This article examines Whiteness from the perspective of the concept of Blackness and the production of Black gazes upon Whiteness. The goal is neither to reverse old schemes nor to establish a new asymmetric duality, but to come back to the first space in which political, social, and visual dynamics are formed—the body. In doing so, the article shows that the notions and tools developed by Blackness Studies and Critical Race Theories enable the analysis of the role of corporeality in the joint construction of Whiteness and Blackness.
Body and Whiteness Through the Lens of Blackness
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.
This article focuses on the legal construction of the notion of anti-White racism in France. By analyzing cases litigated under criminal law, it describes how a right-wing NGO has been promoting this notion via a litigation strategy since the late 1980s, initially with only limited success. Public debates in mainstream media in the 2000s and intervention by more traditional antiracist NGOs in courts have since contributed to a creeping acceptance of anti-White racism both within courtrooms and in broader public discourse. This increased recognition of anti-White racism is highly problematic from a critical race and critical Whiteness perspective.
Muslim Converts’ Ambivalent Encounters with Race
This article examines the meanings of Whiteness in France by focusing on the specific case of White converts to Islam. By becoming Muslim, converts enter religious spaces in which they are a numerical minority. Usually unmarked and unnoticed, their Whiteness is now very much visible, prompting interrogations about their racial categorization. Faced with moral dilemmas on how to best position themselves ethically while holding a position of dominance, White converts to Islam resort to a variety of strategies to portray themselves as “good Muslims” and “good Whites.” Relying on ethnography and in-depth interviewing, this article explores the contradictions, inconsistencies, and ambivalences that characterize White identities in the French context.
Complicating Analyses of Whiteness and White Supremacy
This article explores the various ways in which Guadeloupeans of mixed African and European ancestry who are perceived as White self-identify in relation to their family and individual trajectories. This partial analysis is based on half-dozen semistructured interviews carried out in the course of researching nationalism, race, and ethnicity in Guadeloupe. Complicating rigid definitions of Whiteness and White supremacy, this article interprets the intricate meanings of Whiteness in the specific context of Guadeloupe, and its complex articulation with material and symbolic privilege.
Abstract Universalism and the Unspeakable Making of Race
Drawing on observations and on interviews conducted in a préfecture and in a municipalité of the Paris periphery, this article analyzes how republican universalism operates as a “particularizing” tool that enacts Whiteness. Starting from the paradoxical situation in which White state officials are reluctant to engage with the notion of racial discrimination when they are keen to ascribe racial categories to people of color, I argue that race blindness is in fact a form of White blindness to racialization. People of color who subscribe to the ideology of colorblindness tend to adopt a position whereby their loyalty toward the requirement of race blindness is supposed to protect them from suspicions raised by the racialized identity they are assigned to. But in practice, this stance internalizes the way they are viewed by Whites. The article concludes by discussing the link between White race blindness and the failure of republican policies against racial discrimination.
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.
Laura Levine Frader, Ian Merkel, Jessica Lynne Pearson, and Caroline Séquin
Lisa Greenwald, Daughters of 1968: Redefining French Feminism and the Women's Liberation Movement (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2018).
Eric T. Jennings, Escape from Vichy: The Refugee Exodus to the French Caribbean (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).
Kathleen Keller, Colonial Suspects: Suspicion, Imperial Rule, and Colonial Society in Interwar French West Africa (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2018).
Becoming Modern in Colonial Morocco
This article explores the development of reformist thought and the formulation of modern identities in colonial Morocco. In seeking to move beyond conceptualizing ideas of social reorganization and cultural revival as determined by the encounter between the colonizer and the colonized, it shifts the critical focus to interactions within Moroccan colonial society itself. Specifically, it situates a project of reform in girls’ education within a local and broader debate on the effective formula for educational and pedagogic restructuring that would ensure the advance of the Muslim community. This analysis demonstrates that ideas of social change and cultural innovation in colonial Morocco were shaped by divides and disputes among Moroccans themselves as much as by the colonial state and its policy initiatives.
Jonathan G. Katz
The pioneering French doctor Françoise Entz Légey (1876-1935) devoted her career in Algeria and Morocco to women's healthcare. Much acclaimed in her lifetime, and remembered today largely for her two books on Moroccan folklore, Légey established in Marrakesh a maternity hospital and a milk dispensary. She also embarked on a plan to instruct “modern” midwives to replace indigenous matrones and sages-femmes, known in Arabic as qablas. While Protectorate policy afforded opportunities to European women physicians like Légey, it simultaneously undermined the authority of indigenous Moroccan women healthcare providers. Efforts by Légey and other European physicians to supplant indigenous medicine with biomedicine ultimately contributed to the landscape of medical pluralism that prevails today. Moreover, European medicine disproportionately attracted the Jewish minority and further contributed to Jewish alienation from the Muslim majority.