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The Color of Liberty Histories of Race in France by Sue Peabody

The Color of Liberty Histories of Race in France


The Color of Liberty Histories of Race in France by Sue Peabody

France has long defined itself as a color-blind nation where racial bias has no place. Even today, the French universal curriculum for secondary students makes no mention of race or slavery, and many French scholars still resist addressing racial questions. Yet, as this groundbreaking volume shows, color and other racial markers have been major factors in French national life for more than three hundred years. The sixteen essays in The Color of Liberty offer a wealth of innovative research on the neglected history of race in France, ranging from the early modern period to the present. The Color of Liberty addresses four major themes: the evolution of race as an idea in France; representations of the other in French literature, art, government, and trade; the international dimensions of French racial thinking, particularly in relation to colonialism; and the impact of racial differences on the shaping of the modern French city. The many permutations of race in French history-as assigned identity, consumer product icon, scientific discourse, philosophical problem, by-product of migration, or tool in empire building-here receive nuanced treatments confronting the malleability of ideas about race and the uses to which they have been put.Contributors. Leora Auslander, Claude Blanckaert, Alice Conklin, Fred Constant, Laurent Dubois, Yael Simpson Fletcher, Richard Fogarty, John Garrigus, Dana Hale, Thomas C. Holt, Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Dennis McEnnerney, Michael A. Osborne, Lynn Palermo, Sue Peabody, Pierre H. Boulle, Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Tyler Stovall, Michael G. Vann, Gary Wilder


Enfin! Stovall and Peabody take up the call to place race at the center of French history and enlist a range of skilled scholars to show its tenacious filaments and deeply French roots. This volume gives substance to the diverse genealogies of racisms in the making of France while accounting for their troubling contemporary presence. -Ann L. Stoler, author of Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things According to some observers, color-coded racism is an American problem that the French have, for the most part, managed to avoid. This fine collection of essays raises considerable doubt about that assumption. The authors show that race has been constructed somewhat differently in the two republics, but also demonstrate that the French, like the Americans, have often failed to live up to their own egalitarian principles when it came to relations with people whom they considered nonwhite. -George M. Fredrickson, author of Racism: A Short History `The French are not racists like the Americans!' `But are they French racists?
All of us, both French and American observers, have been bedeviled by some variant of this exchange I once had about the homeland of universal equality. This collection of transatlantic essays is the first systematic sounding of the praxis of race in French history. The contributions by American, Caribbean, and European

-French specialists are universally fascinating and smart. The Color of Liberty is now the best thing on the subject in any language. We need it. -Herman Lebovics, author of True France: The Wars over Cultural Identity, 1900-1945

About the Author

Sue Peabody is Associate Professor of History at Washington State University Vancouver and the author of There Are No Slaves in France : The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Regime.Tyler Stovall is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include France since the Second World War, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, and The Rise of the Paris Red Belt.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th June 2003


Sue Peabody

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Duke University Press


400 pages


Cultural studies



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