Black Skins, French Voices

Caribbean Ethnicity and Activism in Urban France


David Beriss

First Edition • August 1, 2004 • 176 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813342542 • $36.00 USD$52.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786729951 • $22.99 USD$26.99 CAN

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About 337,000 people of French Antillean Origin live in metropolitan France today. Unlike immigrants from North Africa, Turkey or sub-Saharan Africa, Antilleans are French citizens with deep roots in French history. Indeed, the Caribbean Islands they come from have been a part of France for over three centuries. Antilleans were for many years an invisible population, dispersed throughout the Paris region, with few community organizations and little political activism. Beginning in the early 1980s, however, activists in the Antillean community began to recognize that their status as citizens would not protect them from the growth of racism in France. From neighborhood groups interested in promoting traditional Martinican and Guadeloupan dance and music to politically charged associations, these new cultural militants denounced French colonialism, challenged racism, and demanded political representation. Black Skins, French Voices is situated at the intersection of changing French ideas and policies regarding ethnic diversity and Antillean demands for recognition. It shows the creative and exciting struggles of Antilleans to remake French culture on their own terms.

David Beriss is assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans. He has worked as an applied anthropologist in association with the US Senate, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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This will be a wonderful addition to the corpus of ethnographic work on race, contemporary Europe, on urban anthropology, and on ethnicity and nation-building currently available for us in undergraduate courses…I would absolutely consider assigning Black Skins, French Voices in many of my courses.
— Susan Hyatt, Temple University

Black Skins, French Voices [is a] richly nuanced and informative analysis of France at the beginning of the twenty-first century. [It’s] central conclusion, that there are many different ways of conceptualizing what it means to be French, not only offers important insights into the postcolonial condition, but is also useful for historians to consider in their own research into French identity.
— H-France Review

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