their mutual demarcation and rapprochement in the context of

coalition strategies. Indeed, having to compete in a five-party system and

trying to optimize their strategic position in a context of high unpredictability

is the major new challenge Germany’s political parties are having

to confront.

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AIDS and Postcolonial Politics

Acting Up on Science and Immigration in France

Michael J. Bosia

From a postcolonial left that challenges the French state over immigration policy and neoliberal globalization, Act Up has advocated for the social and political rights and needs of women, inmates, drug users, and immigrants with HIV/AIDS. This essay examines as well Act Up's engagement with science and globalization in response to new experimental medical trials in the Global South. Act Up's emphasis on local empowerment against global economic and social actors has earned criticism from American and South African AIDS activists, but at the same time these campaigns stress the universalist impulse imbedded in the Act Up brand of French Republican politics.

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Index to Volume 26 (2008)

Index to Volume 26 (2008)

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Dynamics of Memory in Twenty-first Century Germany

Eric Langenbacher, Bill Niven, and Ruth Wittlinger

As the inestimable Harold Wilson once put it, “a week is a long

time in politics.” Certainly, the evolution of collective memory and

scholarship devoted to it is much slower than the pace of day-to-day

politics. Yet, there are periods of rapid change—of paradigm shifts

even—where the landscape shifts rapidly over a relatively short

period of time. This special issue, we think, captures one of these

periods of rapid change. Compared to the last special thematic issue

of German Politics and Society from 20051 and even compared to

many books published in the last few years, the state of collective

memory in Germany appears very different today. Most prominently,

Holocaust-centered memory is foregrounded to a much

lesser extent than previously.

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