The “Black-Blanc-Beur” Utopia:Publishing Practices and Identity Formation in Metropolitan French Women Writing (1998-2005)
In The “Black-Blanc-Beur” Utopia: Publishing Practices and Identity Formation in Metropolitan French Women Writing (1998-2005), I argue that the French national soccer team’s win in the 1998 World Cup final, which launched the popular phrase “Black-Blanc-Beur” in reference to the various postcolonial ethnicities that composed the team, caused the French metropolitan publishing realm to create alternative literature categories in reaction to this newly-phrased utopic notion of multiculturalism, only to reproduce colonial stereotypes and further divisions between the “blanc” (or perceived as “blanc”) authors and “other” authors from the former colonial empire, specifically from Africa, the Caribbean and the Maghreb. In response, the authors affected by essentialist marketing and identifying practices fought against arbitrary categorizations within their narratives as well as in the public realm, spurring on the creation of alternative genres such as banlieue literature and Afro-Parisianism. In addition, the phrase “Black-Blanc-Beur”, in its oversimplification and gendering of postcolonial multiculturalism in metropolitan France, clearly excluded French residents of Southeastern Asian descent from the promoted 1998 national identity, especially the descendants of the formerly colonized Indochina (independent Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos). As France’s mission civilisatrice in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Maghreb seemed to prevail in the 1998 French political unconscious over the equally inhumane colonization and subjection of the Southeastern Asian populations, authors of Southeastern Asian descent were similarly eclipsed from the public discourse. However, this absence from the public scene enabled these authors, particularly women, to establish themselves outside of the “Black-Blanc-Beur” paradigm, and outside of the implicit gender bias that favors masculinity in the French republican ideal, as symbolized by the political impact of the men’s soccer team’s win. The dates chosen for the period of investigation, 1998-2005, correspond to the French men’s soccer team’s victory in the World Cup tournament (July 12th 1998), and to the banlieue riots of October and November 2005. I chose these two symbolic events as bookends to the phenomenon that I term “the ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ utopia,” as it began with the glorified win of a supposedly multicultural French team, and ended with revealing manifestations of the social fracture that subsists in metropolitan France, one that could not be solved by the "Black-Blanc-Beur" propaganda.