In the 1950s, French shipping companies began to replace their old fleet of steamships with new diesel ships. They also began to lay off sailors from French Africa, claiming that the changing technology rendered their labor obsolete. The industry asserted that African sailors did not have the aptitude to do other, more skilled jobs aboard diesel vessels. But unemployed colonial sailors argued differently, claiming that they were both able and skilled. This article explores how unemployed sailors from French Africa cast themselves as experts, capable of producing technological knowledge about shipping. In so doing, they shaped racialized and gendered notions about labor and skill within the French empire. The arguments they made were inconvenient, I argue, because colonial sailors called into question hegemonic ideas about who could be modern and who had the right to participate in discourse about expertise.
French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française
Escape, Evasion, and Resistance in France, 1940–1945
The rescue of downed Anglo-American aircrews in France during the Second World War highlights the transnational nature of this kind of resistance. From their training to their evasion, flight crews themselves experienced the Second World War without traditional national borders. Moreover, their successful rescue in Occupied France depended on the ability of civilian helpers to think transnationally and to operate with little regard for the nation-state. This article focuses on evasion training, rescue, and postwar attempts to honor civilians for their assistance to highlight these themes of transnational resistance.
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.
*The full text version of this article is in French
Historians generally consider resistance in Europe as a national phenomenon. This vision is certainly accurate, but forgets one important datum: the Allies have played a decisive part in European resistance, by recognizing (or not) governments in exile, by authorizing (or not) the free access to the BBC, and by using their secret services (mainly the Special Operations Executive, SOE, and the Office of Strategic Services, OSS). This article tries to show how this action has shaped resistance in Western Europe, and given to the Anglo-Americans a leading part in clandestine action—even if national powers, in one way or another, have resisted this hegemony.
La résistance en Europe a le plus souvent été considérée comme un combat national, tant par les hommes et les femmes qui y ont participé que par les historiens qui ont, par la suite, tenté de l’analyser. Sans contester ce schéma, il convient sans doute de l’enrichir, en admettant que l’intervention des Britanniques, puis des Américains, a contribué à européaniser la résistance. En la pliant à un modèle organisationnel unique tout d’abord ; en imposant des structures de commandement et une stratégie identiques ensuite ; en légitimant les pouvoirs en exil enfin. Ces interventions ont au total amené à une homogénéisation de l’armée des ombres sur le Vieux Continent, sans que les résistances nationales n’aliènent, pour autant, leur identité propre.
Crowd Photography and the Liberation in Toulouse, 1944–1945
During the Liberation of Toulouse, crowd photography dominated the local press rather than the scenes of combat and barricades that marked coverage in Paris and elsewhere. This article shows how crowd photography contributed to a common construction of republicanism across the Toulouse press and exhibitions. It argues that the circulation of these images not only communicated the message that the “people” were once again sovereign, but also implied that these populations had been instrumental in their liberation, thereby contributing to the mythology of “la France résistante.” Editors mobilized crowd photography to convey to viewers the importance of adopting their republican roles at a time of community reconstruction. Reading the photography of the Liberation of Toulouse reveals that while photographic messaging in Liberation France varied in line with local circumstances, it nonetheless played a potent role in contributing to democratic resurgence.
French Cultural Policies in Britain during the Second World War
The Second World War challenged the well-established circulation of cultural practices between France and Britain. But it also gave individuals, communities, states, and aspiring governments opportunities to invent new forms of international cultural promotion that straddled the national boundaries that the war had disrupted. Although London became the capital city of the main external Resistance movement Free France, the latter struggled to establish its cultural agenda in Britain, owing, on the one hand, to the British Council’s control over French cultural policies and, on the other hand, to the activities of anti-Gaullist Resistance fighters based in London who ascribed different purposes to French arts. While the British Council and a few French individuals worked towards prolonging French cultural policies that had been in place since the interwar period, Free French promoted rather conservative and traditional images of France so as to reclaim French culture in the name of the Resistance.
Bureaucratic Practices and the Lived Experience in the French Naturalization Process
Drawing on ethnographical observations made in the Naturalization Office of a prefecture of the Paris region, and on interviews carried out with bureaucrats and French citizens who have been naturalized, this article examines both the institutional process of granting citizenship as well as its impact on subjectivities. It investigates the assumptions and broad judgments that underlie the granting of French citizenship to see how norms and values linked to this procedure circulate between bureaucrats and applicants. It focuses on the idea of “deservingness,” linked to the act of being granted French citizenship, to determine how bureaucrats from the Naturalization Office and French naturalized citizens differently appropriate this notion. By addressing the articulated difference between bureaucratic practice and lived experience, this article aims to highlight the political, moral, and ethical dimensions at stake in the procedure of making foreigners into French citizens.