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O N E Introduction: Black France in Transcolonial Contexts But what exactly is a Black? First of all, what’s his color? Jean Genet1 I will tear down those Banania smiles from the walls of France. Léopold Sédar Senghor2 Look, a Negro! Frantz Fanon3 Whether one is satisfied or not with the terminological pertinence of globalization or the use of the French term mondialisation to designate the nature of human relations at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the fact nevertheless remains that cultural, economic, political, and social discourse is infused with conflicting interpretations of the constitutive or divisive attributes of the local and the global.4 A broad range of texts, including Benjamin Barber’s Jihad versus McWorld, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire and Multitude, and Jean-François Bayart’s Le gouvernement du monde, have, respectively, privileged categories such as ethnicity or inter-“civilizational ” competition, underscored the potential of popular resistance to hegemonic forces by demonstrating how Empire (as distinguished from imperialism) operates as “a decentered and deterritorialized apparatus,” or demonstrated how transnational networks further inscribe the centrality of the nation-state, in order to interpret new configurations and transnational alignments.5 Perhaps no other country than France has emerged as such a delicate site for the investigation of these complex formulations, given that all of these issues have contributed to the process of determining what a global Hexagon might look like. A range of factors would seem to corroborate such observations: the questioning of Americanization most powerfully contained in concerns with “the imperialism of Mickey Mouse,” “cocacolonization ” and the “Starbuckization” of France; the politics of decolonization and post-Empire France; immigration policies and the rise of extreme -right wing agendas; the tenuous relationship between national agendas and broader incorporation in an expanding European Union (such as by abandoning national currency); global security pre- and post9 /11; and the paradoxical “reversed colonization” of the metropole. Immigration and the cultural productions that have emerged from within France’s postcolonial communities have generated radically new sociocultural structures, displacing received notions of Frenchness. Lawrence Kritzman once characterized Pierre Nora’s seven-volume Les lieux de mémoire as “the result of an imaginary process that codifies and condenses a national consciousness of the past,”6 but one might well ask whether this work accurately reflects the collective memory of those people for whom the Hexagon now represents home, a fact that has simultaneously compelled individuals and groups to acknowledge and recognize that memory is now also elsewhere. A study of “Black” France inevitably finds itself at the intersection of these issues, since to explore France from such a perspective is to embark on a journey across the arbitrary lines of demarcation that distinguish the colony from the postcolony and the colonial from the postcolonial period, in order to engage with immigration and identity politics, and to question the origins of the French Republic and challenges to its foundational principles (such as the headscarf and veil affairs). Naturally , this approach will include consideration of the fragile connections between the imperatives of human rights legislation and modern forms of population displacement exemplified by asylum seekers, refugees, and the sans-papiers (undocumented subjects or illegals).7 If questions of nationalism and the importance of adhering to the nation -state as a prerequisite for the assumption of sovereignty and autonomy from colonial rule provided the concern of my previous book, Nation -Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa,8 then attention in Black France has shifted in order to explore the failure of the nationalist imperative and the resulting impact on African societies and populations of the partial dissolution of incorporative state structures in favor of supranational economic, juridical, and political mechanisms. My research has then taken me on what Saskia Sassen has described as a transition from the “emphasis on the sovereignty of the people of a nation and the right to self-determination . . . to the rights of individuals regardless of identity.”9 In Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa , the central focus was provided by an exploration of the relationship 2 black france between literature and the state in francophone sub-Saharan Africa, the contributions of writers to the transition from colonialism to independence , and recent experimentation with democratization. The imperative was to provide a better understanding of the circumstances of African colonization through a more encompassing view of the role literature had...


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