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Unit information: Race in France: Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives in 2015/16

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Unit name Race in France: Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives
Unit code FREN20038
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Shilton
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit looks at perceptions of race and culture in France from the eighteenth century to the present. It focuses primarily on visual material, including painting, photography, postcards, exhibitions, bande dessinée and advertising. Images are often studied alongside texts, including extracts from literature, journalism and political speeches.

The unit is organised around three axes:

  1. Ideas of Race in France
  2. Colonial Thought
  3. Postcolonial Perspectives

Examples of topics to be discussed are exoticism, Orientalism, primitivism, colonialism, immigration and postcolonial identities.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students’ engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  • be knowledgeable about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying;
  • be skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  • be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at a high level;
  • be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an high level of complexity;
  • be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including study at a foreign university and on work placements during the year abroad.

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details

A written assignment of 2000 words and a two hour exam (50% each)

Reading and References

Ezra, E. 2000. The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press)

Frader, L. & H. Chapman (eds). 2004. Race in France: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Difference (Oxford: Berghahn)

Hargreaves, A. 2007. Multi-ethnic France: Immigration, Politics, Culture and Society (London: Routledge)

Silverman, M. (ed). 1991. Race, Discourse and Power in France (Aldershot: Avebury)

Silverstein, P. 2004. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press)

Guiral, P. & Temime, E. 1977. L’Idée de la race dans la pensée politique française contemporaine (Paris: Editions du CNRS)