The fortieth anniversary of Sartre's death, on April 15 of this year, found much of the world in lockdown in response to a new virus, Covid-19, which has changed humanity's situation on this planet in ways we will be struggling to elucidate for years to come. In these unprecedented circumstances, Sartre's thought has been an obvious resource to help us understand the impact and ramifications of this pandemic. The virus has been an unsparing indicator in itself of social injustice, unmasking the pious platitudes of our advanced, modern democracies. In the United States in particular, the reality is truly ugly. Covid-19 has shed pitiless light on the disparity between affluent white communities, able to “shelter in place” and avoid putting their members at risk of infection, and less affluent black and brown districts, where workers on subsistence salaries, often without health-care benefits, have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, with terrible consequences for them and their families. Living in the “richest” country on earth, we can imagine only too easily Sartre's vitriolic assessment of America in its present crisis. And it is just as easy to imagine the fervor with which he would have embraced the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted all over the world, provoked by the 8 minute 46 second video clip that showed the matter-of-fact murder by asphyxiation of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis.
John Gillespie and Katherine Morris
Globalizing the History of French Decolonization
Jessica Lynne Pearson
While the recent “transnational” and “global” turns in history have inspired new approaches to studying the French Revolution and the French Resistance, they have made a surprisingly minor impact on the study of French decolonization. Adopting a global or transnational lens, this special issue argues, can open up new possibilities for broadening our understanding of the collapse of France's global empire in the mid-twentieth century as well as the reverberations of decolonization into the twenty-first.
Historicizing the Gallic Singularity
Jean Elisabeth Pedersen
This article, the introduction to the special issue “Representations of Women in the French Imaginary: Historicizing the Gallic Singularity,” frames the work of contributors Tracy Adams, Christine Adams, Jean Elisabeth Pedersen, Whitney Walton, and Kathleen Antonioli by analyzing two especially important contemporary debates about French sexual politics, one popular and one academic: (1) the international controversy over Catherine Deneuve's decision to sign a French manifesto against the American #MeToo movement in Le Monde; and (2) the mixed French and American response to the work of Mona Ozouf in Les mots des femmes: Essai sur la singularité française. The five articles in the special issue itself bring new breadth and depth to the study of these and related debates by exploring a range of different French representations of women in a series of key texts, topics, and historical episodes from the rise of the Middle Ages to the aftermath of World War I.
John Ireland and Constance Mui
We are thrilled, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Sartre Studies International, to publish for the first time in English (thanks to Dennis Gilbert's initiative and perseverance) two interviews on theater given by Sartre to Russia's oldest continually running theater journal, Teatr, whose first issues date from the 1930s. Six years apart, these two interviews give us the flavor of Sartre addressing a Soviet audience, in early 1956, just before Russian tanks rolled into Hungary and then again in early 1962, as France negotiated its exit out of the disastrous Algerian War. While these interviews intersect at times with remarks made by Sartre in interviews and lectures during the same period in France (the need for theater to become a truly popular forum, the importance of Brecht as a model of politically engaged theater, etc.), the tone of the two interviews (the first in particular) is different, as Sartre seeks to connect with a socialist audience. These interviews also break new ground. Discussing contemporary playwrights, Sartre demonstrates, for example, his familiarity with Kateb Yacine and Algerian theater. More unexpectedly, addressing Russian readers, Sartre offers a much more positive assessment of Jean Vilar's Théâtre National Populaire than he ever formulated in France. In short, beyond their content, these interviews help us appreciate even more the importance of the situation shaping Sartre's pronouncements at any given moment.
Ronald Aronson praises Jean-Paul Sartre's existential Marxism in an essay in the Boston Review. I argue that existential Marxism is a case of a contradictio in adiecto. Sartre was never recognized as a Marxist by his contemporaries. He not only failed to show any interest in the question of economic exploitation, but most of the answers he gave in the Critique even contradicted Marxist theory. His expression of Marxism as the philosophy of our time seems to have rather been more an act of courtesy than the expression of deep conviction. As Sartre himself later said, Marxism and existentialism are quite separate philosophies.
A New Idea of Democracy in Sartre's Hope Now
In the Critique of Dialectical Reason and in many interviews, Sartre upheld the proletariat's attempts at emancipation in Western societies and their revolts in the developing world. In these texts, counter-violence is considered the only way to exercise concrete engagement, and a classless society is presented as the only possibility of reducing social inequalities. However, this radical point of view was not the only perspective he tried to develop. He also sought to elaborate an existentialist ethics, which does not correspond to the Marxist theory. This article aims to show that Sartre evoked Notebooks’ ideas in his last interview, Hope Now, in which he envisaged a different typology of democracy and society. This article will examine this new and last direction of Sartre's political thought.
John Gillespie and Katherine Morris
This issue spans the entirety of Sartre's philosophical life, from his mémoire on images written at the age of twenty-two for his diploma at the Ecole normale supérieure to his thoughts about democracy as expressed in his final interview, Hope Now, at seventy-four. Fittingly enough, in between come reflections on sin and love and on the ageing body. As a result, we can get a sense of how Sartre's thinking changes and develops throughout his career and is always engaged, right to the end.
Arguing that the resistance in France during the Second World War was always transnational in important ways, this piece identifies some of the recent scholarship that has expanded both the temporal and geographic parameters of the French Resistance. It introduces some of the key themes of this collection of articles and underscores the important contributions made by the participating authors. As these articles reveal, we can find sites of transnational resistance by looking at the relationship between the Allies and the resistance, the role that non-French denizens played in the resistance, the politics of cultural resistance, and the circulation of downed Anglo-American aircrews in Europe.