France’s Incomplete Reckoning With Its Colonial Past

A demonstration in front of a mural of Adama Traore and George Floyd, who both died in police custody, in Stains, north of Paris, June 22, 2020 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).
A demonstration in front of a mural of Adama Traore and George Floyd, who both died in police custody, in Stains, north of Paris, June 22, 2020 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).
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I first met Salim, a 35-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, about 10 years ago at a cafe near Levallois, the Parisian banlieue—or peri-urban ghetto—where he lived at the time. In the course of our wide-ranging discussion about French history and identity, part of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation, he told me that while it is possible for some immigrants to become “French,” that isn’t the case for everyone. “To actually be French, you have to forget yourself a little bit [and] adopt the behaviors that are imposed on us,” he said. “There is a path to follow to […]

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