Rébecca Franco defended her PhD thesis “Between problematisation and invisibilisation: the regulation of interracialised intimacies and (post)colonial immigration in France (1954-1979)” on Friday, 22 March 2023, in the Auditorium of the Main Building of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Rébecca’s dissertation addresses the question of how and why intimacies between the white French population and migrants from the (former) colonies on the African continent were regulated in the French metropole between 1954 and 1979, and how this contributed to the construction of racial boundaries of and within the French community.
During the period of this study, large groups of migrants from the (former) African continent moved to the French metropole, often to do low-paid menial work. Looking at the period of decolonisation and the early postcolonial context, this research demonstrates that the regulation of intimacy is a rich site of analysis to understand racialisation and the construction of racial boundaries of the (post)colonial national community. To this end, this research draws primarily on critical archival research conducted in written and audio-visual archives of state and non-state institutions, as well as interviews with individuals who lived in interracialised relationships during the period under study. By analysing these together, this study produces a critical analysis of the regulations and the construction of discourses about interracialised intimacies. By examining whether and how colonial continuities underlined the regulation of (post)colonial migration, this research helps to uncover racial rationalities underlying colourblind regulations.
The main findings of this research show that different forms of interracialised intimacies were problematised and regulated according to how they transgressed hierarchies of race, gender, class and sexuality within the sexual order. The problematisation of gender, sexuality and intimacy played an important role in the construction of racialised inassimilability of (post)colonial migrants. In particular, durable intimate relationships between white working-class women and African male labour migrants complicated the paradigm of temporary labour migration and the construction of the inassimilability of migrants from the African continent. This shows that the French administration accepted (post)colonial migrants for their cheap labour but did not include them in the French national community.
Therefore, this research contributes to a contextualised and historicised analysis of the construction of racial boundaries of the French community that determined inclusion and exclusion of these (post)colonial migrants.