Friday, September 14, 2012

Kawar reviews Saada, "Empire's Children"

New from the Law & Politics Book Review: a review of Emmanuelle Saada, EMPIRE'S CHILDREN: RACE, FILIATION, AND CITIZENSHIP IN THE FRENCH COLONIES (University of Chicago Press, 2012) (Arthur Goldhammer, trans.). Here's a snippet of the review, by Leila Kawar (Bowling Green State University):
The photograph of forlorn-looking Franco-Vietnamese children on the cover of Emmanuelle Saada's recently translated book, Empire's Children tells a different story about what it meant to be "métis" in France and its colonial territories during the first half of the twentieth century. In colonial Indochina, where the "métis question" attracted particular attention, the category was reserved for children who had not been formally recognized by their French fathers, meaning that they had no easy access to French citizenship – given by right to those whose fathers had formally recognized them – and were relegated to the inferior status of colonial subjects. The starting point for Saada's research was her discovery of a 1928 administrative decree that provided a path to French citizenship for those in this category, provided that they could legally establish that they were the child of a French father. As Saada emphasizes, in the colonial setting, "the métis" posed a limit case for French citizenship, creating tensions between the principled universalism of the Civil Code and the reality of France's racialized colonial regime.

Saada uses the métis question as an analytical window for a sophisticated and insightful discussion of French colonial law, its origins, and its effects. The efforts of judges, administrators, and social reformers to grapple with these hard cases reveal the contours of the colonial social hierarchy as well as the power of law. . . .
Read on here.