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Race on Display in 20th- and 21st Century France$

Katelyn E. Knox

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781781383094

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781383094.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Race on Display in 20th- and 21st Century France

Katelyn E. Knox

Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The book’s introduction analyzes Brett Bailey’s touring performance art piece entitled ‘Exhibit B’ (2013−15) and the controversies it generated in European cities to introduce the book’s larger theoretical framework on the intersection between race, the gaze, and display. It defines the book’s central notion of ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ and outlines four arenas in which this ‘culture of looking’ manifests itself in contemporary France: historical, socio-political, cultural, and disciplinary. Far from hermetic and completely independent, these different iterations of institutionalized spectacularsim constantly inform one another. What unites them are common gazing dynamics: racial and ethnic alterity is approached as an object on display, while the underlying structures legitimizing the spectator’s gaze evades inquiry. Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France, then, like the works it studies, suggests that to combat racist stereotypes that persist in the postcolonial moment requires exposing and subsequently interrogating the ways of looking underpinning them.

Keywords:   Exhibit B, Human zoos, institutionalized spectacularism, Gaze, Display, France, Race

‘Exhibit B’ on Display

Though a performance art piece titled ‘Exhibit B’ had opened to widespread acclaim in Avignon in 2013—a reception characteristic of its multi-year run in many European cities—its arrival in Paris was quite different. Not only did a group calling itself ‘Contre Exhibit B’ (‘Against Exhibit B’), led by French popular musician Bams, actively call for the show’s closure, but it also boycotted the event and led a public protest that shut down its opening night.1 Over 250 French riot police guarded the show on subsequent evenings, aided by temporary metal fencing. The controversy playing out in the news and in social media only continued to increase, even after ‘Exhibit B’ left Paris.2

Created and directed by South African artist Brett Bailey, ‘Exhibit B’ comprises a series of twelve scenes, each of which takes up an entire room. Spectators enter each room alone and there they encounter African or black ‘specimens’. The scenes call to mind historical moments when African bodies were put on display for the gaze of a European population—such as museum or ethnographic exhibitions (also known as ‘human zoos’) at world’s fairs.3 Other tableaus draw connections between historical moments and the present day. For instance, in one room the spectator encounters a black laborer sitting on a chair behind a chain-link fence. The sign on the fence reassures the visitor that ‘the blacks have been fed’. In another, a black body is staged on a row of airplane seats, his feet bound, arms zip-tied to the armrests, and mouth taped shut. These two scenes clearly suggest that, though the historical contexts are quite different, there are nevertheless connections between how colonial powers staged colonized bodies and how a variety of (p.2) structures—such as the news media or cultural marketplaces—present racial and ethnic minority bodies today.

The scenes’ composition imitate museum-style dioramas so well that many spectators do not initially realize that the ‘specimens’ they gaze upon might be anything other than wax figures or mannequins—that is, until the ‘specimens’ on display lock gazes with them and hold it the entire time they are in the room. Suddenly realizing that they and their gaze are objects of scrutiny unseats spectators from their previously unexamined role as gazer, raising a myriad questions: What legitimates their gaze? Why had they previously felt comfortable looking on this scene when they thought the people were inanimate objects? What forces govern who is able to gaze and who is positioned as the object of the gaze?

French critiques of ‘Exhibit B’ center around two main concerns. First, opponents claim that Bailey’s exhibit may be laudable, but he, as a white South African artist, is nevertheless complicit in reproducing the same power dynamics his piece seeks to contest.4 Second, and more importantly, critics point out that the exhibit neither stages those responsible for this violence nor those moments when black individuals took an active role in protesting their objectification. John Mullen provocatively asserts, ‘It shows a lie […]. It shows the victims without the perpetrators. The black victims are silent, immobile and fetishized, while the colonialists are absent’.5 What is more, CRAN (le Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France; the Representative Council of France’s Black Associations) suggests that this staging not only characterizes black bodies as passive, historical victims, but also reinforces the idea that white agents are responsible for saving them:

En montrant de la sorte les victimes du racisme, des esclaves d’autrefois aux sans-papiers d’aujourd’hui en passant par les Africains dans les zoos humains, l’artiste donne l’impression que de tous temps, les Noirs n’ont jamais été que des êtres passifs, spectateurs endoloris de leur propre misère, endurant en silence, subissant sans murmure, attendant sans mot dire que le ‘grand blanc’ vienne enfin les sortir de leur triste condition.6

(By showing racism’s victims in this way, from the slaves of the past to today’s illegal immigrants by way of Africans in human zoos, the artist gives the impression that Blacks have never been anything but passive beings, pained spectators of their own misery, enduring in silence, suffering without even the slightest whisper, waiting without speaking a single word until the ‘great white man’ finally came to release them from their sorry condition.)

(p.3) In the eyes of these critics, then, ‘Exhibit B’ merely perpetuates the same narratives of black victimhood and objectification that the performance seeks to contest.

Yet other scholars, and even the performers themselves, who stand immobile for hours and lock gazes with each and every visitor who passes before them, see it differently. Despite the piece’s potential risks, the performers maintain that to understand ‘Exhibit B’ as a performance critiquing or even uncritically reproducing the historical victimization of black bodies is to miss its larger focal point: the gaze itself. By staring back at their spectators, the performers contend, they lay bare the more insidious and less overt forces that govern who can gaze upon whom, when, and how. Their collective statement affirms:

At first glance at the materials, it is easy to assume that we are nothing but objects, repeating the worst of the racist and dehumanising aspects of the human zoos referred to in the petition(s) to cancel the exhibition.

Standing, exhibited in this manner, we can state explicitly that we are not objects during the exhibition. We are human, even more so when performing.7

In fact, as Bailey has underscored in interviews, in ‘Exhibit B’ the spectator is part of the show alongside everything contained in each room. ‘The installation’, he asserts, ‘is not about the cultural or anatomical difference between the colonial subject and the spectator; it is about the relationship between the two. It is about looking and being looked at. Both performer and spectator are contained within the frame’.8 ‘Exhibit B’ also formalizes this idea of scrutinizing the gaze itself by listing ‘spectator’ among the ‘materials used’ on each room’s placard. In so doing, ‘Exhibit B’ implicates the spectator within each scene, encouraging him or her to take a step back and to examine his or her previously unexamined position as viewer.

In this way, ‘Exhibit B’ engages issues regarding sight and gazing that have a long philosophical tradition and whose political implications have been theorized in realms as disparate as feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and psychoanalysis, to name but three.9 I am most concerned with the power and privilege associated with moments when collectivities figuratively gaze upon each other. However, gazing begins as an individual biological and social experience in early childhood. It is a process through which children develop notions of selfhood and otherness. During what Jacques Lacan has termed the ‘mirror stage’, for instance, the child sees him or herself in his or her mother’s arms (p.4) and understands him or herself as an object distinct from others—one that can also be subject to the gaze.10 These early moments of subjectivity formation go hand-in-hand with objectification—notions that both Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault explored in different yet interrelated ways. Sartre, for instance, considered the power dynamics that characterized a one-way gaze through a keyhole, but also how these dynamics shifted when the gazer realized that he could be seen in the act of seeing. For him, knowing that he could be caught gazing (whether or not this came to pass) reinforced his status of object in the eyes of the other.11 Foucault opened up this interpersonal interaction to consider how the gaze (and the related notion of ‘surveillance’) functions on a collective level. He underscored how select (privileged) individuals consolidate their power by using discourses and systems of surveillance to multiply the gaze, which, when subsequently internalized by the masses, allows the select few to maintain their positions of power over the many, even in the former’s physical absence.12 Issues of gazing, as ‘Exhibit B’ makes manifest, are bound up in notions of power and authority.

For postcolonial and feminist theorists, focus on the power that privileged individuals can maintain over the many resonates with the way white (European) heteronormative masculinity often serves as the default gazing subject position. What is more, for these scholars, Sartre’s temporary discomfort indicates his position of privilege, which they do not share; prior to being seen through the keyhole, Sartre had not often discovered himself to be the ‘other’ in another’s gaze. Marginalized groups, on the other hand, have famously theorized their subjectivity as one that permanently internalizes one’s status as an object of others’ gazes. For W. E. B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon, racial minorities’ self-awareness is filtered through other eyes, whether described as ‘double consciousness’ (Du Bois) or ‘seeing oneself in the third person’ (Fanon).13 As feminist scholars such as Laura Mulvey have proposed, cinema betrays a ‘male gaze’, portraying women as objects to be consumed.14 These dynamics also function on collective levels: even if, as Edward Said has suggested, imperial powers’ way of looking on their others (‘Orientalism’) reveals more about European visions of alterity than about the populations they purportedly depict, it nevertheless constructs an image which those populations must ultimately confront.15 Similarly, because the gaze inherently erects unequal power dynamics, it also provokes crises about the knowledge created based on observation, which is particularly evident in perennial discussions regarding ethnographic methodologies.16 (p.5) Populations deemed to be white, heteronormative, masculine Europe’s ‘others’ never experience life outside of objectification.

Part of the force of ‘Exhibit B’, then, is the way it introduces its spectators to this position of being seen as an object in others’ eyes. It draws attention to the figurative keyhole of privilege through which the spectators had comfortably looked. French sociologist Éric Fassin describes how ‘Exhibit B’ not only demands that its viewer recognize the humanity of those often pegged as ‘others’ in France, but, more importantly, it also causes its spectators to discover their own racial positionality and its relationship to power and privilege:

le public d’Avignon se découvre blanc. Surtout, le regard se renverse: le spectateur n’est pas voyeur, car il est vu. Immobiles, ces hommes et ces femmes nous regardent—même le gisant. Leurs yeux nous suivent, et c’est nous qui finissons par les baisser. Avec ce dispositif, on n’est pas au zoo; on est dans le ‘zoo humain’.17

(the Avignon public discovers itself to be white. Above all, the gaze is reversed: the spectator is not the gazer, because he is seen. Motionless, these men and women look at us—even the one playing the role of a recumbent effigy. Their eyes follow us, and it is we who end up lowering our own. With this configuration, we’re not at the zoo, we’re in the ‘human zoo’.)

Fassin celebrates the power of ‘Exhibit B’ to make whiteness—which, as whiteness studies scholars have pointed out, often passes for the ‘human norm’18—visible, yet his assessment implicitly equates ‘whiteness’, ‘the Avignon public’, ‘the spectator’, and ‘we/us’. Though it might be true that the show’s spectators are, for the most part, white, it is certainly not the case for all spectators. These latent assumptions, then, also confirm the urgent need for the very work ‘Exhibit B does’: a reflexive stance on the gaze itself, and its relationship to race, power, and privilege.

In addition to finding himself in the position of being the object of another person’s gaze, Fassin’s description also points out another privilege some of the ‘Exhibit B’ spectators might take for granted: having to question neither the existence of their gaze nor the underlying forces that legitimize it. In her study of ethnographic spectacles, Fatimah Rony reveals that those in positions of privilege—that is, those who select what to put on display—rarely acknowledge that their ‘other’ also has a gaze, until the ‘other’ asserts it through what bell hooks has termed an ‘oppositional gaze’, a collective refusal of the injunction on looking. She writes, ‘by courageously looking, we defiantly declared: (p.6) “Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality”’.19 The ‘oppositional gaze’ inverts Sartre’s keyhole experience: for Sartre, being caught gazing is a profoundly traumatic experience; for those too often denied a gaze, the goal is not just to be caught seeing, but to make oneself seen seeing.

Yet the name ‘oppositional’ itself draws attention to a potential danger of such a gesture: namely that any act of ‘looking back’ might reproduce the rigid binary it ultimately seeks to contest.20 Asserting an ‘oppositional gaze’, in other words, might trap both parties in a perpetual staring contest from which no one will ever emerge victorious. Yet for hooks and other race theorists such as George Yancy, these acts of ‘looking back’ (or, as Yancy puts it, developing a ‘black counter-gaze’)21 are not about binary opposition, but rather about pluralism. The ‘oppositional’ and ‘black counter-gazes’ become two possible perspectives among many. Their goal is not to replace those in power with another privileged position, but rather to expose how what often passes for universal (white, abled, heteronormative masculinity) is but one particularism in disguise.22 Ultimately, the works I analyze in this book move toward this pluralism by proposing their own ‘oppositional’ and ‘counter’ gazes. In my view, their acts of ‘looking back’ (both upon those who look as well as upon the gaze and its underlying power dynamics) open up essential dialogs and, to reprise hooks’s citation above, ‘change reality’ in productive and lasting ways. By pluralizing the field of gazes, they effectively show that what has often passed as ‘universal reality’ is but one of many possible gazes.

‘Exhibit B’ also lays bare another dimension of privilege relating to the gaze: the ability to control when and how to make oneself visible in both literal and figurative senses. Postcolonial theorists as well as authors and artists have pointed out how this paradox of ‘visible invisibility’ characterize racial and ethnic minorities’ experiences. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) likened the dehumanized position of African Americans in pre-Civil Rights America to invisibility, and Pap Ndiaye comes to a similar conclusion regarding France’s contemporary minority populations: ‘les minorités visibles ont longtemps été invisibles dans l’espace public français’ (visible minorities have for a long while been invisible in French public space).23 For theorists, artists, and activists such as Fanon, Léonora Miano, and the group Les Indigènes de la République (The Natives of the Republic), minoritized populations can and must take measures to gain ‘recognition’—a move that allows them control over the terms of their own display.24

(p.7) Seen in this light, ‘Exhibit B’ also reveals another dimension of power and privilege associated with controlling display: not only can those with power and privilege define when and how to display themselves and others, they can also use their power to hide this very privilege from view. In other words, those in positions of power can hide from view what Stuart Hall terms ‘inferential racism’: ‘those apparently naturalised representations of events and situations relating to race, whether “factual” or “fictional”, which have racist premises and propositions inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions’.25 Two French examples illustrate the machinations of this process: the display of human remains in France’s museums (notably the case of the remains of Saartjie Baartman, also called the ‘Hottentot Venus’) and the way the histories of France’s ethnographic exhibitions themselves have been afforded space in the French public landscape (or not). Both during her lifetime and after her death, Baartman was an object of scientific and public curiosity, often displayed in circuses or human zoos in Britain and France. Following her death, Georges Cuvier performed her autopsy, preserved many of her organs (including her sexual organs) in jars, and made a cast of her body. Her remains were prominently displayed at several of Paris’s museums until 1976, when they were removed from the public view, but still housed in the Musée de l’Homme.26 While removing her remains from view breaks the cycle of dehumanization to which Baartman was subjected (even posthumously), doing so nevertheless allows Baartman’s dehumanization (and the gaze that perpetuated it) to escape critical scrutiny. Similarly, Paris’s contemporary landscape bears few traces of the ethnographic spectacles that invited French visitors to gaze upon its colonized others less than a century ago. This occlusion still persists today—few if any traces of these ethnographic spectacles are offered to the French public.27

Finally, in the now five years during which ‘Exhibit B’ has toured the world, Bailey has made a conscious effort to bridge the gap between those seemingly faraway places and distant times represented in the tableaus and the present day. This element, too, is formalized within ‘Exhibit B’, whose final room contains both a journal where the spectator can write about his or her experiences in ‘Exhibit B’ as well as photographs and biographies of the local actors Bailey casts in each city where the performance piece runs. The performers’ biographies recount acts of racism they have personally suffered, drawing connections between the gazes they endure during their performance and the ones they face in their everyday lives. Their stories suggest that the performers are no (p.8) less on display outside of ‘Exhibit B’. Rather, the principal difference is that the frameworks responsible for their display outside ‘Exhibit B’ are more nebulous and less visible, allowing them to evade critical scrutiny. In other words, those who gaze upon them are so comfortable in their position that they fail to see their ability to gaze as a privilege. Sartre’s famous keyhole has become one-way glass, and those on the gazing side can stare as much as they like without fear of being seen in return.28

In exploring the connections between the way racialized bodies were staged at world’s fairs (which I term ‘institutional spectacles’) and the much more nebulous and less overt way of looking which the ‘Exhibit B’ performers describe experiencing on a daily basis (which I term ‘institutionalized spectacularism’), ‘Exhibit B’ joins the much larger corpus of francophone literature, music, fashion, and dance that I analyze in this book. Each of the works I have selected for study investigates the relationship between the gaze, display, and notions of race and national identity in postcolonial France. Like ‘Exhibit B’, they render visible those invisible walls and the associated privileges that still govern how racial and ethnic minority populations are viewed. These works assert their own ‘oppositional’ or ‘counter-’ gaze on their audience while simultaneously pointing up the complex risks and stakes associated with self-representation. What is more, the authors and artists analyzed in this book also grapple with their own complicity in profiting from a culture that posits racial and ethnic minorities as exotic spectacles.

I contend that colonial spectacles that put colonized bodies on display for a French public continue to affect the ways in which racial and ethnic minority populations are approached in contemporary France. The relationship between explicit colonial spectacles and what I term ‘institutionalized spectacularism’, however, is more complicated than direct correlation or even causation; rather, it is defined by connections, slippages, and fractures. In this book, I define ‘institutional spectacles’ as overt government-sponsored (‘institutional’) demonstrations or displays of race and national identity; the main example I analyze is France’s 1931 Exposition coloniale. ‘Institutionalized spectacularism’, by contrast, describes a much more pervasive way of looking.

A closer look at the differences between the two expressions further clarifies their nuances. First, the distinction between ‘institutional’ and ‘institutionalized’ suggests that while the former was associated with an institution (such as the government), the latter has become so pervasive that it has become an institution in and of itself. Additionally, the suffix ‘-ized’, which distinguishes the two terms, emphasizes the difference (p.9) in locus of control governing each. Whereas officials actively orchestrated ‘institutional spectacles’, ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ seeps passively into the collective consciousness. My notion of ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ borrows conspicuously, but distinguishes itself, from Graham Huggan’s notion of the ‘spectacularization of cultural difference’.29 In particular, ‘spectacularism’ distinguishes itself from ‘spectacularization’ in its emphasis on the ways of looking, rather than the processes through which cultural differences are transformed into spectacles. Also significant to this project, the suffix ‘-ism’ that differentiates ‘spectacles’ from ‘spectacularism’ shifts the focus from the events themselves (‘spectacles’) to the culture of looking behind them (‘spectacularism’). ‘Institutional spectacles’ and ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ are not mutually exclusive; ‘institutional spectacles’ constitute one iteration of ‘institutionalized spectacularism’. The children’s comics and musical works I examine in Chapter 1, for instance, were associated with one of the most central ‘institutional spectacles’ of their time: the 1931 Exposition coloniale. As privately published works, however, they themselves are not ‘institutional spectacles’; rather, they are both a product of and themselves promote colonial ‘institutionalized spectacularism’.

My primary goal in this book is to outline how francophone authors and artists expose the central role played by ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ in constructing notions of race and national identity in France in four key realms: official historical discourse, rhetoric and news media, cultural marketplaces, and the discipline of French cultural studies. Taking up the call issued by the works I study, in Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France I seek not to point out (simply to put on display, as it were) those typically considered France’s racial others, but rather to point out and name the ways of looking that produce racial and ethnic others. In other words, as its title suggests, Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France considers how race and alterity were and continue to be mobilized, displayed, and hidden from view in the context of discussions of French identity. This book is not about developing theories of racial identity, but rather about considering how acts of display themselves crystallize certain notions of racial alterity and normativity in relation to national identity. Moreover, I self-consciously use the term ‘race’ in the title inclusively. All too often (and this is one of whiteness studies’ scholars’ critiques), majority races (generally white, in a European context) pass unmarked; speaking about ‘race’ is code for speaking about ‘racial and ethnic minorities’. One of (p.10) my main arguments in this book, however, is that continuing to allow whiteness to pass unexamined constitutes disciplinary ‘institutionalized spectacularism’. This book, then, is as much about the histories of how racial and ethnic minorities have been put—and put themselves—on display through various cultural vectors as it is about how whiteness has (or has not) put itself on display as a race among others, as well as the ways in which this privileged position is currently being destabilized.

As I outlined above, power and privilege come not only from one’s ability to gaze but also from one’s ability to control what is displayed. Typically, when one thinks of ‘display’ or ‘spectacle’, what comes to mind is images of publicly or privately curated events and performances, or spaces such as museum exhibits where objects are collected, categorized, and subsequently exhibited for a viewing public. In Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France, I contend that this narrow understanding discounts equally important sites through which images of the self and the other are cultivated, such as history books, political speeches, bookstore shelves, or even university syllabi. Before outlining how the chosen francophone cultural works contest this institutionalized spectacularism, then, I first outline how it operates in the four arenas of official historical discourse, rhetoric and news media, cultural marketplaces, and the discipline of francophone cultural studies.

Of course, the risk of perpetuating imperial power dynamics also threatens to resurface through contemporary academic gazes; accordingly, bell hooks cautions that ‘non-black’ individuals must critically interrogate their own gaze in order to resist ‘simply recreat[ing] the imperial gaze—the look that seeks to dominate, subjugate, and colonize’.30 It is my hope, as a non-black scholar, that turning my attention to the ways of looking that define twentieth- and twenty-first-century France will, far from reproducing this imperial gaze, expose its vestiges in order to better contest them.

Official Historical Discourse

As discussed above, dominant groups enjoy the rarely acknowledged privilege of controlling the terms of the ways they make visible both themselves and those they deem their others. This display need not be literal; in fact, throughout this book I argue that official French historical discourse constitutes one site through which institutionalized spectacularism solidifies notions of national identity and of otherness. In (p.11) France’s official historical discourse, the histories of its former colonies (and current DROMs) and its racial and ethnic minority populations have been cordoned off from ‘national’ history. One need look no further than Pierre Nora’s three-volume Les Lieux de mémoire for evidence. That only one of its chapters—that on 1931’s Exposition coloniale—deals even remotely with questions of colonization (and those which transpired on French soil) confirms its hexagonal bias.31 One of the most important ways in which communities (‘imagined’—as Benedict Anderson has proposed32—or not) outline who does and who does not belong is through ‘instrumentalizing a common past’, as Fatima El-Tayeb has put it.33 In France, national history is filtered through the boundaries of the postcolonial nation-state—a move that automatically mischaracterizes as ‘foreign’ those histories that occurred outside of France’s contemporary borders.

What is more, if today’s boundaries are projected backwards in time to construct a unified notion of national history, certain historical events are also pegged as foundational in national myths. As Gérard Noiriel has pointed out, the French Revolution serves just such a purpose in France, making it ‘impossible for “foreigners” to have a place in the collective memory of the nation’.34 The consequences of this historical myopia go beyond the realm of history. For instance, as the sans-papiers (studied in Chapter 2) have pointed out, the national identity and immigration legislative reforms passed in the 1980s and 1990s depended on ignoring the complex entanglements between France and its former colonies.

Efforts to rectify these lacunae, however, reveal how institutionalized spectacularism permeates official French historical discourse. First, movements to bring France’s colonial history to the fore have been met with accusations of historical communautarisme and a ‘concurrence victimaire’.35 One of the most outspoken critics, Pascal Bruckner, has argued that giving such histories a more central place in national history serves no purpose in contemporary France beyond cultivating a sense of ‘white guilt’.36 Second, since the early twenty-first century, colonial history has been negotiated in part through France’s legislature, principally through two ‘memory laws’. In 2001, France’s government recognized the history of the slave trade as a crime against humanity and provided for the creation of the Comité national pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage (CNMHE; National Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery),37 whose role is to advise the government on how to commemorate such a history.38 Second, the fourth article (now repealed) of the Loi du 23 février passed in 2005 mandated that (p.12) French history textbooks teach ‘le rôle positif de la présence française outre-mer, notamment en Afrique du Nord’ (the positive role of France’s overseas presence, notably in North Africa).39 A reaction from historians published in the newspaper Le Monde denounced the law while simultaneously cautioning against groups using such histories for their own ‘concurrence victimaire’—a move that captures the difficult balance scholars (and communities) who seek to recognize ‘minority’ histories in France must strike. They write:

le passé est devenu l’enjeu d’un discours revendicatif de forces qui se posent en héritières des victimes, avec d’autant plus d’insistance […] qu’elles sont animées par une logique de concurrence victimaire.

(the past has become the central site of protest by those who proclaim themselves heirs of the victims, with ever-increasing insistence […] that they are driven by the logic of competing victimhood.)40

Moreover, as Françoise Vergès, President of the CNMHE, has illustrated, these histories are often mobilized in selective ways. In France, while the history of slavery faced occlusion in the twentieth century, the history of its abolition occupied a privileged and celebrated space in national mythology.41 Even those moments that transpired on French soil, such as ‘human zoos’, are still relatively marginalized in France’s national memory. For instance, Charles Forsdick points out how France’s memorial landscape still bears few traces of the ‘human zoos’ that were presented there—an observation made all the more prescient by the ‘Jardin de l’Outre-Mer scandal’ that emerged surrounding this very subject in 2011—only a year after his article’s publication.42

The literary and musical works I consider in each chapter all contest how colonial history and the histories of formerly colonized peoples are cordoned off from national, French, hexagonal histories. The literature and music I study in Chapter 2, for instance, revisits the histories of colonization and the slave trade in conjunction with postcolonial immigration and national identity policies. In so doing, the works not only carve out space for immigrants and their descendants in the national imaginary, but they also interrogate the ways in which the gaze manifests itself in the historical arena. Later works—notably Alain Mabanckou’s Black Bazar (2009) and Léonora Miano’s Blues pour Élise (2010)—complicate notions of shared history often imputed to racial and ethnic minority communities, asking to what extent histories such as colonization and the slave trade continue to function as central moments for these populations. Miano’s novel in particular, which (p.13) focuses on France’s ‘Afropean’ population, substantiates Nicki Hitchcott and Dominic Thomas’s claim that what defines ‘Afropeans’ is not a larger shared ‘black’ or African diasporic history (which would include moments such as colonization or the slave trade), but rather shared experiences of marginalization within Europe.43

Rhetoric and News Media

In broad terms, how France names its racial and ethnic minority populations, and how French media transmits images of these populations, constitute additional sites through which institutionalized spectacularism manifests itself. Here, one can cite various ‘objects’, including legislation, demographic information, and politicians’ speeches, which promote certain ideas about France’s ‘internal others’, such as their relationship to immigration and their supposed cultural differences. Institutionalized spectacularism also informs moments when these populations speak out to contest the terms of their representation through protests and organized rallies such as the 1994 sans-papiers protests or the 2005 banlieue riots, organizations such as the CRAN, or political parties such as the Indigènes de la République.44

To give but one recent example: in 2009 Éric Besson, then minister of France’s Ministère de l’Immigration, de l’Intégration, de l’Identité nationale et du Développement solidaire (Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity, and Codevelopment)—disbanded in 2010—opened the ‘French National Identity Debate’, a series of town-hall style forums supplemented by a website where French citizens were asked to define ‘what it means to be French today’.45 One could certainly read this debate in an inclusionary light as an opportunity for the French public to reaffirm those cultural values that distinguish France from other European nations. At the same time, however, the very act of opening up French ‘national identity’ to a debate also implies that the mere fact of having French citizenship is not synonymous with fully participating in French national identity. Seen in this way, the main thrust of the debate becomes exclusionary: pinpointing France’s internal others. As author Faïza Guène put it, the debate reopens ‘the same old story about the enemy within. The insidious question then becomes: “Will you be able to spot him”?’46

As I explored above, two privileges of those in power are the ability to control the terms of display and to define how they identify—or, to (p.14) use Fanonian terms, ‘recognizes’—themselves and their others. France’s colorblind universalist model, which prohibits distinguishing between citizens based on national origin, race, ethnicity, or religion, also contributes to institutionalized spectacularism. Though it is believed to promote national unity and fight inequality, the lack of an official vocabulary to address race and ethnicity in reality contributes to latent associations between whiteness and Frenchness, and between racial and ethnic minorities and foreignness. As Louis-Georges Tin has argued, the resistance to taking ‘ethnic statistics’—a term he eschews in favor of ‘statistics of diversity’—is partly due to the ever-present specter of Vichy France haunting the French collective imaginary.47 Given this backdrop, quantifying diversity ‘would be tantamount to reverting to the Nazi period, when records of Jews facilitated the “Final Solution”’.48 Furthermore, arguments opposing ‘ethnic statistics’ suggest that not only would collecting such demographic information implicitly acknowledge that racial and ethnic categories exist, but it would also increase the threat of ethno-racial factionalism (communautarisme) in France, to the detriment of a sense of united national identity.49

The works I study all grapple with the larger issues of how minorities can gain recognition for themselves in contemporary France’s colorblind universalist paradigm. Above all, they interrogate the way this paradigm causes politicians and news media to use problematic proxies such as ‘immigration’ and ‘foreignness’ to discuss race and ethnicity.50 The works I consider push back against the legacies of this rhetoric of ‘invasion’ and the association between minorities and ‘immigrants’, which, as a 2013 Ipsos poll illustrates, are still present in twenty-first-century France. Despite the fact that foreigners only make up 5.68% of France’s total population according to the 2009 census, the Ipsos poll found that 70% of French people believe there are ‘too many foreigners in France’ and that 62% agree with the statement ‘we no longer feel at home like we used to’.51 That the percentage of foreigners in France has remained fairly steady suggests that these discussions of ‘immigrants’ and ‘foreigners’ stand in for other conversations—namely the changing composition of France’s national populace in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and national origin. Within France’s colorblind universalist context, however, such problematic equations between racial and ethnic minorities and foreigners are difficult to contest.

The works I analyze not only interrogate the terms through which racial and ethnic minorities have been made visible in France (such as their association with immigration, foreignness, and cultural alterity), they (p.15) also respond to and reimagine moments when such groups have made themselves visible in sociopolitical spheres.52 At their heart lies a deep engagement with the politics of naming and a demand for recognition on their own terms. While the works I explore in Chapter 2 highlight the distinctions between clandestine migrants and the sans-papiers (who entered France legally, but whose residency permits were revoked because of changes to France’s immigration laws) the works I analyze in later chapters contest the association between minorities and foreigners. Alain Mabanckou’s Black Bazar, for instance, paints a heterogeneous portrait of what might outwardly be considered one racial community: ‘Black France’. Similarly, Léonora Miano’s Blues pour Élise examines the contours of France’s ‘Afropean’ population—those individuals of sub-Saharan African descent born on French soil, whose experiences have little in common with those who migrated themselves.

Cultural Marketplaces

I also contend that institutionalized spectacularism informs how works by so-called francophone authors and artists are promoted, marketed, and consumed in the cultural marketplace. It determines not only which narratives are legitimated and ultimately sold as works in the first place, it also shapes how cultural consumers (and critics) approach the works. Accordingly, I consider the works’ content and form as well as the paratextual materials through which they are packaged. I suggest that elements from taxonomies such as ‘world music’ or ‘francophonie’ to the shelf spaces these works occupy in stores promote institutionalized spectacularism. Such taxonomies are largely dependent on the author’s personal trajectory (most, though not all, personally immigrated to France from Africa), and thus should be read with skepticism alongside categorizations such as ‘African’, or ‘black’.

The classifications ‘francophone’, and ‘world music’ are of particular import to this study. Following the 2006 prize season, in which non-French authors won five of the major literary awards,53 a group of forty-four authors published what would come to be known as the ‘Manifeste des quarante-quatre’ (‘Manifesto of the forty-four’) in Le Monde, proposing ‘littérature-monde en français’ (world literature in French) as an alternative to the ghettoizing category of francophonie. For the signatories of the manifesto, the 2006 prize season was an indication that the ‘francophone’ regions were no longer the margins, (p.16) but rather at the center of cultural production in French.54 In the realm of popular music studies, similar discussions have called into question the usefulness of the designation ‘world music’, which is applied to works as diverse as Navajo flute music, Tibetan monks’ chant, African popular music, and traditional Irish music. In fact, though ‘world music’ was legitimized by a dedicated top-40 chart on Billboard, and a dedicated section in most record stores, it is often described in terms of what it is notnot classical music, not (Western) pop, not jazz, not rock—just as the designation francophonie implies that an author is French-speaking, but not French.55

In this book, I draw from methodologies that examine how ‘minority’ works are packaged within cultural marketplaces, proposed in such works as Graham Huggan’s Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (2001) and Richard Watts’s Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World (2005). I also build on works that interrogate how these modes of reading disproportionately affect francophone authors, such as Lia Brozgal’s Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory (2014), and expand on seminal studies like Rey Chow’s Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies (1993) that contend that, within these marketplaces, race and ethnicity become exotic commodities for the cultural consumer.

Remarkable in the works I have selected to study in Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France is the way the authors and artists pre-emptively push back against the interpretive grids to which they know they will be subjected through their content and form. J. R. Essomba’s novel Le Paradis du Nord (The Northern Paradise, 1996), studied in Chapter 2, raises the question of the immigrant’s ability to tell his or her own story through a scene in which a French lawyer must speak on behalf of an immigrant (and vouch for his language abilities). As I show in Chapter 3, Black Bazar uses its form to contest canonical boundaries, but it also tricks its reader into deploying the reading strategies it will ultimately contest. Similarly, Zone d’Expression Populaire (Z.E.P.; Zone of Popular Expression)’s 2010 song, ‘La gueule du patrimoine’ (‘The Face of French Cultural Patrimony’), studied in Chapter 5, encodes this packaging into its structure through monologues that twice interrupt the song. During these interludes, a stereotypically French listener comments in real time about ‘La gueule du patrimoine’, and reveals his own assumptions regarding the types of narrative put forth by minority artists. In so doing, Z.E.P. asks to what extent the (p.17) works themselves might be complicit in perpetuating the stereotypes already ascribed to racial and ethnic minorities. Like Z.E.P., the other authors take a self-reflexive stance regarding their own participation in cultural marketplaces’ institutionalized spectacularism.

French (and Francophone) Cultural Studies

Finally, I suggest that this institutionalized spectacularism also permeates the discipline of French (and francophone) cultural studies. Specifically, French cultural studies’ efforts to rectify the other forms of institutionalized spectacularism I have outlined above have been framed through making visible racial and ethnic minorities’ long presence in and contributions to France. In the anglophone scholarship, where notions of race, even when contested, are nevertheless used, studies such as Dominic Thomas’s Black France: Colonialism, Immigration, and Transnationalism (2007), Trica Keaton, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, and Tyler Stovall’s Black France/France Noire: The History and Politics of Blackness (2012), and Alec Hargreaves’s Multi-Ethnic France: Immigration, Politics, Culture and Society (2007)—to name but three seminal examples—have sought to trace the contours of France’s racial and ethnic minority populations in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. More recent works, notably Nicki Hitchcott and Dominic Thomas’s edited volume Francophone Afropean Literatures (2014), have further complicated notions of racial communities’ homogeneity in France by outlining how ‘Afropeans’ distinguish themselves from a larger ‘Black France’. In the francophone scholarship, where race has historically been treated with more suspicion, scholarly titles explicitly addressing the question of race in contemporary France were slower to arrive, but as Tin notes, have increased exponentially since 2004.56

While it is impossible to overstate the important work of the above studies, they all nevertheless unintentionally reinforce the idea that whiteness is the implicit norm from which racial and ethnic minorities depart. By continuing to affirm that racial and ethnic minorities are or can be French, these studies paradoxically reinforce—or, at the very least, continue to rehash—the assumption they seek to combat. Seen in this light, affirming the ‘Frenchness’ of racial and ethnic minorities shoulders this population with the continuing burden of proving their Frenchness. While positioning racial and ethnic minorities as a subject worth examining does ultimately pluralize notions of Frenchness, it (p.18) also nevertheless perpetuates normative gazing dynamics that posit racial and ethnic minority groups as hyperexamined internal other and the white (male) as seeing subject.57 In my view, doing so constitutes institutionalized spectacularism within the discipline of French cultural studies. The project of pluralizing notions of Frenchness, then, must be coupled with an equal project of pointing out and naming whiteness and addressing the ways it operates as a blind spot in the field.

In Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France I both expose and seek to rectify this lacuna within the scholarship by subjecting whiteness to the same inquiry as other racial and ethnic minority identities, primarily in my fifth chapter. In so doing, I draw from the principally anglophone field of whiteness studies to theorize how such conversations can be mapped onto the francophone world. In the end, giving whiteness consideration within a larger study on racial and ethnic identities and their relationship to national identity in contemporary France meets whiteness studies’s goal of ‘making whiteness strange’.58 As I traced above in my discussion of ‘Exhibit B’, majority populations benefit from the privilege of not recognizing that their gaze—often touted as universal—is but one among many. In this book’s final chapter, I therefore turn my gaze back around on the discipline itself, not only to pluralize those populations often positioned as objects of the gaze, but also to pluralize the gaze itself.

Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France on Display: Chapter Descriptions

Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France is composed of two main sections. In the book’s first half, my goals are twofold: first, to illustrate how moments of explicit colonial institutional spectacles (particularly France’s 1931 Exposition coloniale) fundamentally shaped notions of national and racial identities in France; second, to trace how the colonial gazing dynamics take on more pervasive and less explicit forms in the postcolonial moment through institutionalized spectacularism. I then examine one problem institutionalized spectacularism poses for marginalized populations in contemporary France: the very act of speaking out and contesting discrimination itself becomes a stereotypical narrative ascribed to racial and ethnic minorities. It is this dynamic that is exposed and contested through their form by the works I explore in the book’s second half.

(p.19) In the first chapter, ‘Civilized into the Civilizing Mission: The Gaze, Colonization, and Exposition Coloniale Children’s Comics’, I analyze a small but significant corpus of visual and musical works (including the Exposition’s official march song entitled ‘Nénufar’, and children’s comics such as Nénufar, Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition [Negro and Negrette at the Exhibition], and Les Aventures de Papoul [The Adventures of Papoul]) to trace the relationship between colonial institutional spectacles—in this case, the 1931 Exposition coloniale—and colonial institutionalized spectacularism. Outwardly, the works I study seem to undermine the gazing dynamics put forth at the colonial exhibition. Specifically, whereas the Exposition’s organizers sought at all costs to redirect their spectators’ attention away from the potentially dominating nature of their gaze on the colonized subject, the visual and musical works I study explicitly stage moments in which the colonized subject decries this gazing encounter as dehumanizing. Ultimately, however, these works do so precisely to denounce such understandings as misinformed, and to reassure their young readers and listeners of their responsibility to gaze upon the colonized other. In the second chapter, ‘Self-Spectacularization and Looking Back on French History’, my attention turns to institutionalized spectacularism in the postcolonial moment. Anchoring my analyses in 1990s migritude works and sans-papiers protests, I illustrate how vestiges of the colonial gazing dynamics inform how those deemed France’s internal others (now immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities) are seen and make themselves visible in late twentieth-century France. Drawing from a wide range of cultural works in which authors and artists ‘write to right’ images associated with racial minorities in literature (such as J. R. Essomba’s novel Le Paradis du Nord) and music (such as Salif Keïta’s ‘Nou Pas Bouger’ [‘We Will Not Move’], Meiway’s ‘Je suis sans-papiers’ [‘I am a sans-papiers’], and Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’ [‘The Clandestine Migrant’]) I consider the risks and stakes of self-spectacularization within the larger context of institutionalized spectacularism.

In the second half of the book, I turn to more recent works of literature, music, fashion, and dance that point out a potential pitfall inherent in self-spectacularization: while this act potentially contests stereotypes associated with immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities, and pluralizes notions of Frenchness, its ability to interrogate the larger gazing dynamics that position minorities as exotic spectacles in the first place remains limited. The works I examine in the book’s second half—such as Alain Mabanckou’s Black Bazar and Léonora Miano’s (p.20) Blues pour Élise—not only interrogate iterations of institutionalized spectacularism found in cultural marketplaces, they also self-consciously grapple with their own complicity (as cultural commodities sold within larger marketplaces) in profiting from this culture of exoticism. In the third chapter, ‘Writing, Literary Sape, and Reading in Mabanckou’s Black Bazar’, I draw from Congolese sape fashion practices to read Alain Mabanckou’s 2009 novel. I contend that the narrator-author’s references to cultural works from a variety of national and historical contexts constitute a formal technique which I term ‘literary sape’—a performance that interrogates the reading strategies to which the novel itself will be subjected. Similarly, Léonora Miano’s 2010 novel Blues pour Élise, examined in Chapter 4, turns its attention to Afropeans, who, though born in Europe, are often approached as ‘others’ in their own land. My reading of the novel in the fourth chapter, ‘Looking Back on Afropea’s Origins: Léonora Miano’s Blues pour Élise as an Afropean Mediascape’, contends that Afropeans’ visibility—or lack thereof—in European media are both symptoms and outcomes of the larger whitewashing of history and memory.

Finally, in my view, to take seriously the work the texts propose also requires questioning the visions of normalcy from which racial and ethnic minorities supposedly depart. In my final chapter, ‘Anti-White Racism without Races: French Rap, Whiteness, and Disciplinary Institutionalized Spectacularism’, I thus turn the gaze back around on French cultural studies itself, arguing that continuing to position racial and ethnic minorities as an object of inquiry while simultaneously allowing whiteness to pass unscrutinized constitutes institutionalized spectacularism at a disciplinary level. Through sociologist Saïd Bouamama and rap group Z.E.P.’s text and accompanying album, Devoir d’Insolence (Duty to Be Insolent, 2010), the accusations of ‘anti-white racism’ surrounding the work, and the 2005 banlieue riots, I illustrate how these works racialize whiteness using the same problematic proxies used to posit racial and ethnic minorities as France’s internal others. Finally, in the outro ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’ I use recent events and debates (such as the 2011 Jardin d’Acclimatation scandal, or the 2007 opening and 2013 renaming of France’s Museum of Immigration) as a barometer for how Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France’s central questions will continue to play out in the coming years.


(1) The show was also boycotted in London when protesters blockaded the streets to the venue, leading the Barbican to close the performance on September 23, 2014. On the London protest, see Hugh Muir, ‘Slavery Exhibition Featuring Black Actors Chained in Cages Shut Down’, Guardian (23 September 2014), accessed 22 February 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/sep/24/slavery-exhibition-black-actors-cages-shut-down. Prior to the show’s opening in Paris, the theater directors Jean Bellorini and José-Manuel Gonçalvès issued a joint statement entitled ‘Exhibit B: Le débat, oui, la censure, non!’ (‘Exhibit B: debate yes, censure no!’) defending their choice to program the show.

(2) The ‘Contre Exhibit B’ group maintains two websites: https://www.facebook.com/contreexhibitB and http://www.contreexhibitb.blogspot.fr, where they post information, interviews, articles, and petitions. The two websites serve as an archive for how the debate has played out in the French news sphere.

(3) I discuss one such spectacle—France’s 1931 Exposition coloniale—in detail in Chapter 1. For a thorough introduction to ethnographic exhibitions see Pascal Blanchard et al., eds, Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008).

(4) Though Marc Cheb Sun, founder of Respect Magazine, maintains that Bailey’s whiteness is not the source of his critique (‘Ce n’est pas le fait qu’il soit blanc qui pose problème’ [It’s not the fact that he’s white that’s problematic]), he nevertheless suggests that it potentially reproduces the larger power dynamics Bailey seeks to critique: ‘même si ça se voulait critique, c’est une reproduction, qui, faite par un artiste blanc, pose effectivement d’autant plus de questions’ (even if it wants to be a critique, it’s a reproduction which, made by a white artist, effectively raises just as many questions) (Sabine Cessou, ‘Marc Cheb Sun: Les raisons de la colère autour d’“Exhibit B”’. Rues d’Afriques (blog du Nouvel Observateur) (6 December 2014), accessed 22 February 2015, http://blogs.rue89.nouvelobs.com/rues-dafriques/2014/12/06/marc-cheb-sun-les-raisons-de-la-colere-autour-dexhibit-b-233873.

(5) Mullen qtd. in Doreen Carvajal, ‘On Display, and on a Hot Seat: “Exhibit (p.163) B,” a Work About Human Zoos, Stirs Protests’, New York Times (25 November 2014), accessed 22 February 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/arts/exhibit-b-a-work-about-human-zoos-stirs-protests.html?_r=0.

(6) CRAN, ‘De “Exhibit B” à “Exhibit White”: la position du CRAN’ (24 November 2014), accessed 22 February 2014, http://www.le-cran.fr/communique-cran-associations-noires-de-france_lire_de---exhibit-b---a---exhibit-white------la-position-du-cran-_204_0_0.html.

(7) Exhibit B performers, qtd. in ‘Exhibit B: Is the “Human Zoo” racist? The Performers Respond’, Guardian (5 September 2014), accessed 22 February 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/sep/05/exhibit-b-is-the-human-zoo-racist-the-performers-respond.

(8) Brett Bailey, ‘Yes, Exhibit B is Challenging—but I Never Sought to Alienate or Offend’, Guardian (24 September 2014), accessed 22 February 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/exhibit-b-challenging-work-never-sought-alienate-offend-brett-bailey. Bailey also responded at length to accusations made against ‘Exhibit B’ in a piece titled ‘Blood on the Tarmac’ disseminated via Facebook.

(9) For an exhaustive discussion of the gaze in twentieth-century philosophical thought, see Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993).

(10) Jacques Lacan, Écrits, vol. I (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966), 93−100.

(11) Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), 235−36.

(12) Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison (Paris: Gallimard, 1975); Histoire de la sexualité (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).

(13) W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Modern Library, 2003), 2−3; Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press 2008), 90.

(14) Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen 16, no. 3 (1975).

(15) Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).

(16) For but one example, see the visual dynamics that define Clifford Geertz’s introduction to Balinese society in ‘Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight’, Daedalus 134, no. 4 (2005). The contributors to the foundational volume Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (1986) sought to move away from these visual metaphors and to privilege textual and aural ones, asking who speaks and how in ethnographic writing. See especially James Clifford’s Introduction ‘Partial Truths’.

(17) Éric Fassin, ‘La race, ça nous regarde’, Libération (25 July 2013), accessed 22 February 2015, http://www.liberation.fr/culture/2013/07/25/la-race-ca-nous-regarde_920834.

(p.164) (18) Richard Dyer, White (London: Routledge, 1997), 1.

(19) bell hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992), 116.

(21) George Yancy, Look, a White! Philosophical Essays on Whiteness (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2012), 8.

(22) In this way, these theorists join a larger postcolonial tradition critiquing the way in which European Enlightenment thought positioned itself as the universal human norm. For one exceptional example see Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

(23) Pap Ndiaye, La condition noire: essai sur une minorité française (Paris: Editions Calmann-Lévy, 2008), 68.

(24) See especially Fanon’s chapter ‘The Black Man and Recognition’ in Black Skin, White Masks, 185−90.

(25) Stuart Hall, ‘Racist Ideologies and the Media’, in Media Studies: A Reader, ed. Sue Thornham (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 273.

(26) After receiving special juridical status, her remains were repatriated to South Africa in 2002. See Gilles Boëtsch and Pascal Blanchard, ‘The Hottentot Venus: Birth of a “Freak” (1815)’, in Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires, ed. Pascal Blanchard et al. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), 69. For a fictional account that takes the reader behind the scenes at the Musée de l’Homme, see Didier Daeninckx’s Retour d’Ataï (Lagrasse: Verdier, 2001).

(27) In this book’s Outro I discuss one controversy—provoked by the 2011 Jardin de l’Outre-Mer—that sparked larger inquiries into the commemorative space afforded ethnographic exhibitions in Paris. Of course, this relative absence of sites and monuments devoted to ethnographic exhibitions is far from limited to the French or even European context. As Pamela Newkirk illustrates in Spectacle: The Astonishing life of Ota Benga (New York: Amistad, 2015), few traces of ‘human zoos’—such as Ota Benga’s residence in and display at the Bronx Zoo’s ‘Monkey House’ in 1906—can be found in the United States today.

(29) Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (New York: Routledge, 2001), 15; my emphasis.

(31) Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de mémoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1984).

(32) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).

(33) Fatima El-Tayeb, European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 4.

(34) Gérard Noiriel, ‘French and Foreigners’, in Realms of Memory: (p.165) Rethinking the French Past, edited by Pierre Nora and L. D. Kritzman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 151.

(35) These two terms are not easily translatable. Communautarisme refers to asserting a community or minority identity and is seen as divisive in France, though it is selectively applied to racial, ethnic, and religious identities and not usually regional French identities. For more on the racially charged dimension of this term—particularly the ways in which it is selectively applied to racial and ethnic minority groups but, significantly, not to French groups, see Tin, ‘Who is Afraid of Blacks in France? The Black Question: The Name Taboo, the Number Taboo’, French Politics, Culture & Society 26, no. 1 (2008), 38. Concurrence victimaire has been translated as ‘memory competition’, but in French it implies that one’s goal in making occluded histories visible is to garner more sympathy or attention as a victim than another group. Michael Rothberg opposes classifying such memorial gestures as ‘memory competition’, and instead proposes the concept of ‘multidirectional memory’, which he argues better captures ‘the dynamic transfers that take place between diverse places and diverse times during the act of remembrance’ (Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009], 11).

(36) Pascal Bruckner, Le Sanglot de l’homme blanc: tiers-monde, culpabilité, haine de soi (Paris: Seuil, 1983).

(37) The CNMHE was formerly the CPMHE (Comité pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage; The Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery).

(38) The CNMHE was provided for in 2001 under ‘Décret n° 2001-434 du 21 mai 2001 tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l’esclavage en tant que crime contre l’humanité’ (Decree n° 2001-434 of May 21, 2001 recognizing the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as a crime against humanity). See http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000405369&fastPos=2&fastReqId=1680676956&categorieLien=id&oldAction=rechTexte. Later, ‘Décret n° 2009-506 du 6 mai 2009 relatif au Comité pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage’ (Decree n° 2009-506 of May 6, 2009 regarding the Committee for the Memory and the History of Slavery), further defined the committee’s official duties: ‘advise the government on questions relating to research, teaching, preservation, or transmission of the history and memories of the slave trade, of slavery, and of their abolition’. See http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000020584544&fastPos=1&fastReqId=451018047&categorieLien=id&oldAction=rechTexte.

(39) ‘Loi n° 2005-158 du 23 février 2005 portant reconnaissance de la Nation et contribution nationale en faveur des Français rapatriés’ (Law n° 2005-158 of February 23, 2005 giving national recognition to the repatriated French). See http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do;jsessionid=B1EAB37CF96F324AB9B502C3A9F68B4D.tpdjo16v_3?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000444898& (p.166) dateTexte=29990101. For a comprehensive study of how the law was crafted and its effects in France, see Nicolas Bancel, ‘The Law of February 23, 2005: The Uses Made of the Revival of France’s “Colonial Grandeur”’, in Frenchness and the African Diaspora: Identity and Uprising in Contemporary France, ed. Charles Tshimanga, Ch. Didier Gondola, and Peter J. Bloom (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009).

(40) Raphaëlle Branche et al., ‘Les historiens face à l’histoire coloniale’, Le Monde (20 September 2005).

(41) Françoise Vergès, ‘Les troubles de la mémoire: traite négrière, esclavage et écriture de l’histoire’, Cahiers d’études africaines 179−80, no. 3 (2005).

(42) Charles Forsdick, ‘Siting Postcolonial Memory: Remembering New Caledonia in the Work of Didier Daeninckx’, Modern & Contemporary France 12, no. 2 (2010). I discuss the 2011 Jardin de l’Outre-Mer scandal in more depth in this book’s Outro.

(43) Nicki Hitchcott and Dominic Thomas, eds, Francophone Afropean Literatures (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014).

(44) As I discuss in more detail in Chapter 5, this activist group (now a political party) emerged just before the widespread rioting in France in 2005. Its main purpose is to contest legacies of colonial racism.

(45) The debate’s website (www.debatidentitenationale.fr) is no longer operational, but the responses can still be accessed using the Internet archive (also known as the ‘Wayback Machine’). A summary of the responses the website received can be found in Albin Wagener, Le Débat sur l’identité nationale (Paris: Harmattan, 2010), 33−34.

(46) Faïza Guène and Dominic Thomas (trans.), ‘In Search of Frenchness’, Guardian (28 January 2010), accessed 5 March 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jan/28/france-national-identity-muslim.

(48) Tin, ‘Who is Afraid of Blacks in France?’, 37. Other useful discussions of France’s ethnic statistics include Daniel Sabbagh and Shanny Peer, ‘French Color Blindness in Perspective: The Controversy over “Statistiques Ethniques”’, French Politics, Culture & Society 26, no. 1 (2008); Cris Beauchemin et al., ‘Les Discriminations: une question de minorités visibles’, Population et Sociétés 466 (April 2010).

(49) Patrick Simon, ‘The Choice of Ignorance: The Debate on Ethnic and Racial Statistics in France’, French Politics, Culture & Society 26, no. 1 (2008), 16. For a thorough discussion of what is—and is not—permitted in terms of discussing ‘ethnicity’ in France, see Alec G. Hargreaves, ‘Veiled Truths: Discourses of Ethnicity in Contemporary France’, in Ethnic Europe: Mobility, Identity and Conflict in a Globalized World, ed. Roland Hsu (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010). For one example of a survey that attempted to quantify France’s minority populations, see the 2008–09 study conducted by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE) (p.167) and the Institut national des études démographiques (INED), which could only approach the discrimination racial and ethnic minorities face in contemporary France via a proxy: the obstacles immigrants and their French-born children face with respect to integration.

(50) Valéry Giscard d’Éstaing, ‘Immigration ou Invasion?’, Le Figaro Magazine (21 September 1991).

(51) The same study also found that 74% of people surveyed believed Islam to be ‘incompatible with French society’ (Courtois, ‘Les Crispations alarmantes de la société française’, Le Monde (25 January 2013). http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2013/01/24/les-crispations-alarmantes-de-la-societe-francaise_1821655_823448.html).

(52) In so doing, they return to struggles begun by two organizations founded by Lamine Senghor: the Comité de Défense de la Race Nègre (CDRN; Committee for the Defense of the Negro Race), the Ligue Universelle pour la Défense de la Race Noire (LUDRN; Universal League for the Defense of the Black Race), and later the Négritude literary movement that had already made a political issue of questions of racial identity in France (and its empire) almost ninety years earlier. For a concise background on these groups, see Pascal Blanchard et al.’s La France noire: trois siècles de présences des Afriques, des Caraïbes, de lOcéan Indien et dOcéanie (Paris: Découverte, 2011), 120.

(53) Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (2006) (The Kindly Ones, 2009) won both the Prix Goncourt and the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française; Congolese author Alain Mabanckou’s Mémoires de porc-épic (2006) (Memoirs of a Porcupine, 2012) won the Prix Goncourt; Canadian author Nancy Huston’s Lignes de faille (2006) (Fault Lines, 2007) won the Prix Femima; and Cameroonian author Léonora Miano’s Contours du jour qui vient (2006) won the Prix Goncourt des lycéens.

(54) Muriel Barbery et al., ‘Pour une littérature-monde en français’, Le Monde (16 March 2007).

(55) Julien Mallet, ‘“World Music”: Une question d’ethnomusicologie?’, Cahiers d’études africaines 168, no. 4 (2002). See also Timothy Dean Taylor, Global Pop: World Music, World Markets (New York: Routledge, 1997).

(56) Tin notes the prevalence of works published between 2004 and 2007 with ‘noir’ in their title, including Patrick Lozès, Nous les noirs de France (Paris: Danger Public, 2007); Rama Yade-Zimet, Les Noirs de France (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2007); Stephen Smith and Géraldine Faes, Noir et français! (Paris: Éditions Panama, 2006); Myriam Cottias, La Question noire: histoire d’une construction coloniale (Paris: Bayard, 2007); François Dupaire, France Blanche, colère noire (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2006); Éric Deroo and Antoine Champeaux, La Force noire (Paris: Tallandier, 2006); Raphaël Schneck, Une Saison noire: les massacres des tirailleurs sénégalais mai–juin 1940 (Paris: Tallandier, 2007); Jean Yves Le Naour, La Honte noire: l’Allemagne et les troupes coloniales françaises 1914–1945 (Paris: Hachette, 2003).

(p.168) (57) As I discuss at various moments in this book (see especially chapters 1, 4, and 5), those depicted as gazers are overwhelmingly male, as are the objects of the gaze.