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Jewish Heritage in France

Evaluation of Twenty Years Work and Protection

Dominique Jarrassé

France awoke fairly late to the realisation that specific protection was required for its Jewish heritage. For many years, the only thought was to safeguard a few eighteenth-century buildings of exceptional quality without considering their value as representatives of the Jewish inheritance. Thus, in 1924, the synagogues under threat at Carpentras and Cavaillon were saved by being classified as historic monuments. It was not until the 1980s that a campaign to research and protect this heritage got under way. The regional Departments for the Preservation of Historic Monuments were given the idea of ‘recent heritage’ by their supervising ministerial department.

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The Mendès France Milk Regime

Alcoholism as a Problem of Agricultural Subsidies, 1954–1955

Joseph Bohling

In 1954, Pierre Mendès France committed the state to curbing alcoholism as part of an effort to reorient important agricultural sectors and improve French economic performance, using milk as a symbol of his government's new direction. While Mendès France's milk drinking was often portrayed as the whim of a maverick politician, this article shows instead that it was the expression of a broadly based movement to modernize the economy. Challenging the view of an insular state that exclusively served the powerful alcohol lobbies, this article contends that the success of alcohol reform hinged on Mendès France's ability to overcome parliament and pit other economic sectors and a public health movement against those lobbies. Although it would require the more centralized authority of the Fifth Republic to implement lasting reforms to the alcohol sector, the Mendès France government helped raise public awareness about the purported link between alcoholism and agricultural subsidies that kept uncompetitive producers on the land at the taxpayer's expense.

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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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Philip H. Gordon and Sophie Meunier

The nature of the French economy has changed radically in recent years. Breaking with its mercantilist and dirigiste past, France has since the early 1980s converted to market liberalization, both as the necessary by-product of European integration and globalization and as a deliberate effort by policymakers. Whereas the French state used to own large sectors of the economy, partly to keep them from foreign control, now even a Socialist-led government proceeds with privatization, with scant regard for the nationality of the buyer.

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Alice L. Conklin

Post-Colonial Cultures in France, Alec G. Hargreaves and Mark McKinney, eds. (London: Routledge, 1997)

Jean-Loup Amselle, Vers un multiculturalisme français, l’empire de la coutume (Paris: Aubier, 1996)

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The Iraq Crisis and France

Heaven-Sent Opportunity or Problem from Hell?

Charles Cogan

In early 2003, in the midst of the debates in the United Nations over what to do about Iraq, but before the French definitively threatened to use their veto, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a clear though implied reference to France, remarked that, “with some of our friends, we have been in marriage counseling for 225 years.” The secretary did not say which partner was which in the marriage.

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Saving France's "lost Boys "

Vichy and the Reform of Juvenile Justice in France

Laura Lee Downs

In 1944, Léo Joannon's now-forgotten film Le Carrefour des enfants perdus opened in cinemas across France. The film (which starts in August 1940) recounts the struggle of impassioned journalist Jean Victor and a small group of friends to found a new kind of reform school without locks on the doors or bars on the windows, a vocational school for the professional training of delinquent youth whose methods were to be based on forging bonds of trust with the young offenders, rather than on their simple repression. Victor and his friends had all experienced firsthand the terrible bagnes d'enfants (children's penal colonies) of the Third Republic's pitiless juvenile justice system in their youth, and the story of the Carrefour (as their school was named) turns on the dedicated faith of these men in the abilities of children, even those deemed "guilty" in juvenile courts, to remake their own lives along healthier lines. Over the course of the film, the adventures of the Carrefour's 400 "enfants perdus" unfold inside an unexpected blend of progressive pedagogy (confidence in the children) and Vichy's fascistic elevation of the chef (organization of the school in hierarchically-ordered teams, run by older street toughs who are converted from caïdisme to the purer, if no less masculinist, ideology of the chef).

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The Whiteness of French Food

Law, Race, and Eating Culture in France

Mathilde Cohen

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.

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Claire Andrieu

If the Resistance as a whole is part of French identity, the different types of resistance, among them that of women, do not benefit from the same status. On the contrary, official commemorations of the Resistance are based upon two implicit statements: that the Resistance and the nation are somewhat equivalent— the Resistance being viewed as the uprising of the whole nation—and that to differentiate among the resisters would go against the very principles of the Resistance, its universalism, its refusal to make any distinction in race or origin. The assimilationism that is part of the ideology of the French Republic hinders the recognition of particularisms, whether regional, cultural or gendered.

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The Moral Rearmament of France

Pierre Nora, Memory, and the Crises of Republicanism

Ben Mercer

The article traces the transformation of the idea of memory in the writings of Pierre Nora. His multi-volume Les Lieux de mémoire is read as a response to historiographical and historical crises of the 1970s, an attempt to write the history of France in which memory served as the new basis of national unity. However, the new national synthesis of memory that emerged merely resembled a liberal republicanism, whose enemies were variously immigrants, multiculturalists, neo-nationalists, dissenters from the anti-totalitarian consensus, or anyone who emphasized Vichy or France's colonial past. Ultimately, memory proved no more capable of dealing with the troublesome aspects of historical narrative or memory than traditional history.