May 1968 and Algerian Immigrants in France: Trajectories of Mobilization and Encounter

  • Maud Anne Bracke


In a comment that was to become famous, leftist intellectual Henri Lefèbvre stated that the fact that Nanterre students had to travel through one of the country’s largest and poorest bidonvilles to reach their modernist university campus was a key vector of mobilization in 1968 (Ross 1996). Indeed, 1968 is usually understood as the moment at which French students and leftists ‘discovered’ the injustices done to immigrants by the French state and society. Yet very different views exist in the literature on the significance of the encounter between the North African immigrants on the one hand and the predominantly white student groups and gauchistes on the other. Abdallah (2000) depicts a rather harmonious picture of the relations between workers, students and immigrants, arguing that the events of May 1968 created the basis for new forms of solidarity. By contrast, Gastaut (1994) points out that while slogans such as ‘French and foreign workers: all united’ were ubiquitous, the reality behind these statements often remained unclear. An often-heard thesis in the literature on ‘the 1968 years’ in France is that it was characterized by a prise de conscience by a number of so-called minority groups, immigrants in the first instance (e.g., Benoit 1980: 177). This is in fact an older argument, articulated in 1978 by Régis Debray, who understood the main feature of ‘1968’ to be the ‘recognition of minorities and of the right to be different’ (1978: 5).


Trade Union Foreign Worker French Society Immigrant Worker Residence Permit 
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© Maud Anne Bracke 2009

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  • Maud Anne Bracke

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