Saving the republic: State nostalgia and slavery reparations in media and political discourses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Memories of slavery have long been a contentious subject, but no more so than when the question of reparations is raised. This article investigates French media and political responses to reparations within the context of international movements that are pressurizing European and US governments to engage more actively with the legacies of their slave pasts. The particular reference here is to the citizen-led activist group, the CRAN, whose call for a national debate on reparations in 2012 and 2013 was rejected by the French state and misrepresented by the French media. These responses are placed within the context of both the (first) Taubira law (2001) that recognized slavery as a ‘crime against humanity’ and the ‘memory war’ of 2005–2006. Nostalgia is shown to intersect with state and media responses in a number of ways. First and foremost, reparations are seen as anti-republican in nature, being misunderstood as the divisive work of ethnic minorities. Fears of communitarian fracture invoke nostalgia for an imagined wholeness that preceded the state’s act of recognition. Secondly, reparations are defined as ‘impossible’ by appealing to their ‘divine’ irreparability. This article challenges the inertia of state nostalgia and the limitations of media representations by reconnecting reparations to a recognition struggle against racial discrimination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-232
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Issue number2
Early online date5 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • memory
  • nostalgia
  • slavery
  • reparations
  • recognition struggles
  • Taubira law
  • French republicanism
  • memory war
  • social justice
  • racial discrimination


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