This special issue explores how existential thinking can be a living, global force that opposes racist praxis and thought. We are used to hearing that the “heyday” of existentialism was the middle of the twentieth century. In truth, because existential thought is future-oriented, the heyday of existentialism may be yet to come.
T Storm Heter
John Gillespie and Katherine Morris
If Descartes’ soul was always thinking, Sartre's soul (if we may put it this way) was always not just thinking but putting those thoughts on paper. It is an indication of the enormous fertility of his thinking and writing across many decades that we continue to find food for our own thinking and writing in the whole span of his philosophical works, from his books on the imagination to his reflections on Marxism, as this issue of Sartre Studies International exemplifies. And in a year in which we seem to have rediscovered the value of dialogue with others, many of the contributions to this issue exemplify that value as well: we see here Sartre in dialogue with Husserl, with Beauvoir, with Badiou, and with Lacan.
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.
Law, Race, and Eating Culture in France
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.
This introduction to the special issue highlights dominant approaches to the study of women's and gender history in colonial and postcolonial Maghrib. Moreover, it delineates the analytical agenda that frames our inquiry, and reviews the essays in this collection.
John Ireland and Constance Mui
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.