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  • Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France by Jean Beaman
  • Loretta E. Bass
Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France
By Jean Beaman
University of California Press, Oakland, CA, 2017, 170 pp. $34.95 Paperback ISBN: 9780-520-29426-4, PDF ISBN: 978-0-520-96744-1, DOI: DOI:

In Citizen Outsider, Jean Beaman provides a well-executed study of the marginalization of the children of North African immigrants (i.e., Maghrebin origin) in France. These adults in the second generation inhabit a liminal status; the author asserts that even though these Maghrebin-descent individuals have grown up in France and attained middle-class employment, and have legal French citizenship through birth or naturalization, they are not accepted as French. Because of their North African origin, their fellow citizens have denied them "cultural citizenship." In this way, the author (p. 4) illustrates "how difference is implicitly marked among individuals without explicit designations by the state." This monograph engages the reader to understand how cultural difference, ethnicity, and race come together to define boundaries and explain the marginalization of Maghrebin-origin individuals in French society.

Drawing upon several years of ethnographic research in Paris and its suburbs, Beaman's analysis utilizes in-depth interviews with 45 French citizens, 24 men and 21 women, who have at least one parent who is an immigrant from North Africa. All individuals in her study population hold professional jobs, such as high school teacher, lawyer, or government administrator, and are considered to be middle class in France. Nearly all participants were born in France, and three had migrated to France at two years of age or younger.

Beaman (p. 4) describes the study population as "citizen outsiders" (coined by Cohen 2010), because these individuals are both members of French society "yet kept on the margins of that society." These individuals have realized upward mobility through educational attainment compared to their parents' generation, and at the same time, they remain excluded from the citizenry, "as they are continually reminded of how their citizenship is suspect and often questioned by others" (p. 18). The author invokes the term "citizen outsiders" to explain the paradox for second-generation Maghrebin-descent citizens of France; they report being treated as different because of their racial and ethnic origin, and alongside this, the government and national community do not acknowledge racial and ethnic minorities.

Beaman (p. 23) defines "cultural citizenship" as "how citizenship operates for marginalized populations, who despite being formal legal citizens are nonetheless not fully included in the citizenry" due to cultural-symbolic boundaries that are defined and maintained by "a particular national community and identity." Cultural citizenship has nothing to do with legal rights, but rather, by the acceptance of fellow citizens in the national community. The author describes how second-generation North Africans are not granted cultural citizenship by their fellow citizens, who do not consider them as being completely culturally French. And when second-generation North Africans contest this treatment, Beaman explains that these individuals are asserting their right to cultural citizenship.

In chapter two, Beamon considers the lived experiences of the children of North African immigrants, for they have effectively matriculated through the French educational system to realize upward mobility, and then they exist as being split across two cultures, that of their immigrant parents and the French culture in which they have grown up. Chapter three, "Marginalization and Middle-Class Blues," explains what it means to be marginalized despite being upwardly mobile, interpreting how these second-generation Maghrebin individuals make sense of their own marginalization and negotiate the cultural boundaries presented by their being associated with the Muslim religion, and by their daily routines in the workplace, their own neighborhoods and in the public sphere. In chapter four, Beaman considers identity for these children of North African immigrants, first examining individuals' personal journeys to understand their varied immigrant-origin identities as not being a monolithic Maghrebin category, and second, considering the influence of French Republicanism on individuals' assigned and asserted identities. While the Republican model holds that being a French citizen surpasses all other...


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