Periphery and intimacy in anti-imperial culture and politics from French others to othering Frenchness

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In the late period of nineteenth-and twentieth-century French imperialism, French thinkers, artists, and colonists had long held a fascination with the "others" inhabiting France's colonies. Intimate contact and crosscultural encounters led to descriptions and often violent differentiations of these groups that helped define French identity. But what might we learn by employing a "postcolonial praxis" that seeks new ways of interrogating identity from anti-imperial actors? Taking the perspectives of three key anti-imperialists-Frantz Fanon, Ousmane Sembene, and Simone Lellouche Othmani-this article unearths their perceptions about France and French identity. For these figures, France could represent either an unfulfilled promised land or a place of exile. Frenchness, likewise, ran the spectrum from a set of desired if unattainable qualities, an immoral culture to be resisted at all costs, to a national identity to be deployed for political strategy. This radical approach turns Frenchness into an "other" while contributing to the emergence of new postcolonial identities. At the same time, it demonstrates how three important definitions of France and of Frenchness depended upon both peripheral positionality and intimate access to French culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-125
Number of pages21
JournalFrench Politics, Culture & Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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