The African Diaspora Uprising: Blackness in the Making in France

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Abdoulaye GUEYE, University of Ottawa, Canada
Post-Imperial France is experiencing the color-line. In 1998, 40000 African-descended citizens commemorated, in Paris, the 150thanniversary of the abolition of slavery, and claimed moral reparation. That year, Collectif Egalité, the first organization labeled black went official, and shattered the hegemonic color-blind French ideology by demanding the recruitment of black journalists on French television. In 2003, a newborn organization, Capdiv, claimed the ‘‘improvement of the condition of Blacks’’. To harmonize these actions, and institutionalize a collective ‘‘black subjectivity’’, the Representative Council of Black Organizations emerged in 2005.

This paper addresses this sociopolitical dynamic within the African diaspora. From a critical review of the social movement literature, it invites to embrace this dynamic in the long durée. It argues that the mobilization of the African diaspora is not the mechanical result of French racism and exclusion practices, for racism and exclusion have been concomitant with black presence. The African diaspora's uprising is above all the outcome of a three-fold transformation of this demographic: a) its phenomenal growth as indicate many studies according to which the population of Antilleans was 9.5 times larger in 1999 than in 1961, and the number of Africans multiplied by 20.4 times between 1968 and 1999; b) its identity metamorphosis from Africans/Caribbeans to black French as the majority of this diaspora are French (born) citizens and not immigrants; b) its intellectualization, as well-educated components have outnumbered illiterate or hardly literate immigrants who hailed to metropolitan France from the Caribbean and Africa in the 1960s-1970s. Taking stock of this transformation, this paper will bring the agency of African diaspora - in the stead of French racism and exclusion - back in the center of the analysis, so as to answer the question as why a political mobilization labeled “black” occurred precisely at turn of 21st century.