- Purchase/rental options available:
Farida Belghoul's Georgette! (1986), the first Beur novel by a woman, was largely forgotten until its recent rediscovery by the blogosphere of the French alt-right. In 2013, the conspiracy theory-driven publicist Alain Soral published a new edition of Georgette!, presenting the novel as a cautionary tale about "the human and psychological drama of immigration," which, he explains, "is always an uprooting, a violence"—for migrants, of course, but also for those who "welcome" them. How did the tragic tale of a second-generation French-Algerian child become a weapon in the arsenal of France's new national populism? This article attempts to answer this question, paying particular attention to the ways in which fringe racist groups have succeeded in co-opting the memory of anti-racism in France. Particularly worrisome are the ways in which these groups have weaponized diversity and racial difference against immigration and multiculturalism, launching campaigns against "reverse colonization" and, more recently, "anti-white racism." Equally troubling is the alt-right's instrumentalization of, among other anti-racist struggles, pro-Palestinianism, which has become synonymous in France with anti-Semitism. Against this dehistoricized discursive free-for-all, I propose we recuperate the adversarial terms of the anti-colonial anti-racist project itself, taking the French expression guerre des mémoires ("memories at war") as an urgent invitation to reframe the important work of multidirectional memory studies along an agonistic framework that makes visible the violence of such usurpations.