La république métissée: Citizenship, colonialism, and the borders of French history
During the past decades, debates about immigration and racism have raged in France, most recently through the sans-papiers movement through which undocumented immigrants have demanded documentation and the rights that flow from it. The important successes of the sans-papiers movement, I argue, are the result of the way they combined demands phrased through universalist discourse with expressions of cultural identity, bringing together approaches often considered incommensurable in French political culture. Taking as its contemporary point of departure the sans-papiers movement, this paper proposes that in order to better understand these debates we need to place them in the context of French colonial history. In particular, I focus on the ways the history of the French Caribbean have shaped the way race and citizenship are imagined in Republican political culture. I draw on my historical work to highlight the important ways French 'universalism' was in fact in many ways produced through the actions of slaves in the Caribbean. The struggles around slave emancipation and political equality in the Caribbean that developed during the French Revolution, I suggest, both produced a Republican tradition of anti-racist egalitarianism, and gave birth to a 'Republican racism' through which new practices of exclusion were articulated. To understand the contested meaning of citizenship in France at the end of the twentieth century, I suggest, requires such forays into the history of empire through which the possibilities of citizenship were formed. © Taylor & Francis Ltd.
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