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The Other French Exception

Virtuous Racism and the War of the Sexes in Postcolonial France

Nacira Guénif-Souilamas

Twentieth-century France invented for itself an "exception" that successfully preserved the French culture industry. Postcolonial France is experiencing another "French exception" that renders a "virtuous racism" commonplace and legitimates the discrimination that expresses this racism by identifying the undesirable "new French" as scapegoat figures. Four gender-specific stereotypes strengthen the belief that there is a form of sexism exclusive to the segregated neighborhoods of the suburbs that are inhabited primarily by French people of immigrant and colonial descent. Associated with the central figure of the garçon arabe are the beurette, the veiled Muslim French woman, and the secular Muslim. The article argues that the model of abstract, universalist France has become one of a fundamentalist republicanism that plays diverse expressions of otherness and singular identities off of one another in order to preserve a soft regime of oppression.

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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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Jayson Harsin

Based on news video archives, this article employs critical frame and content analysis to analyze representations of the 2005 French banlieue riots on France's most-watched television station, TF1. Cultural racism theory is then used to analyze the results to demonstrate the discursive nature of the TF1 frames and the contexts of institutional racism they left out but which historians, ethnographers, and theorists of cultural racism suggest are crucial to understanding racial conflict in contemporary France. The most frequent frames blamed non-integrating cultures and illegal immigration. That is, race was coded in cultural traits of a problematic sub-group without mentioning it specifically.

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Black and White on the Silver Screen

Views of Interracial Romance in French Films and Reviews since the 1980s

Jon Cowans

This article explores French attitudes about race during and after the years of the National Front's breakthrough by looking at French films and film reviews on the topic of interracial couples. In a country in which antiracists have been reluctant to legitimize the concept of race by talking about it, but in which the far Right has made gains by proclaiming its own views on race, French film-makers in the 1980s and after broached the topic in numerous films, but they often did so in ways that avoided controversy or serious reflection on current French racism. French critics of both French and American films featuring interracial couples also sidestepped the most explosive issues, revealing a disinclination to discuss a troubling and divisive concept, but also a persistent belief that racism remained an American problem and obsession.

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Contemporary "Structures" of Racism

A Sartrean Contribution to Resisting Racial Injustice

Justin I. Fugo

This paper develops an account of racism as rooted in social structural processes. Using Sartre, I attempt to give a general analysis of what I refer to as the “structures” of our social world, namely the practico-inert, serial collectives, and social groups. I then apply this analysis to expose and elucidate “racist structures,” specifically those that are oftentimes assumed to be ‘race neutral’. By highlighting structures of racial oppression and domination, I aim to justify: 1) the imperative of creating conditions free from oppression and domination, over the adherence to ‘ideal’ principles which perpetuate racial injustice; 2) the shared responsibility we have collectively to resist and transform social structural processes that continue to produce racial injustice.

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Robert Bernasconi

Frantz Fanon was an enthusiastic reader of Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason and in this essay I focus on what can be gleaned from The Wretched of the Earth about how he read it. I argue that the reputation among Sartre's critics of the Critique as a failure on the grounds that it was left incomplete should take into account its presence in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. Their shared perspectives on the systemic character of racism and colonialism, on the genesis and fragility of groups, and on parties indicates the vitality of the ideas set out in the Critique. However, these similarities between the two thinkers are offset by their differences on national consciousness and on the rural masses. I end by speculating about a certain defence on Sartre's part toward Fanon's concrete experience.

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Between Resistance and the State

Caribbean Activism and the Invention of a National Memory of Slavery in France

Itay Lotem

. Blackness had often been defined less through Pan-Africanism and more through resistance to police violence and racism, which the official commemoration of slavery and its abolitions did nothing to change. Ultimately, the process in which the French Republic

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Republican Antiracism and Racism

A Caribbean Genealogy

Laurent Dubois

In the Département d’Outre-Mer of Guadeloupe, a schoolteacher named Hugues Delannay presents me with a conundrum that has preoccupied him for a long time. He has been teaching in a lycée for over twenty years in Basse-Terre, the island’s capital, and has had many brilliant students who, when they take their baccalaureat examinations, get mixed results. Normally, they excel on the written portions of the examination. Consistently, however, they do worse on their oral examinations, which drags down their grades. Why? It is not that their speaking skills are not up to par—far from it, he tells me, these students are articulate and speak impeccable French. There is, according to Delannay, a simpler, and ultimately more disturbing explanation. The examiners who give these students low grades in their oral examinations almost always come from metropolitan France.

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Louis-Georges Tin

In 2005, black people in France decided to create a national organization: the CRAN. The country had lived for decades on the myth of human rights and equality, and as a result, minorities were invisible, and were expected to remain so. Therefore, the two most important goals of the CRAN have been: to give a name, to give a figure. The taboo of the name was broken when black people decided to stand up for what they are, to call themselves "black," however unusual this might sound in French public discourse; the taboo of the figure was also broken when the CRAN decided to launch the issue of ethnic statistics in France. Until then, blacks would not exist as such in this country, and racial discrimination would remain ignored for the most part. But since this campaign was launched, ethnic statistics have become an important issue. The debate is still going on.

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Michèle Lamont and Nicolas Duvoux

This essay considers changes in the symbolic boundaries of French society under the influence of neo-liberalism. As compared to the early nineties, stronger boundaries toward the poor and blacks are now being drawn, while North-African immigrants and their offsprings continue to be largely perceived as outside the community of those who deserve recognition and protection. Moreover, while the social reproduction of upper-middle-class privileges has largely remained unchanged, there is a blurring of the symbolic boundaries separating the middle and working class as the latter has undergone strong individualization. Also, youth are now bearing the brunt of France's non-adaptation to changes in the economy and are increasingly marginalized. The result is a dramatic change in the overall contours of the French symbolic community, with a narrowed definition of cultural membership, and this, against a background of growing inequality, unemployment, and intolerance in a more open and deregulated labor market.