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Gérard Grunberg

The 2007 presidential elections have been the most important in France since 1981 because they provoked ruptures in the way the state and the French political system function. These ruptures, which this essay explores, include: the structural advantage the Right now has over the Left in national elections; the extension of the president's power and role in the regime; the transformation of the French political parties system into bipartism; and, finally, evolution inside the two major French parties due not only to the personality, ideas and choices of their respective candidates but also to the growing role of the president in the regime and its effects.

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Freedom Papers Hidden in His Shoe

Navigating Emancipation across Imperial Boundaries

Sue Peabody

A microhistorical inquiry into the life of Furcy, a man held in slavery in the French Indian Ocean colony of Île Bourbon (today Réunion), sheds light on shifting French policies and practices regarding race and slavery from the Old Regime to the general emancipation of 1848. The mobility of two enslaved domestic servants, Furcy and his mother Madeleine, who traveled between Bengal, Île Bourbon, Mauritius, and continental France, challenged French and British understandings of who could be legitimately held as slaves. Furcy's tenacious battle to win recognition of his freedom in multiple jurisdictions is a forgotten precursor to many international disputes over the juridical principle of Free Soil in the age of Emancipation.

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More than a Turn?

The “Colonial” in French Studies

Emmanuelle Saada

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.”

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Rapping the Republic

Utopia, Critique, and Muslim Role Models in Secular France

Jeanette S. Jouili

This article examines the work and public reception of two, outspokenly Muslim, French rap artists. While both promote similar visions of a cosmopolitan French nation inclusive of its racial and religious (in particular Muslim) minorities, they express very different kinds of affective attachments to the French nation. I show that it is these affective attachments rather than their piety that explains their different reception within France?s media and political landscape. My claim in this article is that while secularity can be considered to be more lenient than often expected towards religion, it does not show the same flexibility towards the political commitments that go along. Thus, the legitimate secular subject, especially when of immigrant and Muslim background, must be loyal to the nation-state and display the corresponding affective structures.

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From Jerusalem to Paris

The Institutionalization of the Category of "Righteous of France"

Sarah Gensburger

Although the title of "Righteous among the Nations" has been awarded in Israel since 1963, foreign governments did not show any interest in this commemoration until the late 1990s. Since then, however, a growing number of European governments have adopted the term. Of all the countries to which this commemoration has spread, the French government's appropriation of the Israeli terminology may have gone the farthest, forging a new national commemorative expression: the "Justes de France." This essay explores how the French lexical appropriation has taken place, paying particular attention to the role played by Jewish rescuers in this process. In doing so, it seeks to introduce a new perspective into the current debate on the transnationalization of memory: to what extent do the different states interested in the commemoration of the "Righteous," in this case Israel and France, speak the same language and whose language is it?

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René, Ginette, Louise et les autres

nostalgie et authenticité dans la chanson néo-réaliste

Barbara Lebrun

France's retro rock music (chanson néo-réaliste) of the 1990s and 2000s favors acoustic music and "old-fashioned" instruments such as the accordion in order to reject today's fascination with novelty and consumerism. In doing so, this music genre looks back to pre-war France and rehabilitates an all-white national culture that is problematically nostalgic, in a similar fashion to the film Amélie. This article explores the ways in which chanson néo-réaliste still manages to forge a sense of protest identity in contemporary France, while engaging in apparently reactionary tactics. The specificities of this music genre are explored through an analysis of the lyrics, music, iconography and performance of, primarily, the group Têtes Raides, while contrasting their nostalgia of "protest" with that of the more commercially successful genre of variétés.

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Pascal Perrineau

Nicolas Sarkozy's victory in the 2007 French presidential elections represents a true rupture: rupture with years of political apathy, rupture with what was an escalating rise of political protest, rupture with a "law" that since 1981 seemed to require that every outgoing majority be beaten. Sarkozy's electoral victory was substantial. It was built on a notion that what the French were looking for was a strong sense of direction, and it gave rise to a dynamic of striking change right after the election (a political opening to the left, a shift in presidential style, disarray in the Socialist Party, and the marginalization of the National Front).

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AIDS and Postcolonial Politics

Acting Up on Science and Immigration in France

Michael J. Bosia

From a postcolonial left that challenges the French state over immigration policy and neoliberal globalization, Act Up has advocated for the social and political rights and needs of women, inmates, drug users, and immigrants with HIV/AIDS. This essay examines as well Act Up's engagement with science and globalization in response to new experimental medical trials in the Global South. Act Up's emphasis on local empowerment against global economic and social actors has earned criticism from American and South African AIDS activists, but at the same time these campaigns stress the universalist impulse imbedded in the Act Up brand of French Republican politics.

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Soixante ans après

pour un état des lieux de mémoire

Nathan Bracher

In reviewing various commemorations that highlighted the year 2005 in France, this article points out the major evolutions of memory visible primarily in the press and media coverage of these events. If public memory remains as highly charged and polemical as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, attention is clearly turning away from the Occupation and Vichy to focus more on Europe and on France's colonial past, as we see not only in the ceremonies celebrating the "liberation" of Auschwitz, the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, and the dedication of the Mémorial de la Shoah, but also in the many articles devoted to Russian and Eastern European experiences of the war, as well as to the bloody postwar repressions of colonial uprisings in Algeria and Madagascar. Now that racial and ethnic tensions are exacerbating an increasingly fragmented public memory, the work of history is more urgent than ever.

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The Choice of Ignorance

The Debate on Ethnic and Racial Statistics in France

Patrick Simon

For more than a century, statistics describing immigration and assimilation in France have been based on citizenship and place of birth. The recent concern for racial discrimination has given rise to a heated controversy over whether to introduce so-called "ethnic categories" into official statistics. In this article, I make an assessment of the kind of statistics that are available today and the rationale behind their design. I then discuss the main arguments put forward in the controversy and argue that antidiscrimination policies have created a new need for statistics that outweigh the arguments against the use of "ethnic statistics." In fact, beyond the technical dimension of this controversy lies a more general political debate about the multicultural dimensions of French society.