Assimilation or exclusion? Portrayals of ethnic minority characters in French popular cinema
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France’s Universalist and Republican traditions state that French citizen must relegate their individual, cultural and ethnic affiliations to the private sphere, and publically embrace French citizenship as their sole cultural identity. This definition of being French is not easily embraced by all however, as the country’s history of immigration has led its population to include individuals from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Have the French found a way to reconcile French Universalism with a culturally diverse population? Despite the country’s history of trying to integrate new populations through a process of assimilation, the rise of France’s extreme right party, the Front National, illustrates the rising anti-immigration discourse present in the nation. Through popular images of ethnicity in French cinema, we aim to examine which individuals are represented as not conforming to national moral values, and the possible reasons behind such portrayals. Our quantitative and qualitative analysis of 28 French movies from the mid-1990s and the 2010s suggests that particular groups such as blacks, nonwhite males, and Arabo-Muslim characters are portrayed as not belonging to the nation, although these depictions may be in the process of shifting to foreigners as a whole. Furthermore, French popular movies portray individuals failing to assimilate as refusing to do so, instead of acknowledging the cultural, social and economic obstacles of this process.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2013
- F&M Theses Collection