Antiracism: Theory and Practice

Part of the French Politics, Society and Culture Series book series (FPSC)


The new wave of antiracism continued to attract political activism and collective mobilisation within French society during the 1990s and this had been described as ‘the only important political force to have understood and subsequently mobilised the moral generation’.1 Antiracism can be defined as a social movement that assumes a diversity of forms, and strives through its various components to defend the rights of immigrant communities, to assert their cultural identity, to confront discrimination in society or to curb the political expression of racism.2 As a social movement, antiracism is an intrinsically rich, complex and multidimensional phenomenon, encompassing a variety of groupings, tendencies and beliefs and often resists neat classification. Some associations within the movement were traditional or long-standing associations of civic support, whereas others were new youth-based structures that had emerged during the 1980s; some focused on cultural initiatives seeking to affirm a collective identity, whilst others pursued an objective set of political goals; whereas some defined themselves as antiracist groups, others called themselves ‘antifascist’ and engaged in a political struggle against the Far Right.3 Collective mobilisation during the 1990s seemed to follow three distinct patterns. Firstly, antiracists mobilised against the Far Right party, the Front National, opposing its progressive gains within mainstream political life.


Civil Society Social Movement Asylum Seeker Local Group Collective Identity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    L. Joffrin, Un Coup de jeune. Portrait d’une génération morale (Paris: Ariéa, 1987), p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. R. House proposes the following definition: ‘Antiracism can be defined as a set of ideologies, discourses and practices across a wide range of sites aiming to eliminate racism in its ideological, discursive and practical forms through a variety of methods.’ J. R. House, Antiracism and antiracist discourse in France from 1900 to the present day (PhD thesis, unpublished, University of Leeds, 1997), p. 17.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    French critics include R. Galiissot, Misère de l’antiracisme (Paris: Arcantère, 1985)Google Scholar
  4. P. Yonnet, Voyage au centre du malaise français (Paris: Gallimard, 1993)Google Scholar
  5. P. A. Taguieff, Les Fins de l’antiracisme (Paris: Editions Michalon, 1995). British observers have also criticised the perceived inadequacies of the movement.Google Scholar
  6. See D. Blatt, 1995, op. cit. (chapter 2, note 60); and P. Fysh, ‘The Failure of Anti-Racist Movements in France, 1981–1995’ in M. Maclean (ed.), The Mitterrand Years. Legacy and Evaluation (Basingstoke: Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    SOS Racisme, formed in 1984, was the principal target of accusations of political collusion, particularly as it had benefited from considerable financial aid from the Socialist Party, via the government agency, FAS (Fonds d’Action sociale pour les travailleurs immigrés et leurs familles). The association was discredited by the revelations of a ‘secret history’ published by one of its former members who claimed: ‘Behind the official history of SOS Racisme, one finds a story of political manipulation at the hands of François Mitterrand and the Socialist Party.’ S. Malik, Histoire secrète de SOS Racisme (Paris: Albin Michel, 1990). This relationship of collusion was confirmed, for some, by the nomination of several of the association’s former leaders (Julien Dray, Isabelle Thomas, Harlem Désir) as Socialist candidates. For instance in 1999, Harlem Désir, who had been president of the association for eight years, was elected to the European Parliament on a Socialist list. In one study, Philippe Juhem examines the political trajectories of leaders of SOS Racisme from the early days as Trotskyist militants to their ascension through the ranks of the Socialist Party.Google Scholar
  8. See P. Juhem, ‘Entreprendre en politique de l’extrême gauche au PS: la professionnalisation politique des fondateurs de SOS-Racisme’, Revue française de Science Politique, vol. 51, no. 1–2 (Feb.–Aprii 2001), 131–52.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    P. A. Taguieff, ‘Les sept péchés de l’antiracisme’, in L. Bitterlin (ed.), L’Antiracisme dans tous ses débats (Paris: Panoramiques-Corlet, 1996), p. 23.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    See J. R. House, 1997, op. cit. (note 2); C. Lloyd, Discourses of Antiracism in France (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998)Google Scholar
  11. P. Fysh and J. Wolfreys, The Politics of Racism in France (Basingstoke: Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, 1998).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 27.
    P. Byrne, Social Movements in Britain (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    R. Flacks, ‘Reviving Democratic Activism: Thoughts about Strategy in a Dark Time’ in D. Trend (ed.), Radical Democracy. Identity, Citizenship, and the State (New York and London: Routledge, 1996), p. 104.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    See A. Jazouli, L’Action collective des jeunes Maghrébins en France (Paris: CIEMI L’Harmattan, 1986)Google Scholar
  15. S. Bouamama, Dix ans de marche des Beurs. Chronique d’un mouvement avorté (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1994).Google Scholar
  16. 58.
    E. Ratier, Ras l’Front. Anatomie d’un mouvement antifasciste (Paris: FACTA, 1998), p. 23.Google Scholar
  17. 61.
    M. Aubry and O. Duhamel, Petit Dictionnaire pour lutter contre l’extrême droite (Paris: Broché, 1995).Google Scholar
  18. 64.
    D. Fassin, ‘La santé en souffrance’ in Fassin, Morice and Quiminal, Les lois de l’inhospitalité. Les politiques de l’immigration à l’épreuve des sans-papiers (Paris: La Découverte, 1997), p. 116.Google Scholar
  19. A. Diop, Dans la peau d’un Sans-papiers (Paris: Seuil, 1997)Google Scholar
  20. J. Siméant, Le Cause des Sans-papiers (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1998).Google Scholar
  21. M. Sissoko, ‘La ballade des Sans-papiers’ in IM’média/REFLEX, Sans-papiers: chroniques d’un mouvement (Paris: IM’média/REFLEX, 1997), p. 15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sarah Waters 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of FrenchUniversity of LeedsUK

Personalised recommendations