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Political Radicalism in France

Perspectives on a Protean Concept

James Shields

This introductory article reflects on the new momentum that political radicalism has taken on in France. The ebb and flow of radical aspiration featured regularly in French politics under the Fourth and early Fifth Republics, before the failure of the "Socialist experiment" in the early 1980s brought about a paradigm shift. In the wake of this failure and with the "end of ideology" supposedly in sight, political leaders and parties tempered their appeals to radical solutions and conspired, not least through recurrent power-sharing, to vacate mainstream political discourse of much of its former radicalism. Since the presidential election of 2007, however, there has been a marked return to promises of radical change as the common currency of political discourse across the full left-right spectrum in France. This article introduces a special issue of French Politics, Culture & Society that brings together scholars from France, Britain, and Canada to discuss some of the meanings, expressions, and prospects of political radicalism in France today.

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French Cinema

Globalization, Representation, and Resistance

Graeme Hayes and Martin O'Shaughnessy

It is now twelve years since French brinkmanship pushed American negotiators and the prospects of a world trade deal to the wire, securing the exclusion of cultural products and services from the 1993 GATT agreement and the maintenance of European systems of national quotas, public subsidies, and intellectual property rights in the audiovisual sector. The intervening period has not been quiet. Although the Multilateral Agreement on Investment was sunk when Lionel Jospin pulled the plug on negotiations in October 1998, the applications of new central European entrants to join the European Union and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have been accompanied by a continuing guerrilla battle fought by successive American administrations against the terms and scope of the exclusion.

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Herrick Chapman

With FPCS embarking on its fourth decade of publishing work on the study of France and the francophone world, the journal invited scholars in several disciplines to write short essays on where they thought the field of French Studies should head in the future. This essay introduces the resulting dossier on “French Studies and Its Futures.” It situates the project in the current context in which the field is thriving intellectually but struggling with menacing institutional pressures. It goes on to describe the particular formulation of French Studies that the journal came to represent in its early years in the 1980s, how it evolved since, and what that experience suggests about how scholars can respond creatively to the challenges and opportunities the future may hold for the field.

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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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Entre Algérie et France

Écrire une histoire sociale des Algériens au vingtième siècle

Muriel Cohen and Annick Lacroix

Focused on colonial and postcolonial Algerians’ social practices and experiences in Algeria and France, this special issue calls for a renewal of Algerian history. Outlining past historical work and new research directions, the introduction argues that to understand colonial Algeria better, historians need to push beyond a political history that assumes a clear contrast between settlers and colonized. While recognizing the colonial divide between settlers and colonized people, we ought to attend to other social hierarchies. These include men and women’s concrete experiences, for instance at work, at home, and in migration, intersections of race, gender, and class, contrasts between rural and urban areas, or the multiple role of religious identities and legal statuses. Reconstructing those social realities will require new archives, of labor and localities, for example, and new methods, including quantitative and oral history.

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Giuliana Chamedes and Elizabeth A. Foster

Scholarly attention to decolonization in the French Empire and beyond has largely focused on the political transitions from colonies to nation-states. This introduction, and the essays in this special issue, present new ways of looking at decolonization by examining how religious communities and institutions imagined and experienced the end of French Empire. This approach adds valuable perspectives obscured by historiographical emphasis on French republican secularism and on the workings of the colonial state. Bringing together histories of religion and decolonization sheds new light on the late colonial period and the early successor states of the French empire. It also points to the importance of international institutions and transnational religious communities in the transitions at the end of empire.

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Naomi J. Andrews and Jennifer E. Sessions

Scholarly attention to the history and legacies of France's overseas empire is a welcome development of the last two decades, but the field of modern French colonial history has become overly focused on the “tensions” and “contradictions” of universalist republican imperialism. This introduction argues that we must recognize the ideological diversity of the French state and the complexity of the relationships between colonial and metropolitan histories in the modern period. The articles in this special issue show the critical role of the non-republican regimes of the nineteenth century in the construction of the modern French empire, and the ways that colonial entanglements shaped processes of post-Revolutionary reconstruction in France under the Restoration (1815–1830), July Monarchy (1830–1848), Second Republic (1848–1851), and Second Empire (1852–1870).

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Owen White and Elizabeth Heath

This introduction to the dossier “Wine, Economy, and Empire” surveys the place of economic history in the field of French Empire studies over the last twenty years. Drawing upon the concept of “economic life” as defined by William Sewell, the authors argue that a renewed focus on economic activity within the French Empire offers new opportunities to interrogate commonplace ideas about chronology, imperial forms, and structures of power. The article briefly examines some of the specific avenues of inquiry opened by a conception of economic life as socially “embedded,” while highlighting recent works that exemplify the possibilities of this approach for scholars of empire.

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Robert O. Paxton and Shanny L. Peer

Amidst so many works devoted to the Shoah, the rescue of Jews is a relatively neglected subject. This is especially so in the case of France, for reasons explored by Renée Poznanski in her introductory essay to this special issue. The papers published here were presented at a conference on the rescue of Jews in France and the French Empire during World War II, held at the Maison Française of Columbia University on 24–25 March 2011.1

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French Color Blindness in Perspective

The Controversy over "Statistiques Ethniques"

Daniel Sabbagh and Shanny Peer

In the United States, while some race-based policies such as affirmative action have faced often successful political and legal challenges over the last quartercentury, historically, the very principle of official racial classification has met with much less resistance. The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, according to which “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” was not originally intended to incorporate a general rule of “color blindness.” And when in California, in 2003, the “Racial Privacy Initiative” led to a referendum on a measure—Proposition 54—demanding that “the state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin,” this restriction was meant to apply exclusively to the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment, that is, the three sites where affirmative action was once in effect and might be reinstated at some point, or so the proponents of that initiative feared. In any case, that measure was roundly defeated at the polls.