Conclusion
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177 Conclusion In this book, I have sought to detail the relationship between immigration politics and theatrical practices in Paris during the first decade of the twenty-​ first century. To offer a conclusion to such a task may therefore generate the impression that the political, cultural, and aesthetic dynamics outlined within are durational and have somehow exhausted their representational lives. Yet a brief glance at the contemporary French “scene” will immediately reveal that the unique dynamics that mark Aesthetic Citizenship’s timeline remain more than relevant. Indeed, the trend toward “national republicanism” that Étienne Balibar had identified at the turn of the twenty-​ first century, a political tendency that congealed around the stigmatization of foreigners and the “development of an abstract communitarianism, centered on the state and its exclusive claim to incarnate the universal,”1 seems ever significant as the political party led by Nicolas Sarkozy, Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), renames itself Les Républicains, laying claim to a political identity whose roots, as I hope to have shown, are hardly partisan. That Sarkozy’s renewed yet short-​ lived 2016 campaign for the French presidency (a position which he vacated following the electoral victory of the Socialist François Hollande in 2012) underlined immigration’s dangers for “our way of life”2 is evidence of how deeply the French Right has absorbed the electoral victories of Far Right parties like the Front National, currently led by Marine Le Pen. At the same time, debates surrounding migratory flows and French identity , and indeed the presentation of these phenomena as inextricably linked, have often united parties across the political spectrum. In 2012, Hollande’s newly appointed Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls was widely celebrated for his critique of Sarkozy’s immigration policies, with a particular focus on the recent drop in the number of naturalizations. Yet Cimade’s comprehensive 2014 report was quick to note that the long-​ awaited changes signaled by Valls had not yet materialized: accessing residency papers remained difficult , both because of the worsening conditions in prefectures and because of increasingly limited categories for regularization; asylum seekers lacked access to temporary housing as well as employment options as they awaited the results of their asylum applications; the retention centers established under Sarkozy had yet to be closed; forced deportations were common; and the deportation of Roma populations in particular (populations that are often composed of citizens of EU member states like Romania and Bulgaria) revealed the biases of European unification.3 178 Conclusion If the administrative procedures faced by newly arrived refugees compose one facet of “immigration,” however, the experiences of third and fourth-​ generation nationals for whom immigration is a distant reality is another, for as I hope to have shown throughout this book, the term “immigration” itself has become a reference point of varying stability in contemporary France, including and amalgamating populations ranging from first-, second -, and third-​ generation citizens of immigrant ancestry to undocumented persons of long-​ term residence to newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers . As such, references to immigration trigger a series of anxieties regarding history, nationality, and citizenship that are visible in legislative plans as wide-​ ranging as the 2005 proposal that history textbooks cover the positive role of French colonialism to the 2010 proposal that immigrants naturalized during the previous decade and charged with menacing public security personnel like the police should be stripped of their nationality. Nicolas Bancel notes that migratory flows, and their perceived connections to questions of multiculturalism and communitarianism, have become the reference point for a “widespread sentiment that France is disintegrating, on the verge of collapse , being systematically dismantled and its grandeur waning, a grandeur which historically has always been inextricably linked to the representation of the history of the nation.”4 In such an environment, Bancel adds, urgent problems like economic and cultural marginalization in the banlieues, racial stigmatization and discrimination, and lack of recognition surrounding minority experience are subsumed beneath a broader anxiety regarding French national identity. Needless to say, performance continues to figure in how these issues are negotiated, represented, and embodied. As an example, let me briefly revisit the Blanc-​ Mesnil-​ based women’s collective Quelques unes d’entre nous, whose work I had discussed in chapter 4. Their latest project is in direct conversation with the anxieties described by Bancel, anxieties that pertain to issues of national identity and that manifest themselves in relation to colonial and postcolonial history. In Et puis, nous passions le pantalon Français (And...


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