Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France
Publication: Feb 17
Publication: Feb 17
Publication: Feb 17
6 x 9
10 tables, 6 line drawings, 14 halftones
Revealing how the histories of slavery and colonialism are being resurrected and racialized in France todayRead the Introduction (pdf).
How can politicians and ordinary citizens face the racial past in a country that frames itself as colorblind? In her timely and provocative book, Resurrecting Slavery, Crystal Fleming shows how people make sense of slavery in a nation where talking about race, colonialism, and slavery remains taboo. Noting how struggles over the meaning of racial history are informed by contemporary politics of race, she asks: What kinds of group identities are at stake today for activists and French people with ties to overseas territories where slavery took place?
Fleming investigates the connections and disconnections that are made between racism, slavery, and colonialism in France. She provides historical context and examines how politicians and commemorative activists interpret the racial past and present. Resurrecting Slavery also includes in-depth interviews with French Caribbean migrants outside the commemorative movement to address the everyday racial politics of remembrance.
Bringing a critical race perspective to the study of French racism, Fleming’s groundbreaking study provides a more nuanced understanding of race in France along with new ways of thinking about the global dimensions of slavery, anti-blackness, and white supremacy.
" The French believe racism is something that affects other societies. Fleming’s Resurrecting Slavery has forever exploded this myth! Based on over a hundred in-depth interviews, archival work, and ethnographic observations, this book demonstrates convincingly that France is indeed shaped by white supremacy. A major contribution to our scholarly work on racial formations, Resurrecting Slavery is a book I intend to assign to my classes for years to come." —Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology, Duke University, and author of Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America
“ Combining fascinating qualitative data with incisive critical race theory, Fleming offers new insights into the contradiction between France’s color-blind political narrative and its ongoing legacy of racial oppression. She demonstrates that, in the hands of French Caribbean and black French activists, attempts to commemorate slavery have the potential to break the silence surrounding racism in France. Resurrecting Slavery is an important reminder that only by confronting white supremacy in its past and present, national and global incarnations can we hope to dismantle it.”—Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
“ Linguistic barriers have too often hindered communication and learning possibilities among different sections of the global black diaspora. In her essential and illuminating book, Resurrecting Slavery , Crystal Fleming brings to our Anglo attention the state of debate on racism and slavery in continental and overseas France—a country that has refused to even recognize ‘race’ as a legitimate category. As she shows, only by confronting the historical and ongoing realities of white supremacy can we truly begin to commemorate and overcome the legacy of the colonial and slave past.”—Charles W. Mills, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center, and author of The Racial Contract
"This compelling study probes the assumptions of race-blindness permeating contemporary French society through the perspective of critical race theory applied to refractions of slavery and memory among the varied citizens and immigrants of the state today.... (Fleming) reveal(s) complex questions and deep dialogues about slavery and identities, interwoven with issues of temporality and memory. One particular strength of the text lies in its lengthy engagements with speakers of different positions that remind readers how complex and mutable these issues of legacy and meaning continue to be—dividing as well as uniting populations.... A truly thoughtful and discussion-provoking text for scholars and students alike. Summing Up: Highly recommended." —Choice
"Resurrecting Slavery deeply engages French racial construction and slave legacies as they are articulated in elite discourse and diffused across a French minority population. Offering a tight analysis from start to finish, Fleming's examination of French historical revisionism and national reckoning draws from both theoretical paradigms and respondents' sentiments to conclude with a call for antiracist pedagogical outreach. Fleming provides an insightful dialogue with scholarship on race, notably critical race theory, and the study of collective memory. After comprehensively reviewing studies that evidence anti-blackness, she proceeds to engage the reader with rich, extensive ethnographic vignettes and powerful assessments of the French racial situation.... Resurrecting Slavery superbly examines the slave legacy of overseas French populations and in doing so makes an important contribution to an understudied dimension of French race scholarship." —Contemporary Sociology
"Fleming does not flatten race and blackness in the United States in order to apply American-based scholarship to another society. Race is neither black nor white—excuse the pun—in the United States or in France.... Resurrecting Slavery is notable for its in-depth discussion of antiblackness amid color-blind rhetoric. It is a great contribution not just to the increased visibility of people racialized as black, but also to the heterogeneity of such populations." — Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
"(A) refreshing, enlightening, and stimulating theorization of antiracist organizing, metropolitan Antillean identity, and how color-blind politics facilitates the persistence of white hegemony in twenty-first century France. Resurrecting Slavery offers a roadmap to and model for understanding contemporary French political identity politics, especially of first- and second generation middle-class Antilleans in and around Paris.... Resurrecting Slavery (is) highly accessible and
readable—an excellent work.... (I)t reveals much about shifting and contested ideologies in France today."
— H-Net's H-Black-Europe
"Fleming’s Resurrecting Slavery is a theoretically rigorous and empirically rich account of the movement to commemorate slavery in a white-dominated France that arrogantly believes itself the quintessence of a color-blind society. The well-developed concepts of racial temporality and asymmetric racialization should prove useful to race scholars whose research is located beyond France. For those who want to understand the global reach of colorblind ideology, this book is a must read."
— American Journal of Sociology
"(A) thought-provoking read. The author’s observations, drawn from over a hundred interviews and archival work by communitarian groups, provide insight into the struggles encountered by French Caribbean and black French activists, including the challenges they face to connect historical racism with the exclusion they face in the present. Clear and precise in its arguments, this book raises thorny questions about ethno-racial boundaries and reparations, while tackling the initiatives of various French officials to 'blackwash' slavery.... Although some of the content may make the reader feel uncomfortable, as it should, the core of the study offers an invaluable opportunity to grapple with the injustices faced by black and brown people, a reality that extends beyond the borders of France."
— French Review
"In this impressive study, the author examines contemporary discourses about the nation’s relationship with slavery.... Fleming persuasively demonstrates that French academics have failed to integrate slavery and white supremacy into the national narrative.... The genius of the book lies in the way in which it unsettles the received wisdom and the alleged consensus on being black within France’s institutionalized white supremacy. While not offering any solutions, Fleming shines a spotlight on the long-ignored problems of race in France."
— L’Esprit Créateur
Table of Contents
Introduction: Racial Resurrections
1. Slavery and the Construction of Race in France
2. Blackwashing Slavery: The Racial Politics of Commemoration
3. Activist Groups and Ethnoracial Boundaries
4. Racial Temporality in Action
5. “We Have a History”: Slavery and French Caribbean Identities
Conclusion: Race-ing the Past and the Present
Appendix A: Respondents Table
Appendix B: Interview Questions
Appendix C: Methodological Reflections
Appendix D: Recorded Events