In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editors' Introduction
  • T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting (bio) and Tiffany Ruby Patterson-Myers (bio)

The theme of the inaugural issue of Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International is "Liberation Across Boundaries." As happenstance would have it, in April 2011, Tiffany Patterson-Myers, Palimpsest's senior co-editor, was invited by Houria Bouteldja, a French woman of Algerian descent and an activist, to give a series of talks on race and racism, slavery, and the civil rights movement in the United States over the course of four evenings to a burgeoning movement of mostly French Arabs and their political arm, the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR). This movement and the PIR emerged on the national scene as a result of French islamophobia, crystallized in the passage of laws over the headscarf, burqa, and niqab, and escalating French racism and xenophobia.

In an effort to expose the contradictions of French Republicanism, the movement has reached out to like-minded Africans and Antilleans with some, but limited, success. Given the differences in the colonial experience and the desire on the part of large segments of these "communautés minoritaires" (minority communities) to achieve "francité" or "Frenchness," as well as the racial and color tensions among and within these communities, building coalitions across religious, cultural, gender, political, and social differences has been complicated.

The audience for these talks were primarily French Muslim citizens of Algerian descent, a former colony of France, and Morocco, a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, as well as a few Africans from the former colonies of French equatorial Africa (Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast), and a smattering of Antilleans from the French Overseas Departments (the DOM).

The lectures and the subsequent discussions lasted for more than four hours each day, as a relatively young audience of Africans (North and West) and Antilleans were intensely interested in race and racism in the United States and how their experiences in France mirrored the experiences of African Americans. Though there is no history of violence in hexagonal France comparable to the racial violence in the United States, discrimination in employment, education, and housing and religious intolerance were at the forefront of these animated conversations. Some of the most vocal participants in attendance were young women. One young woman, a teacher of English, reported that French [End Page v] supervisors in her school insisted that she provide her mostly black and beurs (Arab) students with only hip hop texts rather than a mix of classic novels and poetry written by black American writers or French black and Maghreb writers. A West African member of the audience held forth with considerable outrage at Senegalese writer Léopold Senghor for his acceptance of French culture as superior to his own.

On the third evening, she was invited to a meeting of Muslim women who were organizing to respond to the law against wearing the burqa and niqab. This meeting took place at the Ligue des droits de l'Homme; it included not only Muslim women from Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania, but white, presumably Catholic, French students, housewives, members of antiracist organizations, teachers, and a few white, French feminists, the most well-known among them being the sociologist Christine Delphy. However, most French feminists tend to throw their support behind the Sarkozy government. Interestingly, the Ligue is located in Montmartre, home to the jazz set of the African American colony in the early twentieth century.

At particular issue for the group was how the law circumscribed French Muslim mothers' mobility with respect to their ability to directly access and address concerns about their children at school (the law effectively bans both garments in public) and accompany their children on school trips. Teachers have been intimidating and mothers fear retaliation, especially those with temporary papers as well as those sans papiers.

The fourth and last evening was spent with members of the PIR, including Houria Bouteldja, and a male American student, in intense dialogue. Also present was a young filmmaker from Benin, and a Roma woman who lives in the United States. These activists were defiant and determined to challenge the democratic ideals of the French...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. v-vii
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.