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Race-law-justice : toward a history of the present


Race-law-justice : toward a history of the present

What demos for the 21th century ?



The Center for Critical Democracy Studies will host seven symposia this spring that explore race and racism as problems in legal history and themes of judicial struggle.

A chief goal of this series is to treat race and racism as social constructions that vary in meaning across place and time. Participants in these symposia will examine how race, viewed as a social artifact, has been inscribed within the legal culture of Old and New World societies. These discussions will address the relationship between race and other markers of identity–class, gender, lineage, religion, political status, geographical origin–in defining the content of law and in mediating people’s experience of it. Participants will further investigate past and present forms of resistance—both to racism and to the constraints of racial categories. A final goal of this series is to reflect on the promise and limitations of law as a remedy for social wrongs.

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies intends, through this series, to foster vigorous exchange among leading historians and legal scholars while building an intellectual community before whom they may showcase new work, debate interpretive methods, and consider new avenues of research. As the American University of Paris is a bicultural institution, these symposia will address these topics with special attention to France, the French colonial empire, and the Americas.

The first of these symposia will be an introductory conversation with students and interested faculty members about interpretive approaches to race and racism since the founding of critical race theory by legal scholars in the 1980s. Because critical race theory is now under attack as un-American in the United States while being snubbed almost universally in France, we feel it is necessary for us to open our series by confronting this controversy with a text-driven discussion of this and other approaches to the topic of our series.

Four of the five remaining symposia are two-part meetings that approach race and racism as themes in global history with references to problems that include slavery, emancipation, imperial conquest, and decolonization.

During Part I of Symposia, 2-5 participants will present their own research, whether in the form of works-in-progress or as newly published work, to be followed by a discussion with the audience.

During Part II of Symposia, 2-5 participants will join in a moderated discussion about the state of their respective fields with the aim of posing new questions and identifying new research priorities.

The final symposium of our series will consist of a solo pre-circulated paper, remarks by a commentator, and a free discussion.




February 23, 2021


Race, Law and Social Justice : An Introduction


10:35 CET : Miranda Spieler, associate professor of history at the American University of Paris and Michelle Kuo, associate professor of History, Law, and Society at the American University of Paris

A text-driven conversation open to all AUP students that explores legal narratives and legal historical writing on the topic of race, social inequality, and the pursuit of social justice. social hierarchy. The discussion will be led by Professor Michelle Kuo and Professor Miranda Spieler. Readings for this two-hour discussion of classic texts include excerpts

The alchemy of race and rights
Patricia Williams

Justice accused : antislavery and the judicial process
Robert Cover

12:35 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-02-23/race-law-and-social-justice-introduction-demos21



March 9, 2021


Race, Law and Universalism : Empire and its Legacy in Modern France


18:00 CET : Of Course He Is Black And I Am White’: Women Defying Laws, Decrees, And Policing In French West Africa
Jennifer Anne Boittin, associate professor of French, Francophone Studies and History at the Pennsylvania State University

This paper traces several women who resisted men’s policing of their sexual and sentimental lives in French West Africa (AOF). These cases reveal how women were surveilled, and the nature of the debates that raged among bureaucrats and members of the judiciary who - often in the name of French prestige, which some explicitly termed white prestige - sought to bind women by preventing their mobility. Officials tried to use existing laws and principles or to write new edicts, all in the name of preventing intimacy and domesticity between white and Black people in West Africa. Women, in turn, quickly realized that if in legal principle one’s “race” was not a legitimate legal barrier to companionship, in practice officials sought to stifle interracial relationships. Women reacted by resisting and creatively circumventing such interference, including by explicitly pointing to the double standards of such obstructionist tendencies on the part of representatives of a state and legal system supposedly dedicated to universalism.


Theorizing The Concept Of "Race" In Contemporary French Law : First Steps
Lionel Zevounou, Maitre de conférences of law at the University of Paris-Nanterre

Why speak of "race" in French legal discourse ? Or should we instead forego this term, as have many jurists in France. How can we distinguish the “race” of the sociologist from the “race” of the racis ?? Is it possible for scholars to detach the word race from its uses ? In France, the term "race" has become a marker of, or synecdoche for the defects of American society that are otherwise derided as "separatism" and "identity politics;” In treating the term “race” as an alien excrescence, a deleterious American import, jurists and social scientists have managed, conveniently, to avoid reckoning with discriminatory practices that are deep-rooted in French society. French regulatory texts and legal statutes include anti-racist provisions ; and yet, between these provisions and their interpretation by judges, there is often a huge gap. How to explain this ? This paper seeks to answer this question by analyzing French positive law alongside ongoing debates on the topic of race in French legal academia.

20:00 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-03-09/race-law-and-universalism-empire-and-its-legacy-modern-france-demos21



March 15, 2021


A World Before Race ? Gender, Mobility and Property in the Early Modern Iberian World


18:00 CET : Protecting heirs : black mothers, inheritance, and inter-generational mobility in colonial minas gerais, Brazil
Mariana Dantas, associate professor of history at Ohio University and an expert on African diasporic peoples in the Atlantic World

This paper compares the experiences of two black mothers as they tried to ensure that the children, born of their sexual relationship with their former master, inherited their father’s wealth and status. Joana Maria da Silva and Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz became mothers while still enslaved by the father of their children. They eventually attained their freedom, but only Luiza married her former master. These men’s death initiated a process of succession of property in which the children’s ability to inherit their father’s wealth and social standing was not always guaranteed. As they themselves neared death, Joana and Luiza took different legal measures to protect the future of their children. Sometimes working within the contours of inheritance and family law, at other times attempting legal shortcuts and circumventions, these women strove to ensure their descendants would be further removed from the status of slave and former slave that limited their own standing in colonial Mineiro society.


Bound biographies : transoceanic itineraries and the afro-iberian diaspora in the early modern world
Michelle McKinley, the Bernard B. Kliks Professor of Law at the University of Oregon Law School and Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society.

Bound Biographies charts the travel experiences of Afro-Iberians who left the peninsula in service of their owners, or as freed itinerant persons as they forged their lives in the Americas in the first two centuries of Spanish expansion and settlement in the New World. The paper examines Afro-Iberian life on the Iberian Peninsula, traces Afro-Iberian travelers as they relocate in various port towns in the Americas and follows their return to the peninsula after living for considerable periods of time in the New World. Bound Biographies is part of a multi-sited project that uses the sources to reconstruct the experience of black mobility that was not forced. It explores the lives of black travelers in an early diaspora that was not exclusively tied to—yet indelibly shaped by the transatlantic slave trade. The paper focuses on royal travel licenses, official chronicles, ecclesiastical documents, and parochial and probate records as an evidentiary base to create these personal histories of travel and mobility. I view early modern emigration and travel to the Americas as one of several relocations in an individual’s lifetime. Inspired by the “biographical turn” in Atlantic history and slavery scholarship, Bound Biographies recreates the lives of those who shaped the early centuries of Iberian emigration and a black diaspora. In so doing, Bound Biographies renders a more complex and nuanced history of the people inextricably linked by the processes of Conquest, slavery, and Empire.

20:00 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-03-15/world-race-gender-mobility-and-property-early-modern-iberian-world



March 22, 2021


Slavery, Race and the Law During the Long Eighteenth Century


18:00 CET : Race and the docile body : politics of blackness, social justice, and law in the eighteenth-century french military
Christy Pichichero, associate professor of French and history and Director of Faculty Diversity at George Mason University and the current president of the Western Society for French History

This paper explores the intersection of two juridical arenas in the eighteenth-century French empire : laws concerning slavery and policing Black bodies and those regulating the military. Black and other men of color served in French armed forces in theaters across the empire throughout the eighteenth century, some enlisting as freemen and others as enslaved with a promise of freedom through military service. Their recruitment, training, and career trajectories held extraordinary importance for multiple stakeholders, from the slaver Colonial lobby and royal ministers to military officers and the Black soldiers themselves. Historians have engaged in dynamic exchanges regarding Foucault’s concept of “docile bodies” and its historical accuracy in militaries of the eighteenth century in France and other contexts. This paper constitutes a critical intervention in this scholarly debate by interrogating the intersection of race in the discipline of militarized bodies and its implications in the contexts of the law, politics, military endeavors, and notions of social justice.


Ami des noirs and slave trader the chevalier de boufflers (1735-1815) between Paris and Senegal
Miranda Spieler, associate professor of history at the American University of Paris

There remains a parrot for the queen, a horse for Maréchal de Castries, a little captive for Monsieur de Beauvau, a sultan chicken for the Duc of Laon, an ostrich for Monsieur Nivernais, and a husband for you (19 July 1786). So wrote the Chevalier de Boufflers, governor of Senegal, as he sailed home on a ship laden with gifts for patrons and loved ones. A little captive was, in plainer terms, an African toddler. She was one of four or five small children whom Boufflers purchased in Senegal and dispatched to Paris in defiance of a royal edict (1777) banning “blacks, mulattos, and other people of color” from the kingdom. Bouffler’s reckoning with slavery unfolded between the advent of race laws in domestic France and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. In 1788, one year after leaving Senegal, Boufflers joined the Society of the Friends of the Blacks, a revolutionary club that soon gained undeserved notoriety among West Indian planters as a conclave of abolitionist firebrands. This paper will situate Bouffler’s tepid embrace of antislavery in light of his racial views, his fetishizing of African children, and his oversight of a giant commerce in African captives at the apex of the French slave trade. This paper is drawn from a manuscript that looks to the history of slaves and masters in Paris to sketch the city’s transformation into an imperial capital dependent on slavery on the eve of the French Revolution. The dream of French universalism, as described in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, arose in a setting that was singularly ill-suited to making that dream a reality.

20:00 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-03-22/slavery-race-and-law-during-long-eighteenth-century-demos21



March 29, 2021


The Construction of Race and Racial Hatred by the State in french Algeria


18:00 CET : Lethal provocation : the constantine murders and the politics of French Algeria (CORNELL 2019)
Joshua Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan whose work focuses on the entangled colonial and post-colonial pasts of France and Algeria.

Part murder mystery, part social history of political violence, Lethal Provocation revisits the deadliest peacetime episode of anti-Jewish violence in modern French history. Cole reconstructs the 1934 riots in Constantine, Algeria, in which tensions between Muslims and Jews were aggravated by right-wing extremists, resulting in the deaths of twenty-eight people. Animating the unrest was Mohamed El Maadi, a soldier in the French army, who later rallied to France’s Vichy regime during the Second World War; he finished his career in the Waffen SS. Lethal Provocation lays bare El Maadi’s motives as a provocateur and exposes official efforts to cover up his role as an instigator of this massacre. Cole’s bracing exposé of the Constantine murders reveals the government’s role in shaping ethno-religious antagonisms in Algeria during the years preceding anti-colonial war and independence.


The corporealization of “muslim law” : legal embodiments of religion, race, and sex in french Algeria
Judith Surkis, professor of history at Rutgers University

In Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930 (Cornell, 2019), Judith Surkis traces how colonial authorities constructed Muslim legal difference and used it to deny Algerian Muslims full citizenship. Her book provides a sweeping legal genealogy of French Algeria, and elucidates how "the Muslim question" in France became—and remains—a question of sex. Drawing on her book, Surkis’s talk will explore longstanding French legal fantasies of Muslim law– born out, most recently, by Emmanuel Macron’s bill targeting “Muslim” separatism. The colonial genealogy of a particularized conception of Muslim sex and the family as instituted in and by law illuminates enduring ideas of the embodied difference between secular French people and Muslims. Her paper will explore how the very legal technologies deployed by the state to eliminate so-called Muslim separatism in fact reproduce difference, thus sustaining and legitimating discriminatory practices

20:30 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-03-29/construction-race-and-racial-hatred-state-french-algeria-demos21



April 8, 2021


Black Radical Humanism and the Atlantic World


18:00 CET : Black radical humanism and the atlantic world
Gary Wilder, Professor in the Ph.D. Program of Anthropology, with a cross-appointment in History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is also Director of the Committee on Globalization and Social Change

Since the inception of Atlantic slave system, the degree of systemic violence that Western societies have perpetrated upon African and Afro-descended peoples is astonishing. Its staggering scope, intensity, and chronicity have been intrinsic to the making of the modern world. No historical community has been more affected by, or more aware of, how this racial violence, as well as the various forms of modern domination bound up with it, have been mediated by European conceptions of humanism, humanity, and the human. Yet central to many of this community’s most important radical thinkers, inseparable from their reflections on racism, domination, and emancipation is a commitment to what can only be called radical humanism. Scholars often treat this as a puzzle to be solved or problem to be explained. In contrast, I am interested in examining precisely the humanism of their radicalism and the radicalism of their humanism. Doing so, I believe, will illuminate a particular current or tradition of 20th century black radicalism that developed in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, in both Anglophone and Francophone contexts. It may help us to better engage the issues with which they grappled – not only the color bar, racial capitalism, and colonial imperialism, but the very problem of freedom, the meaning of emancipation, and the possibility of a good life under modern conditions. Moreover, this critical tradition may speak directly to some of the theoretical impasses and political challenges of our current conjuncture. Running through this study is an argument about the parallels, intersections, and productive tensions between this form of black radical humanism and 20th century heterodox Marxism.


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-04-08/black-radical-humanism-and-atlantic-world-demos21



April 12, 2021


The Prison Abolitionist Movement : The Convergence of Movements to End Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration


18:00 CET : The Prison Abolitionist Movement : The Convergence of Movements to End Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration
Michelle Kuo, associate professor of History, Law, and Society at the American University of Paris

This paper begins with the observation that the prison abolitionist movement stands at the intersection of two social justice struggles: the demand to end mass incarceration and the call to end immigrant detention and deportation. The former, which alternately describes incarceration as “the new Jim Crow” or “carceral slavery,” centers incarcerated Black people as the inheritors of America’s long history of racial violence. The latter, embodied by #Abolish ICE, has increasingly called detention centers “immigration prisons” and figures the unauthorized immigrant as a longstanding victim of exclusionary policies underpinned by claims of American sovereignty. This convergence has not been inevitable. The legal doctrines under which prisoners and detained migrants are incarcerated—criminal law and administrative law, respectively—have been mostly discrete. This paper describes the legal conditions in the past thirty years, in particular the implications of the crimmigration field, that have made this convergence possible. It asks how this convergence might be fruitful in imagining new forms of collectivity among immigrants and descendants of American slaves.

20:00 : End


Register : https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2021-04-12/prison-abolitionist-movement-convergence-movements-end-immigrant

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