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Introduction

Globalizing the History of French Decolonization

Jessica Lynne Pearson

Abstract

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.

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Le Rallye Méditerranée-le Cap

Racing towards Eurafrica?

Megan Brown

Abstract

The retired military officers who organized the Rallye Méditerranée-le-Cap, a biennial car race from Algiers to Cape Town, did so to promote Eurafrica. Eurafrica, an idealized geopolitical fusion of the continents, would be a site of European partnership, with the rally literally paving the way. When its wealthy participants first took to the road in 1951, France, Belgium, and Britain administered much of the course. This article argues that the organizers viewed tourism as the best method for upholding European sovereignty in Africa. However, they did not account for new ways of doing empire in the postwar era, most notably the strength of anti-imperial activism and the advent of technologies that did not require direct access to large swathes of land. By the time of the fifth and final rally in 1961, organizers contended with realities they preferred to ignore: newly independent African states and the ongoing Algerian War of Independence.

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Periphery and Intimacy in Anti-Imperial Culture and Politics

From French Others to Othering Frenchness

Burleigh Hendrickson

Abstract

In the late period of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French imperialism, French thinkers, artists, and colonists had long held a fascination with the “others” inhabiting France's colonies. Intimate contact and cross-cultural encounters led to descriptions and often violent differentiations of these groups that helped define French identity. But what might we learn by employing a “postcolonial praxis” that seeks new ways of interrogating identity from anti-imperial actors? Taking the perspectives of three key anti-imperialists—Frantz Fanon, Ousmane Sembène, and Simone Lellouche Othmani—this article unearths their perceptions about France and French identity. For these figures, France could represent either an unfulfilled promised land or a place of exile. Frenchness, likewise, ran the spectrum from a set of desired if unattainable qualities, an immoral culture to be resisted at all costs, to a national identity to be deployed for political strategy. This radical approach turns Frenchness into an “other” while contributing to the emergence of new postcolonial identities. At the same time, it demonstrates how three important definitions of France and of Frenchness depended upon both peripheral positionality and intimate access to French culture.

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Sarah Richmond

I am so grateful to Matthew Eshleman and Adrian van den Hoven for their generous, insightful comments. Translating can be a lonely activity, especially when the text is as lengthy as BN. At the end of hours of involvement with Sartre's French – perched, as it were, on the edge of his mind – I often felt in need of other, auxiliary minds to re-centre me, to save me from toppling over completely into Sartre's consciousness and drowning. In these moments, I usually turned to dictionaries and other internet resources to bolster my critical distance; more rarely, I would email fellow translators or philosophers for help. But I have had very little of the attentive, fine-grained dialogue offered here, and I have immensely enjoyed, and benefited from, this exchange. Hopefully, SSI readers will also find it of interest.

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Adrian van den Hoven

Abstract

Sarah Richmond's translation makes an important contribution to Sartrean scholarship. L'Etre et le néant was first translated by Hazel Barnes in 1956 but it contained various errors. Richmond also had access to the internet and to Sartre's French and German sources. Her edition also contains an Introduction and a ‘Notes on the translation’ section.

Sartre published his work in 1943 and, unable to access all the works he cited, he often did so from memory. He also adopted certain translators’ neologisms: for example, Corbin's translation of Heidegger's Qu'est-ce que la métaphysique? , and when he quoted Nietzsche, he used two different translations, and he quotes Spinoza using a text by Hegel. He quotes a line from the playwright Beaumarchais without clarifying the context.

Sarah Richmond deals with many of these problems and also notes that the French gender system can be problematic. Also, Sartre's neologisms rendered finding English equivalents difficult. This is an excellent translation.

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Sociality, Seriousness, and Cynicism

A Response to Ronald Santoni on Bad Faith

Jonathan Webber

Abstract

This article is a clarification and development of my interpretation of Sartre's theory of bad faith in response to Ronald Santoni's sophisticated critique, published in this issue. It begins by clarifying Sartre's conception of a project and explaining his claim that one project is fundamental, thereby elucidating the idea that bad faith is a fundamental project. This forms the groundwork of my responses to Santoni's critique of my interpretation, which comprises four arguments: Sartre does not consider us to be ontologically and congenitally disposed to bad faith; Santoni is right that social pressure cannot explain the prevalence of bad faith, but this is a problem with Sartre's theory rather than a problem for my interpretation of it; Sartre's conception of seriousness is merely an optional strategy of bad faith; and Sartre is right to deny that bad faith is an inherently cynical project.

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Think Global, Fight Local

Recontextualizing the French Army in Algeria, 1954–1962

Terrence G. Peterson

Abstract

For many within the French military, the war over Algeria's independence that raged from 1954 to 1962 appeared global: not an isolated conflict, but one front in a broader subversive war waged by Communist revolutionaries. As historians have long noted, this perspective was inaccurate. For that reason, the social and cultural contexts that defined military practice during the early years of the conflict have not been fully explored. This article argues, however, that these global narratives mattered, and can help historians to trace both how global events shaped military thinking about Algeria and how the war helped forge more concrete transnational connections. As they honed their operational doctrines in Algeria, French military leaders looked abroad: not only to understand the war in Algeria, but to promote their own practices as a universal response to the social upheavals of the era.

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Aaron Freundschuh, Jonah D. Levy, Patricia Lorcin, Alexis Spire, Steven Zdatny, Caroline Ford, Minayo Nasiali, George Ross, William Poulin-Deltour, and Kathryn Kleppinger

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Colette française (et fille de zouave)

Colette and the French Singularity

Kathleen Antonioli

Abstract

This article argues that French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette occupies a central position in the canon of French women's writing, and that from this position her reception was deeply influential in the development of the myth of French singularity. After World War I, a style of femininity associated with Colette (natural, instinctive, antirational) became more largely synonymous with good French women's writing, and writers who did not correspond to the “genre Colette” were excluded from narratives of the history of French women's writing. Characteristics associated with Colette's writing did not shift drastically before and after the war, but, in the wake of the Great War, these characteristics were nationalized and became French.

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Whitney Walton

Abstract

This article examines Arvède Barine's extensive and popular published output from the 1880s to 1908, along with an extraordinary cache of letters addressed to Barine and held in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of France. It asserts that in the process of criticizing contemporary feminist activists and celebrating the achievements of women, especially French women, in history, she constructed the historical and cultural distinctiveness of French women as an ideal blend of femininity, accomplishment, and independence. This notion of the French singularity, indeed the superiority of French women, resolved the contradiction between her condemnation of feminism as a transformation of gender relations and her support for causes and reforms that enabled women to lead intellectually and emotionally fulfilling lives. Barine's work offers another example of the varied ways that women in Third Republic France engaged with public debates about women and gender.