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The Value of Nation

Bureaucratic Practices and the Lived Experience in the French Naturalization Process

Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographical observations made in the Naturalization Office of a prefecture of the Paris region, and on interviews carried out with bureaucrats and French citizens who have been naturalized, this article examines both the institutional process of granting citizenship as well as its impact on subjectivities. It investigates the assumptions and broad judgments that underlie the granting of French citizenship to see how norms and values linked to this procedure circulate between bureaucrats and applicants. It focuses on the idea of “deservingness,” linked to the act of being granted French citizenship, to determine how bureaucrats from the Naturalization Office and French naturalized citizens differently appropriate this notion. By addressing the articulated difference between bureaucratic practice and lived experience, this article aims to highlight the political, moral, and ethical dimensions at stake in the procedure of making foreigners into French citizens.

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A White Race Blindness?

Abstract Universalism and the Unspeakable Making of Race

Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

Drawing on observations and on interviews conducted in a préfecture and in a municipalité of the Paris periphery, this article analyzes how republican universalism operates as a “particularizing” tool that enacts Whiteness. Starting from the paradoxical situation in which White state officials are reluctant to engage with the notion of racial discrimination when they are keen to ascribe racial categories to people of color, I argue that race blindness is in fact a form of White blindness to racialization. People of color who subscribe to the ideology of colorblindness tend to adopt a position whereby their loyalty toward the requirement of race blindness is supposed to protect them from suspicions raised by the racialized identity they are assigned to. But in practice, this stance internalizes the way they are viewed by Whites. The article concludes by discussing the link between White race blindness and the failure of republican policies against racial discrimination.

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Introduction

A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France

Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

France is an overwhelmingly majority-White nation. Yet the French majority is reluctant to identify as White, and French social science has tended to eschew Whiteness as an object of inquiry. Inspired by critical race theory and critical Whiteness studies, this interdisciplinary special issue offers a new look at White identities in France. It does so not to recenter Whiteness by giving it prominence, but to expose and critique White dominance. This introduction examines the global and local dimensions of Whiteness, before identifying three salient dimensions of its French version: the ideology of the race-blind universalist republic; the past and present practice of French colonialism, slavery, and rule across overseas territories; and the racialization of people of Muslim or North African backgrounds as non-White.