Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey / Camden

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Chicago
The Cultural Politics of Late Colonialism and European Unity: Cultural Transnationalism in Postwar France, 1943-1968

France embarked on two ambitious transnational undertakings after the Second World War—the revitalization of its African Empire and the unification of Western Europe. These were political and economic projects, but they were also fundamentally cultural. They each engendered initiatives to create new shared identities and a sense of common destiny that crossed national borders and traditional cultural boundaries. Pursuing parallel strategies, proponents of overseas France and united Europe looked to youth as a key demographic to build the social and cultural foundations of their projects. They sought to redesign primary and secondary school curricula, create institutions of higher learning, launch student exchanges, hold sports competitions, and use film and radio programming to create new cultural communities. My dissertation takes these initiatives as a case study as part of a broader reexamination of the impact of the conjunction of colonial reform, decolonization and early European integration on ideas about difference and multiculturalism in postwar France. My research will show that exclusivist visions of the French Republic and united Europe were in fact fiercely contested in the immediate postwar decades, that ideas about racial and cultural difference were in a great state of flux, and that the resonances these identity markers carried in what might initially appear to be a narrow French national debate were in fact being worked out in a transnational dialogue between French, European and African actors. Cultural homogeneity was not necessarily deemed essential to the success of colonial reform or European integration; postwar youth-oriented cultural policy in favor of both projects reveals a vision of cultural community in which the logic of ‘unity in diversity’ was not just tolerated but embraced. My project will therefore historicize and challenge contemporary discourses that disclaim the viability of multiculturalism in France and across Europe today.