Race on Display in Twentieth- and Twenty First-Century France
Liverpool University Press 2016
New Books in African StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network April 17, 2018 Roxanne Panchasi
Katelyn Knox’s book, Race on Display in Twentieth- and Twenty First–Century France (Liverpool University Press, 2016) examines francophone literature, art, dance, music, and fashion, considering how race and national identity intersect in postcolonial France. Emphasizing a widespread “institutionalized spectacularism” in France that exceeds the display of racialized bodies in more explicit, state-produced and orchestrated spectacle, Knox’s analysis emphasizes a more pervasive gaze permeating contemporary French culture. Moving from a discussion of the Colonial Exposition of 1931 to the analysis of more contemporary cultural forms, the book is a study of race that looks at a range of sources and varieties of performance.
Thinking carefully through the persistent French engagement with and mobilization of ideas about race, Knox’s chapters explore official historical discourse, rhetoric and new media, cultural marketplaces, and the field of French and Francophone studies itself. The analysis throughout includes drawing attention to and interrogating a French universalist insistence on a “colorblind” society that has made looking for and looking at race a complicated challenge. Part history, part literary and cultural analysis, the book asks serious questions about the reproduction of racist gazes that can accompany even the most well-intentioned discussions of exclusion in France. It also considers whiteness as a constellation of nationalist ideals and assumptions that must be interrogated if the divisions and discriminations of contemporary France are to be understood and addressed.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: [email protected].
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