This article examines the 1994–1995 controversy surrounding President François Mitterrand’s past involvement with Vichy France through the concept of “the gray zone.” Differing from Primo Levi’s gray zone, it refers here to the language that emerged in France to account for the previously neglected complicity of bystanders and beneficiaries and the indirect facilitation of the injustices of the Vichy regime. The affair serves as a site for exploring the nuances and inflections of this concept of the gray zone—both in the way it was used to indict those accused of complicity with Vichy, and as a means for those, like Mitterrand, who defended themselves by using the language of grayness. Paying attention to these invocations of the gray zone at this historical conjuncture allows us to understand the logic and stakes of both the criticisms of Mitterrand and his responses to them, particularly in terms of contemporaneous understandings of republicanism and human rights.
Toward an Explanation of Inconsistencies between Framing and Policies
Henri Bergeron, Patrick Castel, and Abigail C. Saguy
The French news media has framed “obesity” largely as a product of corporate greed and social inequality. Yet, France has—like other nations including the United States—adopted policies that focus on changing individual-level behavior. This article identifies several factors—including food industry lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture’s rivalry with the Ministry of Health and alliance with the food industry, and competition with other policy goals—that favored the development of individual-level policy approaches to obesity in France at the expense of social-structural ones. This case points to the need to more systematically document inconsistencies and consistencies between social problem framing and policies. It also shows that national culture is multivalent and internally contradictory, fueling political and social struggles over which version of national culture will prevail at any given moment.
Remembering and Forgetting World War II Indochina
M. Kathryn Edwards and Eric Jennings
This article analyzes the complex memorial stakes of the events that unfolded in French Indochina during World War II. It first considers the wartime years and analyzes the French frameworks for understanding the Vichy period and the Japanese takeover. It then delves into two memorial trends: the rehabilitation of the French resistance in Indochina and the commemoration of victims of the 9 March 1945 Japanese coup. These trends have produced a double elision: the focus on resistance to the Japanese has displaced previous allegiance to Vichy, and the emphasis on the victimhood of the French settler community has overshadowed responsibility for colonial violence.
Le Mémoire de fin d'études de Sartre
Vincent de Coorebyter
In 1927, Sartre submitted a dissertation to the Ecole normale supérieure about the Image, that has been published recently. Already in this work he outlines one of the central theses of L'Imagination and L'Imaginaire, namely that a mental image is neither an internal image, nor the reproduction of previously known sensations, but is a pure act of creation. In his dissertation, Sartre sets down in writing the image in the life of the body and the mind, in a hesitant yet very inventive manner. It helps us to understand his subsequent books concerning image without detracting from their originality.
En 1927, Sartre dépose à l'Ecole normale supérieure un mémoire sur l'image, qui vient enfin d'être publié. Il y défend déjà une des thèses centrales de L'Imagination et de L'Imaginaire, à savoir que l'image mentale n'est pas un tableau intérieur, la reproduction de sensations anciennes : c'est une création, un acte de liberté. Dans son mémoire, Sartre inscrit l'image dans la vie du corps et de l'esprit, d'une manière encore hésitante mais aussi très inventive, qui éclaire ses livres ultérieurs sur l'image sans s'y laisser réduire.
Entre collaboration, opportunisme et « nécessité de vivre »
Amid severe shortages of raw materials, labor, and transportation, companies in occupied France (1940–1944) sought alternative paths to what is commonly called “economic collaboration.” They worked to find substitute supplies, convert to new product lines, alter their manufacturing methods, and even adapt to the black market. But few businesses could avoid the question of whether to provide goods and services to the occupier. The opportunities to do so were widespread, though they varied according to occupation, economic branch, and the passage of time during the Occupation. The German occupiers thus benefited from the French economy. With decisive help from the Vichy regime, the occupiers managed to force, induce, or entice French enterprises into their war economy—be they large industries formerly mobilized for French national defense, small and medium-sized firms, or agricultural producers.
This article examines the political style and rhetoric of the Manif pour tous (MPT), the main organization opposing same-sex marriage in France, from summer 2013 to the present. It exposes how the MPT’s style and rhetoric differ from those of their American counterparts, and what this tells us about the different strategies of political movements in France and the United States generally. It is based on an analysis of the language used by activists whom I interviewed in 2014 and 2015 and on a discourse analysis of the MPT’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and press releases since 2013. This analysis of the distinctive features of the MPT brings to light underlying concerns about French identity in the face of globalization. In other words, for the MPT and its members, what is at stake is not just same-sex marriage but the very definition of Frenchness.
Sin and Lovelessness in Sartre's Saint Genet
In his biography of Jean Genet, Sartre says his aim is ‘to demonstrate that freedom alone can account for a person in his totality’. Building on my reading of Being and Nothingness in Sartre on Sin, I examine the compatibility of Sartrean freedom and love in Saint Genet. Sartre's account of Genet's person is largely a loveless one in which there is no reciprocity, others are ‘empty shells’ and love is ‘only the lofty name which [Genet] gives to onanism’. I use Saint Genet to suggest Genet's lovelessness is the direct result of locating the totality of personhood in freedom. This location results in a lonely experience of subjectivity as ‘master, slave and merciless struggle’ – never lover or beloved, whether on the divine plane or the human.
Catherine E. Clark
This article looks at two seemingly disparate events: Georges Pompidou’s 1973 presidential visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the filming and release of Jean Yanne’s blockbuster comedy Les Chinois à Paris (1974). Both produced flawed visions of Franco-Chinese relations. During Pompidou’s visit, officials and the press attempted to demonstrate that France enjoyed warmer relations with the PRC than any other Western nation. Yanne’s film parodied the French fad for Maoism by imagining the People’s Liberation Army invading and occupying Paris. His film caused an uproar in the press and sparked official Chinese protest. The article ultimately argues that the two events were deeply related, part of a wave of popular and official interest in China in the early 1970s that extended well beyond the well-known stories of student and intellectual Maoists. This interest paved the way for Franco-Chinese relations as we know them today.
Naomi J. Andrews and Benoit Coquard
Gavin Murray-Miller, The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
John Murphy, Yearning to Labor: Youth, Unemployment, and Social Destiny in Urban France (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
In recent decades historians have done a lot to reveal the social and political diversity of the people who participated in the French Resistance. But little has been said about non-white resisters who were among the 200,000 men and women from the colonies living in the French metropole during the Occupation. This article shows that many of them were entangled in the Resistance as early as the summer of 1940 and that they became involved in the most political and violent forms of defiance. Resistance, however, was not a “natural” decision for many of the colonial workers or prisoners, whose daily struggles could bring them into tension with the Free French as well as Vichy. So, if this study aims to rectify misconceptions of the Resistance as an entirely Eurocentric affair, it also probes the complicated relationship between colonial subjects and the metropole during the war.