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  • Mythologies postcoloniales. Pour une décolonisation du quotidien ed. by Etienne Achille and Lydie Moudileno
  • Gerald Prince
Etienne Achille and Lydie Moudileno. Mythologies postcoloniales. Pour une décolonisation du quotidien. Paris: Editions Champion, 2018. 147 pp.

In this lucid, rich, and penetrating book, Etienne Achille and Lydie Moudileno wear postcolonial glasses to study the racialized nature of the everyday in contemporary France, a multicultural country that is supposedly race-blind. Inspired by Roland Barthes's Mythologies and mindful of the work of Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, V. Y. Mudimbe, and others, they examine stereotypes pertaining to ethnic differences and French colonial history in various mundane cultural domains: public spaces, for example, news broadcasts, sports, food, entertainment. By showing how these myths and mythologies contradict the official discourses of postcolonial France, they attempt to decolonize the everyday.

Achille and Moudileno devote their introductory chapter to the presentation and clarification of their topic, procedures, and goals. They point to the role that "race" plays in the French imaginaire and to its damaging effects. Underlining the fact that France represses its colonial past and prefers to ignore the postcolonial character of its present, they conclude that it has proved unable to deal with its own decolonization. The analysis of specific mythologies begins in chapter II with the authors' consideration of the odonym "Bugeaud," which continues to celebrate colonial conquest and illustrates the way republican history and colonialism are intertwined. Marshal Bugeaud (1784–1849)—who was Governor-General of Algeria (1840–1849), helped to pacify it, and is memorialized in a famous song—gives his name to avenues in Brive-la-Gaillarde, Toulon, and Paris, squares in Parisian suburbs, streets in Marseille, Lyon, Brest, Tours, and much more. To end their discussion, Achille and Moudileno suggest that a mention of his colonial activities be added to the odonyms honoring him. The third chapter focuses on Jean-Pierre Pernaut's "Journal de 13 heures" (TF1) and deconstructs its view of a nostalgically configured hexagonal France, an "a-colonial" France, a demographically reassuring France inhabited by truly French people, where the countryside rather than Paris is valorized and where terroirs, artisanal products, and patrimonial traditions rule. [End Page 520] Chapter IV concentrates on the (anti-American) gospel of political incorrectness, its defense of common sense, its strident calls for freedom of expression, its stand against "intellectual terrorism' (that is, or so it seems, multiculturalism and differentialism), as well as its manifestations in such presumably apolitical realms as pastry shops. In chapter V, Achille and Moudileno analyze a film genre that they call "multicultural comedy" and that is exemplified, at the beginning of the 21st century, by Philippe de Chauveron's very popular Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu? (2014). The authors demonstrate that, while preaching tolerance of Others not only in one's community but also in one's family, the film features Others that turn out not to be "Other." It depicts differences that make no difference and it ultimately glorifies a traditional and monolithic France rather than a multicultural and plural one. Subsequent chapters are similarly acute. The probing of televised representations on the 8 o'clock news (the 20 heures) of France's reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre stresses the absence of any reference to the important demonstrations that took place in the French Caribbean: the latter does not belong to a certain "imagined community" and France is still incapable of coming to terms with its own multicultural diversity. Likewise, the scrutinizing of Lilian Thuram's transformation from star player in the famous Black-Blanc-Beur soccer team to star Black critic and activist reveals that, in spite of his criticisms of the French Republic, he is actually in the service of French republicanism. Last but by no means least, the exploration of the place occupied by the "grantécrivain noir" (Césaire, Laferrière, Mabanckou) shows how this figure helps to foreground France's vitality and global influence.

With rigorous insight and biting wit, Achille and Moudileno shed light on various other entities and phenomena related to the sequels of Empire: comedians like Anne Roumanoff and Michel Leeb, for instance, the use of the expression...


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pp. 520-521
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