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Citizenship Between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960

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As the French public debates its present diversity and its colonial past, few remember that between 1946 and 1960 the inhabitants of French colonies possessed the rights of French citizens. Moreover, they did not have to conform to the French civil code that regulated marriage and inheritance. One could, in principle, be a citizen and different too. "Citizenship between Em As the French public debates its present diversity and its colonial past, few remember that between 1946 and 1960 the inhabitants of French colonies possessed the rights of French citizens. Moreover, they did not have to conform to the French civil code that regulated marriage and inheritance. One could, in principle, be a citizen and different too. "Citizenship between Empire and Nation" examines momentous changes in notions of citizenship, sovereignty, nation, state, and empire in a time of acute uncertainty about the future of a world that had earlier been divided into colonial empires. Frederick Cooper explains how African political leaders at the end of World War II strove to abolish the entrenched distinction between colonial "subject" and "citizen." They then used their new status to claim social, economic, and political equality with other French citizens, in the face of resistance from defenders of a colonial order. Africans balanced their quest for equality with a desire to express an African political personality. They hoped to combine a degree of autonomy with participation in a larger, Franco-African ensemble. French leaders, trying to hold on to a large French polity, debated how much autonomy and how much equality they could concede. Both sides looked to versions of federalism as alternatives to empire and the nation-state. The French government had to confront the high costs of an empire of citizens, while Africans could not agree with French leaders or among themselves on how to balance their contradictory imperatives. Cooper shows how both France and its former colonies backed into more "national" conceptions of the state than either had sought.


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As the French public debates its present diversity and its colonial past, few remember that between 1946 and 1960 the inhabitants of French colonies possessed the rights of French citizens. Moreover, they did not have to conform to the French civil code that regulated marriage and inheritance. One could, in principle, be a citizen and different too. "Citizenship between Em As the French public debates its present diversity and its colonial past, few remember that between 1946 and 1960 the inhabitants of French colonies possessed the rights of French citizens. Moreover, they did not have to conform to the French civil code that regulated marriage and inheritance. One could, in principle, be a citizen and different too. "Citizenship between Empire and Nation" examines momentous changes in notions of citizenship, sovereignty, nation, state, and empire in a time of acute uncertainty about the future of a world that had earlier been divided into colonial empires. Frederick Cooper explains how African political leaders at the end of World War II strove to abolish the entrenched distinction between colonial "subject" and "citizen." They then used their new status to claim social, economic, and political equality with other French citizens, in the face of resistance from defenders of a colonial order. Africans balanced their quest for equality with a desire to express an African political personality. They hoped to combine a degree of autonomy with participation in a larger, Franco-African ensemble. French leaders, trying to hold on to a large French polity, debated how much autonomy and how much equality they could concede. Both sides looked to versions of federalism as alternatives to empire and the nation-state. The French government had to confront the high costs of an empire of citizens, while Africans could not agree with French leaders or among themselves on how to balance their contradictory imperatives. Cooper shows how both France and its former colonies backed into more "national" conceptions of the state than either had sought.

41 review for Citizenship Between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960

  1. 5 out of 5

    Awdur

    Well-researched, thorough, compelling. (but soooooo long...)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    The twentieth century has often been categorized as a century when long-standing colonial empires fell and newly (re)organized independent nations came to replace the old order. Frederick Cooper suggests that though formal past empires have fallen, their replacements are still being contested throughout the world. While the former imperial powers of Europe [and the United States] largely continued to dominate geopolitical affairs throughout the “developing world”—particularly in Africa, Asia, an The twentieth century has often been categorized as a century when long-standing colonial empires fell and newly (re)organized independent nations came to replace the old order. Frederick Cooper suggests that though formal past empires have fallen, their replacements are still being contested throughout the world. While the former imperial powers of Europe [and the United States] largely continued to dominate geopolitical affairs throughout the “developing world”—particularly in Africa, Asia, and South America—such that some might still label them as empires, Cooper chronicles the self-conscious attempt by postwar political states to distance themselves from past empires in favor of political systems (even if only nominally) that sounded more egalitarian. France, for example, repudiated “French Empire” in favor of “French Union.” Furthermore, Cooper looks at what the formerly colonized actors had to say about new terms of governance and relationships with their former European colonizers. Many of these political entities, including Senegal for example, did not advocate for wholesale independence from former imperial powers as a sovereign nation but instead preferred to form a federation among other West African polities and France. In other words, the formerly colonized self-consciously preferred multinational states rather than small ones divided along ethnic lines; they recognized the political and economic advantages of a more inclusive, diverse citizenship. While Cooper did apply his conceptual framework to regions throughout the globe, his primary focus was on Africa, and even more particularly on the West African polities that were formerly French colonies. Although the 1945 Pan-African Conference condemned colonial rule and demanded self-governance, what followed was not a uniform progression of African states claiming sovereignty and taking their place among European nations. There was no clear consensus for how best to achieve local self-determination and governance among the diverse African peoples and polities. Some Africans were ready to completely rid themselves of their European colonial past and its associated ties, but not only would this prove difficult if not impossible, it was also undesirable to many. The impoverished African condition was not a solely African-induced problem. Both many of the formerly colonized and the former colonizers recognized that Europe bore much of the blame for historical problems and thus should play some sort of role in solving them. There were various transitions that took place in Africa. Cooper therefore advanced a revision of twentieth-century history that attempted to put more emphasis on historical and ongoing connections among polities rather than trying to force a categorization of polities. He moved the traditional paradigm shift from “colonial empires to independent nation-states” to a more nuanced look at how the post-World War II political landscape changed and continues to be contested. The global state of relations among polities continues to be interconnected and unequal as it was when the nineteenth- and twentieth-century empires colonized the world. This comment supports the fallacy of ages and epochs, but it should not be misunderstood as suggesting that things have not changed over time. The ruling nations are not merely continuing to operate as empires under less objectionable names of federations and unions. In spite of unequal relationships, formerly colonized polities have been active participants in leveraging newfound political power to help reshape the political world. Cooper clarifies, and rightfully so, that negotiations are diverse and still being played out.

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