The Color of Liberty

Histories of Race in France

The Color of Liberty

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 13 illustrations Published: June 2003

History > European History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

France has long defined itself as a color-blind nation where racial bias has no place. Even today, the French universal curriculum for secondary students makes no mention of race or slavery, and many French scholars still resist addressing racial questions. Yet, as this groundbreaking volume shows, color and other racial markers have been major factors in French national life for more than three hundred years. The sixteen essays in The Color of Liberty offer a wealth of innovative research on the neglected history of race in France, ranging from the early modern period to the present.

The Color of Liberty addresses four major themes: the evolution of race as an idea in France; representations of "the other" in French literature, art, government, and trade; the international dimensions of French racial thinking, particularly in relation to colonialism; and the impact of racial differences on the shaping of the modern French city. The many permutations of race in French history—as assigned identity, consumer product icon, scientific discourse, philosophical problem, by-product of migration, or tool in empire building—here receive nuanced treatments confronting the malleability of ideas about race and the uses to which they have been put.

Contributors. Leora Auslander, Claude Blanckaert, Alice Conklin, Fred Constant, Laurent Dubois, Yaël Simpson Fletcher, Richard Fogarty, John Garrigus, Dana Hale, Thomas C. Holt, Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Dennis McEnnerney, Michael A. Osborne, Lynn Palermo, Sue Peabody, Pierre H. Boulle, Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Tyler Stovall, Michael G. Vann, Gary Wilder


"[A]n important collection of essays on the history of race in France. . . . Peabody and Stovall's collection is a very welcome addition. . . . [I]ts engagement with larger questions of race and empire make it an important read for anyone interested in the histories of modern France, identity formation, or colonialism." — Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss , Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"[E]xcellent and eclectic essays on both historical and contemporary France. To this reader all the essays in the later three parts of the volume are worth reading - they are all well written, lucid, contain interesting subject matter and are informative." — Vanita Seth , Thesis Eleven

"[T]hese essays, with their American perspective, offer new insights into race in French history and may contribute to a French re-examination of race and racism within the land of universal human rights." — Kim Munholland, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"This volume has much, as Fred Constant writes in his Foreword, to offer 'anyone interested in French studies and in contemporary dilemmas surrounding issues of equality, cultural diversity, and the practice of citizenship.'" — Roger Little, L’Esprit Créateur

"[These] seminal essays frame important questions about French 'histories of race' and contribute to our general understanding of the role race plays in shaping the modern world." — David H. Slavin, American Historical Review

“‘The French are not racists like the Americans!’ ‘But are they French racists?’ All of us, both French and American observers, have been bedeviled by some variant of this exchange I once had about the homeland of universal equality. This collection of transatlantic essays is the first systematic sounding of the praxis of race in French history. The contributions by American, Caribbean, and European-French specialists are universally fascinating and smart. The Color of Liberty is now the best thing on the subject in any language. We need it.” — Herman Lebovics, author of True France: The Wars over Cultural Identity, 1900–1945

“According to some observers, color-coded racism is an American problem that the French have, for the most part, managed to avoid. This fine collection of essays raises considerable doubt about that assumption. The authors show that race has been constructed somewhat differently in the two republics, but also demonstrate that the French, like the Americans, have often failed to live up to their own egalitarian principles when it came to relations with people whom they considered nonwhite.”
  — George M. Fredrickson, author of Racism: A Short History

“Enfin! Stovall and Peabody take up the call to place race at the center of French history and enlist a range of skilled scholars to show its tenacious filaments and deeply French roots. This volume gives substance to the diverse genealogies of racisms in the making of France while accounting for their troubling contemporary presence.” — Ann L. Stoler, author of Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sue Peabody is Associate Professor of History at Washington State University Vancouver and the author of "There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime.

Tyler Stovall is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include France since the Second World War, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, and The Rise of the Paris Red Belt.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Foreword / Fred Constant ix

Introduction: Race, France, Histories / Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall 1

1. Race: The Evolution of an Idea

Francois Bernier and the Origins of the Modern Concept of Race / Pierre H. Boulle 11

Eliminating Race, Eliminating Difference: Blacks, Jews, and the Abbe Gregoire / Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall 28

Of Monstrous Metis? Hybridity, Fear of Miscegenation, and Patriotism from Buffon to Paul Broca / Claude Blanckaert 42

2. Representations of the Other

Race, Gender, and Virtue in Haiti’s Failed Foundational Fiction: La mulatre comme il y a peu de blanches (1803) / John Garrigus 73

Inscribing Race in the Revolutionary French Antilles / Laurent DuBois 95

Sex, Gender, and Race in the Colonial Novels of Elissa Rhais and Lucienne Favre / Patricia M. E. Lorcin 108

French Images of Race on Product Trademarks during the Third Republic / Dana S. Hale 131

Sambo in Paris: Race and Racism in the Iconography of the Everyday / Leora Auslander and Thomas C. Holt 147

3. Colonial and Global Perspectives

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Variation and Difference in French Racism in Colonial Indochine / Michael G. Vann 187

Constructions and Functions of Race in French Military Medicine, 1830–1920 / Richard Fogerty and Michael A. Osborne 206

Panafricanism and the Republican Political Sphere / Gary Wilder 237

Frantz Fanon, the Resistance, and the Emergence of Identity Politics / Dennis McEnnerney 259

4. Race and the Postcolonial City

Identity under Construction: Representing the Colonies at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 / Lynn E. Palermo 285

Who Speaks for Africa? The Rene Maran-Blaise Diagne Trial in 1920s Paris / Alice L. Conklin 302

Catholics, Communists, and Colonial Subjects: Working-Class Militancy and Racial Difference in Postwar Marseille / Yael Simpson Fletcher 338

From Red Belt to Black Belt: Race, Class, and Urban Marginality in Twentieth-Century Paris / Tyler Stovall 351

Contributors 371

Index 377
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3117-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3130-8
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