French intellectuals and the postcolonial

Robert Stam, Ella Shohat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This essay outlines the structuring absence of postcolonial theory in dominant French discourse until quite recently, despite France's position as a multiracial post-colonial society and despite the central role of French and francophone anticolonial thinkers in postcolonial and critical race thought. The essay outlines the absence of postcolonial thought, cultural studies, and critical race studies in French intellectual production through the 1990s, as well as the ironies of this absence, and also points to recent French writing that works to account for this absence and highlight the continuities between France's colonial past and postcolonial present. The late 1990s and first decade of the twenty-first century, we argue, saw a burgeoning of scholarship on the part of French intellectuals who were committed to postcolonial critique. Especially after the 2005 rebellions in France, there emerged a growing scholarship-in the form of conferences, special issues of journals, co-edited volumes, collected works, anthologies and individual books-which was met with a series of critiques denying the connection between colonialism and the contemporary moment but which nonetheless generated a crucial and necessary intervention in French public life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-119
Number of pages37
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012


  • French thought
  • Third Worldism
  • anticolonialism
  • critical race studies
  • nationalist exceptionalism
  • postcolonialism
  • republicanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology


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