The Affirmative Action Republic: "Exceptional Promotion" in France (1956-1962) and the Race Question in the Cold War World


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




Between 1956 and 1962 the French Republic put in place a pioneering range of programs meant to redress the effects of over twelve decades of racial discrimination on its "Muslim Algerian" minority. This project details the untold history of the rise and mercurial fall of these French reforms, which centered around "affirmative action" quotas for "Algerian Muslims" (a group legally defined by origin, rather than religion)--quite similar to those the United States later adopted. By focusing on connections between official US responses to the Civil Rights Movement and French attempts to avoid decolonization, this study resituates current concerns with late-twentieth-century histories of both race in France and colonialism in the US in a trans-national, rather than comparative, context.