Beaman, Jean. Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017. xiv + 152 pages. Paperback, $34.95.
Jean Beaman, a Northwestern University-trained sociologist, employed an ethnographic research approach in her doctoral dissertation-turned-academic text. Citizen Outsider challenges French exceptionalism and ideology of colorblindness, and the notion that "being French" supersedes racial, ethnic, and cultural affiliations. Beaman, an African American, was initially drawn to France due to her love of the French language. In her fieldwork, she interviewed forty-five adult children of Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian descent, living in Paris and its conurbation. This second generation of maghrebin origin were born in France (hence, natural French citizens), were university educated, have professional jobs, and attained middle-class status, and, most of all, embraced French culture and share the country's sense of Republicanism, as captured in the French national motto liberte, egalite, fraternite. In every respect, they feel French and have succeeded by societal standards, but they are not accepted as truly French. In spite of their natural citizenship, they feel they are treated as outsiders.
Thus Beaman's research and analyses focus on implications of being a minority in a country that does not recognize minorities. Against the backdrop of the notion of France as a colorblind society, Beaman's research draws attention to race, ethnicity, and religion as crucial factors for understanding marginalization in France. Given that Maghrebin-origin individuals are not Caucasian, European, or Christian, their race/ethnicity and Muslim religion intersect with cultural differences. Hence, mainstream French society doubts their assimilability. Because of their maghrebin ancestry, this French-born population is denied cultural citizenship. With their experiences of discrimination and exclusion, Beaman framed these individuals as "citizen outsiders," a framework rooted in earlier works by other black scholars, including Audre Lorde, W.E.B. DuBois, and Frantz Fanon (p. 4).
Despite a long history of colonialism and immigration, French Republican ideology promotes a monolithic version of French identity and history. For example, a 1972 law banned the collection of statistics related to race and ethnicity, even in the census. To this end, French government policies emphasize formal race neutrality...