France’s Incomplete Reckoning With Its Colonial Past

I first met Salim, a 35-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, about 10 years ago at a cafe near Levallois, the Parisian banlieue—or peri-urban ghetto—where he lived at the time. In the course of our wide-ranging discussion about French history and identity, part of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation, he told me that while it is possible for some immigrants to become “French,” that isn’t the case for everyone.

“To actually be French, you have to forget yourself a little bit [and] adopt the behaviors that are imposed on us,” he said. “There is a path to follow to become French.”

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