black france

Call for Papers: Constructing Black France: A Transatlantic Dialogue

Hat tip: Angela Shaw

“Constructing Black France: A Transatlantic Dialogue”
Barnard College-Columbia University
April 17, 2009

Symposium Conveners: The Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), Columbia University and the Africana Studies program Barnard College

The Institute for Research in African American Studies (Columbia University) in conjunction with the Africana Studies program (Barnard College) solicits submissions for a one-day symposium on “Black France”. The symposium will be devoted to the analysis of the recent emergence of French Black European Studies as an academic field, particularly in its relation to social and political developments.

The symposium seeks to gather scholars, activists and artists from France and the United States working on this issue so as to assess, compare and contrast the knowledge production from both sides of the Atlantic.

The program of events will feature a keynote speaker, thematic panels and film screening. All papers must be presented in English (English-French translation, may be provided if requested ahead).
Please email abstracts (of a maximum of 250 words) and short bios to:
Maboula Soumahoro:


“Constructing Black France: A Transatlantic Dialogue”
The aim of this conference is to gather French and American scholars in order to: identify, analyse and articulate the recent and ongoing theoretical framing of “black France” through a comparative analysis between contemporary French and American scholarship. As a field of scholarly research, “Black Europe” has attracted an increased and simultaneous interest since the early 2000s on both sides of the Atlantic. This has been demonstrated through a series of symposia and conferences. In that regard, the recent publication of Pap Ndiaye’s latest work, La Condition noire. Essai sur une minorité (Calmann-Lévy, 2008) has been central in the formulation of a distinct and novel French black identity, thus adding a specific racial dimension to the larger discussions over immigration and assimilation. Part of this growing interest, the study of Blacks in France by both French and American scholars can easily be integrated to the field of study of the African/Black Diaspora[1].

Consequently, this conference will seek to stimulate comparative analyses of French and U.S. scholarly approaches to “Black France”/Blacks in France. The objective will be to analyze how both French and U.S. conceptions of race, blackness, minority status, and citizenship differ and/or are similar, while they both participate in the construction of an emerging field that is part of the growing interest in “Black Europe”. One of the central issues that shall be addressed is how is “Black Europe” being analysed by scholars of both countries? Is it approached through the prism of culture? Race? Politics? Religion ? Arts? Do those potential prisms intersect? But also, what does the racial question crystallize in France? What is to be made of the “blacks-blancs-bleurs”[2] myth in the contemporary national narrative? Where do these interrogations leave North African immigration, in relation to racism and racial discrimination, as was studied by Tahar Ben Jelloun (1999) and others?

Ultimately, the “Constructing Black France” symposium will be a presentation of highly relevant knowledge in the making that could fundamentally impact the very concept of the intellectual project of the African Diaspora. This project fits into a conscious effort to move beyond particular national histories in order to better grasp the complexities of the diverse articulations of blackness to be found in the African Diaspora. Thus, this project should be understood as an attempt to theorize blackness in an environment which has only recently accepted race as a valid category of social and historical analysis. As a consequence, the emerging scholarly field needs to be assessed by way of looking at the orientation it takes and the methods that are used by the scholars involved. This will render possible the discerning of the inherent flaws, shortcomings, misrepresentation and misconceptions on what it means to be black in the French context.

[1] The adjective to be placed in front of the term “diaspora” cannot easily be selected when the term applies to black people. “African” seems to set the focus primarily on the origin, while “Black” aims at emphasizing racial categorization as a social construct. The question that remains, however, is the dialectics between the two.
[2] « Black-Whites-North Africans ».

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