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Obscuring Race

Franco-African Conversations about Colonial Reform and Racism after World War II and the Making of Colorblind France, 1945–1950

Emily Marker

In 1945, the first significant cohort of African, Caribbean, and Malagasy deputies were elected to the French National Assembly, where they participated in special parliamentary commissions tasked with colonial reform. This article traces the contours of postwar conversations about colonial policy, race, and racism that took shape in those commissions, as metropolitan and colonial deputies confronted these issues face-to-face, as ostensible equals, for the first time. Deputies of color tried to force frank discussions about racial inequality in their campaigns to reform political representation, working conditions, education, and compensation for Africans. Their metropolitan counterparts responded, however, by developing new code words and rhetorical strategies that deflected accusations of systemic racial inequality in postwar Greater France. The competing understandings and ways of talking about race and racism produced in this encounter helped consolidate a postwar speech regime of “colorblindness” that obscured the way racial logics were inscribed in the new institutions of the postwar Republic.

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A White Race Blindness?

Abstract Universalism and the Unspeakable Making of Race

Sarah Mazouz

seminal work, historian Joan W. Scott sheds light on how abstract universalism was an ideological mystification in the case of gender equality. 4 In the case of race, far from being an ideology of inclusion, abstract universalism allows one to

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Race in France

Laura Frader

An American scholar is often struck by the absence of race in France as a category of analysis or the absence of discussions of race in its historical or sociological dimensions. After all, “race” on this side of the Atlantic, for reasons having to do with the peculiar history of the United States, has long been a focus of discussion. The notion of race has shaped scholarly analysis for decades, in history, sociology, and political science. Race also constitutes a category regularly employed by the state, in the census, in electoral districting, and in affirmative action. In France, on the contrary, race hardly seems acknowledged, in spite of both scholarly and governmental preoccupation with racism and immigration.

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Histories of Race in France

Tyler Stovall

Tzvetan Todorov, On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993)

Sue Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1995)

Maxim Silverman, Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism and Citizenship in Modern France (London and New York: Routledge, 1992)

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“White” Guadeloupeans of “Mixed” Ancestry

Complicating Analyses of Whiteness and White Supremacy

Ary Gordien

racialization process it reveals originate in the former French Caribbean colonies where slavery took place, most discussions on blanchité (and more generally on race) tend to focus on the racial dynamics at play on the mainland. Based on a retrospective

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Culture-as-Race or Culture-as-Culture

Cultural Identity in French Society

David Beriss

“Yes, but aren’t these people black?” This is perhaps the most common question Americans ask about my research among West Indian activists in Paris and Martinique. It is asked in a tone that suggests that the answer itself is obvious and, more than that, that the questions I ask about West Indian claims to identity would be almost moot if I were to just get that answer through my head. This question has always confused me.

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The Paris Opera Ballet Dancing Offstage

Work, Grace, and Race

Tessa Ashlin Nunn

underscore, the term nègre designates a person with Black skin as “une marchandise, un bien mobilier susceptible d'être possédé, exploité ou détruit, ou tout au mieux une sous-race de l'espèce humaine.” 73 Weighed down by a history of violence, the word

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Maneuvering Whiteness in France

Muslim Converts’ Ambivalent Encounters with Race

Juliette Galonnier

boundaries of race and of Whiteness specifically. 19 In the United States, religious groups such as Catholics, Jews, and Mormons have long been racially suspect before becoming integrated into the White mainstream, 20 while Islam as a religion continues to

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An Inconvenient Expertise

French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française

Minayo Nasiali

aptitude to do more difficult work precisely because of their race. Shipping companies believed African sailors—as an essentialized group—were not capable of working aboard new vessels. The letter also reveals how expectations about skill were shaped by

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Les politiques françaises de lutte contre le racisme, des politiques en mutation

Gwénaële Calvès

Il pouvait sembler évident, jusqu’à une période très récente, que la formule célèbre du juge Blackmun selon laquelle, « pour en finir avec le racisme, nous devons d’abord prendre la race en compte »1 n’avait aucune chance de s’acclimater en France. La culture politique républicaine, exprimée et confortée par des principes constitutionnels fermement énoncés2, s’opposait à la prise en compte d’un critère de catégorisation tenu pour intrinsèquement infamant et dénué de tout contenu positif : le droit français contemporain ne mentionne la « race » que pour en proscrire la prise en compte ; la seule « race » qu’il connaisse est la race du raciste.