In commenting on the three previous diverse and interesting papers above, I have decided to take the ‘category route’. The categories that I have chosen are praxis, stasis, and ethos. (I am attempting to maintain some consistency in my categories!)
William L. McBride
Sketch of a Materialist Ethics
Translator : Marieke Mueller and Kate Kirkpatrick
origin of Marx’s categories (and the different subsequent readings thereof), in order to identify the way in which they are both determined by and in possession of the power to determine history. Critique requires the avoidance of an attitude that
The Illusion of "Ethnic Statistics"
Alain Blum and France Guérin-Pace
In this article, we engage in a debate that first took place in France ten years ago, but that has revived today. This debate concerns the question of whether to introduce ethnic categories in statistical surveys in France. There is strong opposition between those who argue for statistical categories to measure ethnic or racial populations as part of an effort to fight against discrimination, and those who argue against such statistics. The latter, including the authors of the present article, discuss the impossibility of building such categories, their inadequacies, and the political and social consequences they could have because of the way they represent society. They also argue that there are better, more efficient ways to measure discrimination and to fight against it. After describing the history of this debate, the authors present the different positions and explore the larger implications of the debate for French public life.
The Politics of Color Blindness in France and the United States
France and the United States are commonly portrayed as proceeding from diametrically opposed presumptions in their approaches to race policy.1 The United States, this line of argument goes, has pursued a race-conscious approach to attacking racial discrimination, developing policies such as affirmative action that offer compensatory advantages to members of historically or currently disadvantaged groups.2 The American approach involves directing benefits and opportunities toward individuals who belong to discrete, identifiable groups within society. This sort of targeting, in turn, presupposes that these groups constitute legitimate political categories and that those who fall into these categories are due special consideration.
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.
Since Kant, modern philosophy has reacted critically and most often dismissively to any theories or inquiries deemed “metaphysical.” The Critique of Pure Reason shows that although human beings naturally seek knowledge of things that are beyond the limits of all possible experience (i.e., metaphysical knowledge), the categories by means of which we are capable of knowledge are all restricted in their legitimate application to objects of possible experience.
The “Colonial” in French Studies
With the “colonial turn” in French studies now on the wane, this article attempts to assess its contributions. It suggests that one of the main thrusts of the “colonial turn” has been the reconsideration of the “Republic” as a framework for understanding modern French history: the colonies being the place where the Republic “contradicted itself” or, on the contrary, where its deepest tensions revealed themselves. While this perspective has been essential in underlining the importance of race in modern French history, it can be regarded as no more than an attempt to write a history of “France” enriched by the imperial perspective: indigenous worlds appear only secondarily in these analysis of the “imperial Republic.” This shortcoming echoes other criticisms that can be addressed to the “colonial turn” in French studies: the ahistorical use of the category of the “colonial” in the singular and the lack of satisfactory analysis of the “postcolonial.”
Reading the Graphs of Madame Pégard
Hélène Périvier and Rebecca Rogers
This article considers how women adopted a “scientific” statistical language at the end of the nineteenth century to draw attention to their role in the moral and social economy. It explores in particular the messages contained in La Statistique générale de la femme française, a series of eighteen murals that the moderate feminist Marie Pégard sent for exhibition at the Woman’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The article begins by considering the place statistics held in France in the final decades of the century within the context of universal exhibitions. It then examines Pégard’s choice of quantified categories of social analysis to convey a sustained argument about the comparative weight of women in a modernizing French economy. The article seeks to understand how contemporaries read and interpreted the graphs, and how this mode of rendering visible the issue of women’s work played into the politics of an emerging feminist movement.
This article explores the relationship between existentialism and the horror genre. Noël Carroll and others have proposed that horror monsters defy established categories. Carroll also argues that the emotion they provoke - 'art-horror' - is a 'composite' of fear and disgust. I argue that the sometimes horrifying images and metaphors of Sartre's early philosophy, which correlate with nausea and anxiety, have a non-coincidental commonality with art-horror explained by existentialism's preoccupation with the interstitial nature of the self. Further, it is argued that, as with some of the more sophisticated examples of the horror genre, the way for existential protagonists like Roquentin and Gregor Samsa to meet the challenge of the horrifying involves an accommodation of these features of the existential condition within their developing identity, which results in them appearing monstrous to others. Lastly, it is claimed that the association between existentialism and art-horror can explain the (paradoxical) appeal of horror.
Some intellectuals deserve scholarly attention as emblems or models. They represent something larger than themselves—a trend, an ideology, a school, an institution. Others, in contrast, stand out in their singularity of thought or method. They warrant equal consideration, but not necessarily for the broader developments they exemplify. Acclaimed as he is, Alain Corbin belongs in this second category. A scholar whose oeuvre springs from an intensely personal curiosity, Corbin is arguably the most idiosyncratic historian in France today. Over four decades, he has charted a course that is entirely his own. While awarding him the 2000 Grand prix Gobert, the Académie française aptly extolled a work that “boldly extends the limits of historical method.”