Black Matters, Blackness Made to Matter
Pour une fois, je me suis mis à travailler comme un nègre. Je ne sais
pas si les nègres ont toujours tellement travaillé, mais enfin. (And
for once, I started working like a nègre. I don’t know if a nègre ever
worked that hard.)—perfumer jean-paul guerlain of the
Maison Guerlain, October 15, 2010
Eh bien le nègre, il t’emmerde! (Well, you know what this nègre
says, F . . . you!)—aimé césaire, 1961 / Audre Pulvar to Guer-
lain, October 18, 2010
In recent years, France has seen an extraordinary flourishing of inter-
est in blackness, anti-blackness, and Black identity, coupled with tren-
chant debates about the significance of race as a socio-political ques-
tion. Past and recent collectives continue to organize around these
issues alongside matters of diversity, the memory of slavery, coloniza-
tion, empire, and what it generally means to be French, Black, indigènes
and a citizen within the French Republic.∞ The Conseil Représentatif
des Associations Noires (cran),≤ the Comité pour la mémoire et
l’histoire de l’esclavage,≥ and [the] Alliance Noire Citoyenne∂ are in-
dicative of such groups that have formed around these questions amid
a number of existing (and often disconnected) anti-discrimination
and anti-racism associations in France. The cran —a prominent
‘‘Black’’ lobby that emerged in response to the revolts in 2005 in the
nation’s poorest and racialized suburbs—is particularly interesting
both for attempting to document the specificity of anti-blackness sta-
tistically, in the first survey of that nature in France (where ethno-
racial statistics are banned under French law), and for strategically and
intentionally deploying the taboo-ridden nomenclature ‘‘Noir’’ to self-
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