Immigration and Ethnicity in Colonial and Post-Colonial France

Module code: FR3125

Module co-ordinator: Dr Rabah Aissaoui

Immigration as an issue remains at the heart of social, cultural, and political debates in France. To a large extent, it informs the very nature of French society in the early twenty-first century and, as a result, constitutes a problematic site where individual, group, and national identity/ies are shaped and negotiated. This module examines immigration in the twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries in France, with a particular focus on the complex relationship between France and its ex-colony, Algeria. We will talk about matters relating to immigration, racism, and cultural identity within colonial and post-colonial contexts.

In the opening weeks, we discuss some key historical issues concerning immigration and examine two key texts: a novel and a film.

The second phase of the module examines aspects of the history of French colonialism in Algeria and of immigration in France during the colonial period. We then discuss the Algerian anti-colonial discourse and the history of the war of independence and its lasting impact on French society.

The final phase of the module focuses on immigration in France since 1945. We examine multiculturalism, racism, anti-racist discourses, debates about 'integration' and identity, the rights of foreigners, and the policies of integration as exemplified, for instance, by the formation of an 'Islam de France'. We explore aspects of the cultural output of children of migrants in France.

Set texts are likely to include: 


  • Etcherelli C, 1967, Elise ou la vraie vie, Denoël (Folio)
  • Memmi A, 1957/1985, Portrait du colonisé, portrait du colonisateur, Gallimard/Folio actuel
  • Charef M, 1983, Le Thé au harem d’Archi Ahmed, Mercure de France/Folio


  • Benguigui Y, 1997, Mémoires d’immigrés
  • Chibane M, 1994, Hexagone
  • Pontecorvo G, 1966, La Bataille d’Alger


    This module is taught in French in weekly two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to view films borrowed from the Library or elsewhere outside of the seminars.

    Students may wish to do some background reading before the module begins. There are several good studies on French and Algerian relations, the imagined Islam, and the effects of colonisation. These include:

    • Delcambre AM (1991) L’Islam, Editions La Découverte
    • Leveau R & Kepel G (sous la dir. de) (1988) Les Musulmans dans la société française, Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques
    • Stora B (1991) Histoire de L’Algérie coloniale, 1830-1954, La Découverte
    • Stora B (1993) Histoire de la guerre d’Algérie, 1954-1962, La Découverte
    • Weil P (1991) La France et ses étrangers: l'aventure d'une politique de l'immigration, 1938-1991, Calmann-Lévy


    • Two 3,000-word essays, each worth 50% of the final mark, written in English (or French subject to approval)