Immigrating to France (RELS 348)

In his Article “The French Colonialists Comeuppance”, Foreign Policy, January 21, 2015, Gordon Adams outlines the strained relationship between the French colonizer and the colonized immigrants trying to integrate themselves into French society.

France had lost control over Vietnam, Morocco, and Tunisia in the 1950’s and in the 1960’s, after a reform on self-determination, chose to give up power over Algeria. After seven years of colonial war against the uprising of the colonized in Algeria, France had retreated. Raoul Salan, a French General in Algeria against this movement, plotted to invade, and take over France from President De Gaulle. His plans had failed and Algeria’s French occupiers lost generations of wealth and property.

During this time in the 1960’s, minorities like African-Americans in the United States were pushing to make their own identities within their country and to be accepted as part of a whole. This, however, was not the case for France. As a result of economic failures in the 1970’s, people from Algeria, Morocco and other previously colonized countries immigrated to France. Due to the strong nationalist pride of the country, France pushed hard against the new diversity of culture, religion and values. For the newcomers, job opportunities were slim and conditions were poor. France was unable to fully accept the immigrants and the colonized colonizer binary remained prevalent.

According to Adams, today, immigrants still struggle for equal opportunities, and unlike the African-Americans of the United States, the immigrant population would not successfully create an accepted place for themselves among the French. Immigrants have gone to great lengths to give voiced to their minority peoples such as Islamic extremism in order to counter the push against them. Edward Said explained that “certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others; the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony”, in Orientalism. Colonization forces certain ideas to be privileged and discussed over others. Edward Said uses this notion to argue that empire creates a foundation for a hegemony that prioritizes based on where they’re from.

The legacy of the colonized, colonizer binary lives on as history repeats itself. Though France is no longer an empire, its effects are carrying on today. When speaking on the work of Bernard Lewis in his book “The Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies”, Robert Irvin explains that there is an ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ in the world of antiquity, [a] tendency to make such distinctions is common to all times and places. However the distinctions were not necessarily fixed and irrevocable”. Is it then possible for the immigrants of places such as Morocco and Algeria to properly integrate themselves as an identity within France or will they remain the ‘outsider’?.



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