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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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Not an Immigrant Country?

Non-Western Racism and the Duties of Global Citizenship

Adam K. Webb

The rise of non-Western societies, especially in Asia, to greater global influence demands greater scrutiny of how they engage the rest of the world. To date, every society with high levels of immigration is in Europe or a product of the European empires. The erosion of ethnically and racially inflected understandings of citizenship has also gone much further in the modern West than in East Asia or the Gulf States. Notably, however, liberal political theorists who make the case for a cosmopolitan opening of borders remain silent on such non-Western patterns of racial exclusion. Non-Western societies often claim that, because they are 'not an immigrant country', they should not be held to the same standards of openness and non-discrimination. International law, a product of the postcolonial moment, also has a blind spot on these issues. This article challenges such double standards. It suggests that the implicit normative argument for greater Western openness – collective guilt over the colonial experience and resulting racial stratification – leads in unexpected directions, implicating Asian societies in ways that they do not yet recognise.

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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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“China gives and China takes”

African traders and the nondocumenting states

Shanshan Lan

Based on ethnographic research in South China’s megacity Guangzhou, this article examines the gaps and contradictions in the central and local Chinese states’ efforts to regulate migrant traders from Africa. I identify economic interests, everyday racism, and ideological concerns as three major factors in shaping the nonrecording tactics of the Chinese states. The article argues that nonrecording is a practical tactic pursued by both the central and local states in order to balance multiple and conflicting interests at the regional, national, and international scales. Due to tensions between different levels of state authorities, China’s policies toward migrants from Africa are marked by sporadic shifts between recording, nonrecording, and derecording, which contribute to the illegibility of issues of immigration in state bureaucracy.

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Erin Ash

This research examined racial attitudes in response to viewing “white savior” films, best described as films in which a white character displays extraordinary acts of kindness and selflessness toward one or more minority characters. The results of an experiment (N = 149) revealed participants who viewed a savior film experienced moral emotion elevation, which, in turn, elicited prosocial motivations and universal orientation. Whereas prosocial motivations and universal orientation were predicted to reduce racism, findings indicated that prosocial motivations, in the absence of universal orientation, led to greater levels of both contemporary and traditional forms of racism. In addition, films portraying white saviors and those featuring black saviors were compared and shown to be invariant. Implications for understanding white privilege in light of these results are discussed.

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Beverly Weber

The perceived crisis triggered by the current refugee influx highlights the contradiction at the heart of human rights discourse. Modern humanity has been constructed as both European and as universal; the racialized “Other” against whom the “modern human” disturbs this construction by laying claim to human rights from the very heart of Europe. The sexualized violence reported in Cologne on New Year’s Eve fed into racialized fears of refugees and immigrants promoted by groups on the radical right, even as racialized fears returned to mainstream discourses. Critical responses to the racism of the radical right unfortunately also participate in racialized discourses by resorting to “Europe” or “European values.” This analysis suggests the need to consider Europe as a field of power, one in which the contestation over what Europe is or should be results in concrete, racialized disparities in access to social mobility, education, or public agency. A project for racial, gender and economic justice requires the thinking of Europe as an ongoing project of world-making. The call to revisit or reclaim “European” values cannot succeed here. Nor can a response to the new right (or the newly normalized racism of the center) allow the new right to determine the parameters of debates about possibilities for the future.

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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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William D. Irvine

Scholars of Third Republic France have long assumed that the political spectrum was divided into a readily identifiable Right and Left, adhering to mutually exclusive positions. But this comfortable political taxonomy could, at times, to violence to political reality. The Right could at some periods in the history of the Third Republic be aggressively nationalistic; at other times it could be positively irenic. The Left was often pacifist, but not always and there were moments when it, or some fraction of it, could be quite bellicose. Neither anti-Semitism nor racism in general were the exclusive province of the Right. On critical issues, the Left could be more refractory to women's rights than was the Right. French fascism claimed to be neither right nor left and at least some French fascist movements could list as many former members of the Left among its leaders as former members of the Right.