“French studies” were much easier to do thirty years ago when French Politics, Culture & Society was founded. France then seemed, and largely was, synonymous with Paris, which appeared knowable. It also seemed possible to scan French intellectual and cultural life across disciplines, in part because the Parisian French media loudly announced where the action was. French politics also looked distinctive internationally and French leaders projected themselves around the planet. It was understandable that FPCS would have holistic goals and attempt to cover as much of what was happening as possible while eagerly embracing inter-disciplinarity. Since then there have been massive changes, however. France's intellectual, cultural, social, and political biographies have been decentralized, Europeanized, globalized, and internationalized. French academic disciplines, like those in other countries, have been subdivided, often in difficult-to-follow ways. France itself, in the 1980s a formerly colonial great power that still spoke stridently in world affairs, is now a medium-sized member of the EU under very great economic and social strains. It is vastly harder to do holistic “French studies” now. All the more reason to try!
It is argued that the concept of “French studies” originally embodied in this journal was born of a unique constellation of social, cultural, and political forces characteristic of the middle years of the Cold War. The unity of the field defined by that moment was subsequently challenged by tensions inherent in the shift to a more transnational comparative perspective. A return to a ”reflective equilibrium” between the local and the global anchored in an emphasis on language and culture is advocated.
related to the hyper visibility or invisibility of millions of people of African descent in the French Republic. 2 This passion for understanding black experiences in France has given rise to black French studies, an area of inquiry that focuses on black
With FPCS embarking on its fourth decade of publishing work on the study of France and the francophone world, the journal invited scholars in several disciplines to write short essays on where they thought the field of French Studies should head in the future. This essay introduces the resulting dossier on “French Studies and Its Futures.” It situates the project in the current context in which the field is thriving intellectually but struggling with menacing institutional pressures. It goes on to describe the particular formulation of French Studies that the journal came to represent in its early years in the 1980s, how it evolved since, and what that experience suggests about how scholars can respond creatively to the challenges and opportunities the future may hold for the field.
Laurent Dubois and Achille Mbembe
This article offers a genealogy of the impact of French and Francophone Studies during the past decades in order to offer suggestions about how the field might be reconfigured and re-imagined in the present. We argue that the best way forward will be to dispense with traditional boundaries and borders within the field and instead embrace a general identity as Francophonists in order to bring together work on and from different regions of the globe.
Articles Special Issue on Representations, History, and Wartime France Special Issue on French Studies and Its Futures Dossier on Technology, the Visual, and Culture Reflections, Events, and Debates Review Essays Book Reviews Index of Books Reviewed
The staff of French Politics, Culture & Society is pleased to congratulate STÉPHANE GERSON, Associate Professor of French Studies, New York University, on winning the fifth Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies (2003-2005) awarded by the Association for French Cultural Studies.
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.”
This forum of brief essays derives from a day-long gathering held at NYU’s Institute of French Studies to discuss Debora Silverman’s prizewinning Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000). Silverman’s groundbreaking book shows how the deeply religious and spiritual environment in which both Gauguin and van Gogh grew up helped to shape, in important ways, their perceptions of the world, perceptions fundamental to the making of their art and to our own understanding of it. Despite the two painters’ ostensibly secular views of the world,Silverman argues, their respective religious educations remained with them and underpinned their art. Religion affected not only the subject matter of their paintings but texture, surface, color, and composition as well.
Transatlantic Perspectives on the Colonial Situation
In the past several years, colonial studies have reemerged as an important focus for the social sciences on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet there has been little exchange or communication between scholars in France and the United States. Moreover, the apparent commonality of the subject matter often masks important differences in approach, as well as differences in the political and scholarly agendas that support such research. The editors of this special issue of French Politics, Culture and Society believe that the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Georges Balandier’s classic article, “La situation coloniale, approche théorique” (Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 11 : 44-79), presents a valuable opportunity to promote Franco-American dialogue on the colonial question. This special issue publishes some of the works presented at a conference organized in April 2001 by the Institute of French Studies of New York University and entitled “1951-2001: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Colonial Situation.”