Thinking Race and Race Thinking around the “Francophone” Black Atlantic

AHA Session 208
French Colonial Historical Society 5
Western Society for French History 3
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 1 (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Alice L. Conklin, Ohio State University
Jennifer Anne Boittin, Penn State University
Christopher M. Church, University of Nevada at Reno
Minayo Anne Nasiali, University of California, Los Angeles
Sarah Zimmerman, Western Washington University

Session Abstract

This roundtable thinks race in the “francophone” Atlantic World and more precisely in the Caribbean, West Africa and France. Even though all of these spaces were more multilingual than francophone, each at some point had ties to the black Atlantic slave trade, links that have shaped their histories from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Through each of these geographic spaces the term “race” itself has shifted in significance over time, sometimes quite dramatically, connoting a wide range of concepts including class, nation and skin color. Today, in metropolitan France, the term race is often dismissed as an American import that does not fit with French history. This roundtable explores both the use of and resistance to racial thinking in metropolitan France and its former imperial spaces by authorities and ordinary denizens alike. In particular, we seek to analyze such resistance and its ramifications via a key question: how does taking a longer historical perspective on race thinking help us to understand why the very use of the word “race” continues to be contested in France today?
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