Water Charges in Ireland

rural ireland

Shane J. Cassidy

If you were to look through Irelands history, you would see that the country and its people have experienced many different phases of domination and power. For hundreds of years Ireland was a small island colony under the control of the British empire consisting primarily of a rural-based population . The extent of centuries of oppression and victimhood inevitably left a mark on the consciousness of normal Irish people everywhere and as our language and culture was oppressed and destroyed, small pockets of resistance groups formed all over the island. Bogside classrooms and masses held on the sides of mountains are just some of the actions which were testament to fortitude of ordinary people everywhere refusing to surrender.

In 1921, having managed to finally overthrow the rule of the British on this island, through a bloody Civil War where many lives were lost, the future direction of this budding new State became very closely aligned with the the extremely influential and powerful clergy and the Catholic Church. Through fear, intimidation and the manipulating of people’s honest religious convictions, the Church was able to wield frightening levels of influence over the presiding governments of time with whom very warm relations were maintained. The Church acted with practical immunity for almost 70 years until revelations of rape and sexual assault on children under their care, along with steady investment from the EU since the 1970’s, began a fall from their lofty position of which they are still feeling the effects.
By the 1990’s, after decades of being one of Europe’s poorest nations, Ireland experienced a booming economy, known as the Celtic Tiger, which came to signify huge financial and property expansion throughout the country. Property developers and bankers were elevated into an almost priest-like position in Irish society where property speculation and risky lending was actively encouraged. The standard of living within the country rose sharply and Ireland became a huge success story around the world and the Irish government often hosted visiting diplomats from various countries who had come to study the miracle of the Irish economy.  Irish ex-pats, who had emigrated to other parts of the world during the disastrous economic crash of the 1980’s, began to return home, bringing with them experiences and lessons learned from far flung places around the world. In a very short space of time, thanks largely to the influx of various different nationalities and Ireland’s hugely generous tax breaks which are afforded to private foreign corporations to establish here, Ireland transformed into a diverse and multicultural country. Sweeping social changes occurred during this period with homosexuality becoming decriminalised in 1993 followed by the legalisation of divorce in 1995.
However, by 2008 and with the onslaught of the global recession, it became clear that Ireland’s miracle economy had been based on unsteady foundations and the crash of the property bubble led to many people losing their jobs, their homes and hundreds of thousands of Irish people were forced into the same positon as their generation before them in the 1980’s and they had to emigrate around the world in search of opportunity. The Irish government, without proper foresight or consideration for the sustainable future of Irish people, made a decision to guarantee the debts which the banks had created. The Irish people were forced to assume the debts of banks and private bond holders and a system of punishing economic and social measures called ‘austerity’. These terms were dictated to the Irish people by the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank ( these 3 entities known collectively as the ‘Troika’).
As Irish people, we have always had to face a new power, be it the British Empire, the Catholic Church, the banks and now the Troika. Traditionally, perhaps as a result of our colonised background, we can tend to be slow to speak up but we know right from wrong. We can see there are injustices but we can often feel alone or disempowered or feel that others may not share our views. If you examine Irish history since the creation of this State, you will see that there has never been a tradition of serious, democratic and sustained protests on the streets of this country as you would expect to see in other countries such as France or Greece.
However, that too is changing. For the first time since the creation of the State, people have finally said enough is enough. Without any attempts made to ask the people of Ireland what they would like to do with one of the most precious resources we have, the government announced that they were introducing charges for water. Since 2008, ordinary people have suffered greatly through these economic sanctions and finally the Irish State is witnessing a new phenomenon. People from all over the country have united around this issue and hundreds of thousands are simply refusing to even register to pay the charge. Others were imprisoned for protesting the installation of a water meter outside their homes. The company which was hired to install the water meters is owned by the same man who owns the Irish Water company, Denis O’Brien. On top of these considerable business interests, he also controls a large share of the Irish media where engaged and thoughtful discussion about these charges and the protests is completely absent.
These charges can be defeated. People in Ireland already pay €1.2 billion per year in taxes for our water. We are practical and reasonable. We understand that we need to treat water in order for it to be clean and healthy. We also wouldn’t ever want to see someone in this country have their water turned off if they didn’t pay their bill. We live in a country where water is plentiful and yet they want us to hand over our natural resource to a company owned by a private business man. Where are his interests ultimately going to lie with our water? The water belongs to the people of Ireland and we should be very slow to hand it over because once it is gone, it is very hard to get back. So far, Irish Water’s attempt to get everyone to pay has been a total failure. The best form of protest which we can engage in is refusal to pay. When a human being is born into this world, there are a few basic essential requirements – shelter, food and clean water. Water is one of the most important things in the whole world ; that is what this is all about. The control of one of the most essential requirements for a decent living. So it is imperative that we retain control over our water.
In 2015, within 22 years of Ireland decriminalising homosexuality, the Irish people voted in a referendum to allow marriages between a gay couple to be recognised as exactly the same as a heterosexual couple. When the people of this country are given a voice – we have the power to do good and we must refuse to listen to the scare mongers who attempt to convince us that we should surrender our water to private interests. The wheel is turning and if history has taught us anything, it’s that – sooner or later,  we will prevail.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

By Shane Cassidy


In 2010 the US mining and gas company, Renco, managed to successfully avoid having to pay compensation to Peruvian locals who were harmed due to pollution by their companies by successfully using a provision of the Peru-US Trade Agreement[1]. Not satisfied with avoiding having to pay compensation, the company has since demanded $800 million from the Peruvian government as they argue that one of the companies they own, Doe Run, was forced into bankruptcy due to an expensive pollution clean-up which the Peruvian government required Doe Run to conduct[2].

It is with this understanding that on Monday 10th March last, the fourth round of negotiations of the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement ( TAFTA )or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) got under way. In a nutshell, TTIP claims to be a free trade agreement between the US and EU which will lead to an increase in employment and income in both economic areas and create the largest free trade area in the world[3]. This agreement, if implemented, will have far-reaching and potentially very dangerous consequences and yet practically nothing has been written on the subject in the media and discussion on the matter is worryingly absent.

Total disregard has thus far been shown to the citizens of both the US and the EU as this treaty is being kept secret from the populations who will be subjected to them, though not of course from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are carefully writing them[4]. The EU Commissioner for Trade, Karel de Gucht, had previously stated that he would not accept the US’s push to allow business interests a bigger role in negotiations before later stating that he was “ready to work in that direction”[5]. Furthermore, US President Barack Obama has also further added to the erosion of the democratic process by successfully securing approval from Congress for his fast-track negotiating authority[6]. Therefore, a highly secretive, wholly undemocratic process is being pursued with the ultimate aim that the ordinary citizens will be expected to accept this deal without question.

Supporters of the treaty have argued that the negotiation and eventual implementation of this agreement will provide financial growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Responding to an article written by the journalist George Monbiot in which he criticized the TTIP, the Conservative British politician Ken Clarke stated “By best estimates, (the TTIP) will deliver a £10bn annual boost to the British economy alone, increase collective output by as much as £180bn, create thousands of jobs, and deliver lower prices and more choice to consumers.” However these figures have already been proven to be highly exaggerated and a inflated version of reality by Ferdi de Ville of Ghent University and Gabriel Siles-Brügge of the University of Manchester, in their study of the financial benefits of the TTIP ( available here: http://bit.ly/1jeIAvK)[7] . The main beneficiaries of this agreement will undoubtedly be the businesses and corporations who will have a much broader platform where they can maximise profits at the expense of the workers and operating with practical impunity thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision.

Of all the proposals under this treaty, the most concerning aspects of the negotiations is the inclusion of the ISDS provision. This particular inclusion is not new to the TTIP as it was first introduced to trade agreements to protect companies who wished to set up in countries where the rule of law and court system were very weak[8]. The ISDS conferred special legal powers upon companies to sue their host countries in special offshore tribunals, governed by corporate lawyers, should their rights be infringed upon. However both the EU and US possess strong judicial systems and the inclusion of this ISDS provision has proved to be highly controversial. Under the ISDS, individual corporations will be elevated to the position of equal authority among nation states and will have the ability to bypass domestic courts in place of an international arbitrary tribunal which has the power to demand the State to compensate the corporation for a perceived loss of earnings due to the State changing public policy. This compensation will naturally be passed on to taxpayers which creates a worrying situation for citizens while simultaneously awarding overwhelming power to the private companies.

For example, should a tobacco company interpret legislation, which is introduced to increase awareness of cigarettes harmful effects, as a barrier to their trading abilities then they will have a platform to take that State to this tribunal to demand compensation. This has already occurred in both Uruguay and Australia, where the largest cigarette company in the world, Phillip Morris, has taken both countries to court for introducing anti-smoking legislation as their fear of losing profits is far greater than their concern for the health Australia or Uruguay’s citizens[9]. Unfortunately this is not a new development in bi-lateral trade agreements;  Lori Wallach the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and vocal opponent of this trade deal, is on record as stating that this is nothing short of a “corporate invasion”[10].

Several arguments have been put forward to support the negotiation in private of the TTIP, principally that if the US were to get their hands on the approach the EU were going to take towards the negotiations, or vice versa, then this would make it a lot harder to effectively negotiate. However, in order to ensure as much transparency as possible, surely once both parties have concluded negotiations on a particular subject, it should be released into the public domain. As it stands, the public is not entitled to know anything about what is being agreed upon save to be continuously told by corporate interests of the importance of accepting the free trade agreement for the sake of jobs. What this agreement between the US and EU will lead to is a serious curtailing of the governance authority of nation states, to the benefit of corporations. A society constructed and controlled by business interests is highly destructive to the social fabric and all measures must be put in place to combat this. A resounding rejection of any agreement which hasn’t been first presented to the public is the only way to ensure that overreaching corporate dominance doesn’t become a reality.

[4] In discussion with Noam Chomsky, Jan 08 2014

By Shane Cassidy

Venezuela 2014

By Shane Cassidy

The purpose of this article is not to support any particular political persuasion nor does it seek to defend the killings of any citizens by the government or the military. All violence and intimidation in all of its guises by any institution contradicts the very principles of a democratic country. The focus of this article instead is an attempt to create a deeper understanding of the current events in Venezuela.

In his seminal text, Folk Devils and Moral Panics, the late sociologist Stanley Cohen talks about how a moral panic can manifest in society;

Societies appear to be subjext, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and sterotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or ( more often ) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible.

Over the last ten days internet forums, news agencies and social media sites have brought our attention to the current social unrest in Venezuela. The events, as presented by the mainstream media would lead the casual observer to believe that huge social and civil unrest is occurring in Venezuela which has been caused directly by Nicolas Maduro and his left wing government. This reaction to the events and panic which has been cultivated by the media has been reckless, uninformed, simplistic and decidedly one-sided. On closer inspection it is apparent however that this is far from the reality of the situation.

Following the outbreak of protests and civil unrest primarily by private university students and forces who oppose the current democratically elected, left-wing, Chavista government, headed by President Nicolas Maduro, the government issued an arrest warrant for the supposed leader of the protests, Harvard educated, Venezuelan politician Leopoldo López.

In a country where the current opposition parties are in disarray due to a collapse of any real leadership, Mr. López, the former mayor of one of Venezuela’s wealthiest districts, Chacao,  a man who was virtually unheard of on an international scale until this last week has been elevated to the status as de facto leader of the opposition and has emerged as an apparent opponent to all things abhorrent in Venezuela. “Our youth have no jobs, no future because of this economic model that has failed,” Mr. López declared this week to his supporters, before continuing: “If they put me in prison, it’ll wake up the people. That’s worthwhile.” On February 18th 2014, in what must surely be viewed as a shrewd political maneuver, he voluntarily handed himself in to be questioned regarding his role in protests which led to the deaths of 3 people and injury to over 100 more on the streets of Caracas. He did this only after first attempting to goad Maduro into arresting him by posting on Twitter ” Do you not have the guts to arrest me?”. It is important to note that he did not hand himself in until he had released a video on the internet declaring his intention and thus making himself a living ‘martyr’ for the current opposition supporters currently occupying some of the streets and whipping up even stronger support for himself. Many news agencies and blogs are attempting to present the current dynamic socio-economic-political situation in simplified terms with utter disregard shown to the complex history of the country.

A common statistic which has been repeated verbatim by practically all the major news agencies is that a major reason for the unrest is the level of homicide rate in the country. Venezuelan Violence Observatory estimates that 24,763 killings occurred in 2013 and this is a staggering statistic. Unfortunately crime is a depressing reality in Venezuela. It has, however, been ignored across all media outlets that Nicolas Maduro has actively sought to reduce these figures by introducing the program Por la Vida y Por la Paz whose primary objective is to reduce criminal homicides and has shown signs that it is being effective.

As a way of illustrating the highly complex socio-economic situation, the figure which has been constantly attached to the murder rate in Venezuela has most certainly risen over the previous decade. The statistics regarding this are undeniable. What the media and commentators have repeatedly failed to mention is that during the same period, unemployment rates, especially among the poor, have been halved from 14.5% to 7.6%. So in a country where unemployment rates are plummeting and homicide rates are increasing a much closer inspection of the fabric of Venezuelan society must be undertaken.

There is definitely violence in Venezuela without doubt but these recent events have been initiated by the violent, Molotov cocktail throwing, in-some-cases-murdering rioters and these current riots have been a concentrated effort by the opposition to destabilize a democratically elected government. The US government or its media i.e CNN etc doesn’t support this current democratically elected government. Strikingly, as of February 21st, the US has yet to release a statement condemning the violence of the oppositions protests or the threat it poses to the democratic ideals it purportedly subscribes too. In its 2014 budget, the US has even set aside $5 million for funding “opposition activities” in Venezuela. In other words, they want a more right-wing, US friendly government installed that ‘plays by the US rules’. In 2002 the US attempted, aided and supported a military coup of Hugo Chavez’s totally democratically elected government in Venezuela only for the Venezuelan people to revolt and the US had to admit defeat. A few years later, in 2004, they attempted an oil embargo in Venezuela to make the government less popular. Again, that failed. Last year, John Kerry initially refused to recognize the election results of this sovereign nation but in the end, in a humiliating U-turn, he had to accept the results of an independent nations elections. Just this week, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay released a statement making it abundantly clear that they support the Venezuelan government so it is clear that although pressure is being applied by the US and the media, Venezuela’s closest neighbors are fully behind the country.

A more incisive question must be asked; Since 1999, in a country where unemployment has been halved, where GDP per capita has risen from $4,105 to $10,801, where poverty has fallen from 23.4% to 8.5% and it must also be mentioned that in 1999, Venezuela’s proven oil reserves stood at $14.4bn but by 2011 that figure had risen to $60bn – who stands to gain from overthrowing this current government and economic system? Certainly not the majority of Venezuelan citizens who represent the poorest and most vulnerable members of society and who have largely benefited from this system.

Mainstream media’s reporting of Venezuela has also sought to overstate the current economic situation in Venezuela. Though an unequal country, this was not the creation of the current or Hugo Chavez’s governments but a far more deeply rooted socio-economic situation created by those vested interests who had maintained control over the media, industry and oil reserves for the decades prior to Hugo Chavez’s election. The Bolivarian Revolution of the last 15 years has been an attempt to more evenly redistribute this disproportionate wealth to more of it’s citizens. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean recently declared Venezuela to be now the least unequal country of the region (GINI Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%. A fact that mainstream media has conveniently forgotten to mention during these events.

A lot has been made of the protests and unrest and it is paramount that the right to protest and the right to free speech and assembly be respected by the Venezuelan government. It must be stated that the attempts by the executive to conduct the business of the judiciary is deeply troubling and coupled with the recent violent actions and attempts to suppress media which isn’t to the regimes taste indicates a hugely flawed process of government. However a fact, which has been continuously and conveniently overlooked over the last week,  is that Nicolas Maduro and his government have been democratically elected by the majority of the Venezuelan electorate and therefore hold a mandate to carry out their reforms. This, in no way, justifies any and all illegal actions which it may carry out but it is unthinkable that these current protests, which have been directly orchestrated by the opposition parties to create instability, could lead to anything other than an eventual admission of defeat from Leopoldo López. For López, regardless of what develops, he has successfully established himself as the face of the opposition in a country whose government has overcome massive barriers in it’s attempt to create a more fair and equal society. It’s important to ask why a democratically elected, socialist government with 3 times more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and who aspires to the ideals of Simon Bolivar who has attempted to wrestle power away from the minority, wealthy elites is being portrayed in the generally privately owned, corporate media as a renegade government ?

“9 Queens” and Argentine national identity

By Shane Cassidy 

By the late 1990’s, Argentina had become a country so straddled with debt due to the mistreatment of the economy by so many that went before it that this irrefutably disrupted and permanently altered Argentina’s national identity. National identity is the result of various different external factors such as the sharing of history and tradition with others to national symbols such as flag or anthem. Those who have now lived through and experienced Argentina’s crises have undoubtedly had their national identity altered. Following the end of the ‘Dirty War’ and the emergence of democratic politics in Argentina in the 1980’s, a new national identity has naturally emerged with the heavy weight of history inevitably ingrained in Argentinean psyche. The sight of the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo is enough to remind Argentineans of their dark history and the damages an unregulated, un-checked power can do. With that in mind, Argentina has since gone on to experience a different type of abuse at the hands of their leaders and this time through economic methods. Fabián Bielinsky, through his film ‘9 Queens’, attempts to portray this new society and shared national identity while also showing the affects it has had on a larger scale.

9 Queens focuses on two con men, Juan and Marcos who meet when Marcos comes to Juan’s assistance when a scam goes wrong at a petrol station and convinces him to work with him for the day. Marco is the more experienced of the two who will go to whatever lengths for the con, while Juan appears to be the beginner, an innocent with more noble reasons for pulling tricks and scams. In effect, his elderly father is in prison and he needs to earn enough money to bribe the judge. Ultimately they stumble upon a scam to sell counterfeit stamps to a businessman, Esteban Vidal Gandolfo, who is leaving the country the next day. Over the course of the film a web of intrigue and deceit is woven as all the characters appear to have ulterior motives. The film opens with the scene of a simple yet highly evocative and powerful image. Our protagonist Juan, crafty, smooth and clever cons a simple, hard-working and honest cashier out of money in her till. This is a microcosm for Argentinean society in general. A largely corrupt government taking advantage of decent, hardworking citizens for their own benefit. This scene is replicated many times throughout the film, the waiter in the restaurant, the unsuspecting old lady deceived into believing she is helping her nephew to repair his car, the news kiosk where Marcos gets his newspaper for free, the old lady in the lift. The film is an accurate depiction of the extent of present day Argentine society is. Corruption is closely woven into the fabric of society that it is no longer surprising to hear of those who have swindled the books or attempted to steal for their own gain.

A mentality of self-entitlement pervades the film and throughout we encounter many characters adamant in the belief that they are not only entitled but also deserving in whatever they can get. There exists also a delusionary aspect to their attitudes as, although they are all in one way or another caught up in criminal activity, they all state that they are not personally a thief or a crook. This idea that it is every man for himself and ones only concern is profiting by whatever means necessary. When the two protagonists are sitting in a café, Washington, a petty thief and stolen goods salesman attempts to peddle some of his goods. Juan turns to him eventually and enquires about the possibility of acquiring a gun to which Washington recoils in horror and insists that he is not a crook. The irony in the scene is evident in itself but it highlights the extent to which Argentina’s attitude towards crime and theft has been readjusted. What is clear from the film is that corruption has affected every level of society and even policemen are presented as opportunists looking to earn some more money as is seen in the scene where Marcos pays a police colleague to pretend to arrest him to trick Gandolfo into believing his story about the stamps is legitimate.

The brilliant Ricardo Darín plays the character of ‘Marcos’ and his is a portrayal of man caught up in modern day, corrupt, Argentinean society. He represents the mentality of so many of his fellow Argentineans. He has delusions of grandeur and views himself as above the status of a thief when he remarks to Juan, “¿Se cree que soy un ladrón? Yo no matar a personas. No utilizo una pieza. Nadie puede hacer eso.” He is out for himself, even going so far as to tricking his family out of their inheritance and Marcos doesn’t feel remorse for his actions. He believes that he has seen an opportunity and seized it and that he is deserving of it, he unrepentantly says “Vi una oportunidad y me agarró”. Marcos typifies a disillusioned, disconnected, modern-day citizen. When he meets his sister in her workplace he questions her marital and family status. This is a clear indicator that he does not stay in contact and does not display any interest in the lives of his sister or younger brother ‘Federico’. He also shows his lack of respect for elders and Sandro in particular when Sandro is attempting to explain what happened, Marcos interrupts and says disrespectfully “that’s when you blew your fuse”. Marcos is even willing to prostitute his sister to satisfy his insatiable thirst for money and greed. Even after the supposed act o f sleeping with Gandolfo is completed, Marcos rushes to his sister only to grab the suitcase enquiring about the money and showing absolutely no regard for his sisters well-being.

Marcos appears to care little but for the materialistic and monetary gains. He is clearly void of any admirable traits or scruples and only assists Juan at the beginning of the film as he needs someone to help him perform scams. In one scene he remarks to Juan, “Santos no hay, lo que hay son tarifas diferentes” and then he later remarks to Juan “putos no faltan, lo que faltan son inversores”. These two statements allow an insight into the workings of Marcos’ mind. He is motivated purely by his own profit and interest. It is a combination of his blind greed and inability to care for others which inevitably leads to the downfall of Marcos and this can be equally applied to the Argentine banks and society in general. Bielinsky cleverly juxtaposes Juan against that of Marcos so even though Juan is seen as a trickster, he is one troubled by a conscience and guilt. He is ultimately vindicated in his actions as he is assisting his lover Valeria to regain control of her inheritance. The relationship between the two main characters shows this clash of conscience and values in modern day Argentine society.

“Este país se va al infierno” (Marcos, Nueve Reinas)

By all accounts, the distrust levelled at banks reached a plateau by the turn of the century, most noticeably with the Cacerolazo’s[1], protests which involve the banging of pots and pans and made famous in Argentina. The reference to the banks and financial systems and the impact they have had in Argentina was therefore inevitable especially when Argentina experienced such economic and social turbulence along with massive financial loss at the hands of the banks. Bielinsky references them in several scenes and his reasoning for this is two-fold: firstly he wishes to highlight their recklessness and his second motivation is to present his audience with a deeper understanding of how the situation with the banks could have developed to such a stage. The audience witnesses Gandolfo in his hotel room, engaged in a rigorous debate about the price of shares. It is only with understanding of the impending financial crisis that is clear that he is wishing to quickly offload his shares and save as much money as possible from the inevitable loss and impending run on the banks. In another scene where the stamp expert attempts to extort a percentage of the takings for himself. Juan remarks to Marcos that he is “handing out too much shares”. This latter remark is subtle allusion to the banks and the way in which they banked so senselessly as to leave Argentinean society facing an economic emergency. As of May 2011 approximately two-thirds of Argentinean bank accounts are in short-term deposit accounts with banks also very wary of long term loans[2]. It is a curious that if one of the things that unties national identity is a shared past and similar mentality then a whole psyche of mistrust and suspicion has since developed into national identity in Argentina. Argentinean society is caught in this complex scenario where they are unsure and deeply suspicious of all types of government and understandably so. They have experienced and witnessed at first hand the atrocities performed by the military Junta in the 1970’s and equally they have seen the total financial destruction of their country and the wrecking of their currency by the corrupt elite in a ‘democratic’ government during the 1980’s and 90’s. Naturally and unsurprisingly a deep distrust has developed and it this can be witnessed by the manifestation of the idea of cautiousness towards the banks. The final irony is that Gandolfo pays Marcos and Juan by a cashier’s cheque which is certified by a bank but little do the characters know that this means very little given the country’s economic difficulty.

Bielinsky cleverly disguises the real motives of both characters throughout the film and this naturally leads to a development of mistrust and suspicion on both characters sides but also from the audience. The audience gets a disorientating sense of not knowing exactly what is going on while also experiencing the feeling that they are being duped or conned. This was a reality for Argentine society, especially in the 90’s and early 2000’s where Argentina’s economy and government was awash with corruption and manipulation. At every turn in the film, a new deceit appears to be uncovered and the narrative is constructed in such a way as to prevent the audience from ascertaining who exactly is involved with who. The film’s opening scene involves an act of deceit by Juan and is quickly followed by Marcos deceiving the petrol station employees to aid Juan. Marcos’ life has been a life of fraud and crafty dealing. He has tricked his siblings out of their inheritance and throughout the film he is unaware that everyone he encounters is involved in the ultimate act of misrepresentation in order to regain Valeria’s rightful inheritance. Even when Juan goes to visit his father in prison, his father is not only fooled by his son’s faux-innocence but also the card game which Juan’s father plays while Juan visits him is one of sleight of hand and trickery.

It is also through this use of characters that Bielinski also depicts Argentina in its multicultural, diverse way. Argentina, home to so many immigrants from all over the world is a melting pot of different cultural backgrounds and customs. Although largely Catholic, Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in South America and this Jewish presence in society is also referred to in the film. Bielinsky himself of Jewish descent, depicts a whole area of Buenos Aries as being a Jewish area simply from the implied manner in which Juan states that his mother is from Entre Ríos, a predominantly Jewish area in Buenos Aries[3]. Bielinsky is attempting to show more than just one face of Argentinean society to his audience and wishes to reflect the vibrant, diverse culture which exists within Argentina. It is also pertinent as it displays and acknowledges the existence of a vibrant Jewish population because, despite Jewish people in Argentina representing only 1% of Argentinean population, 10% of all victims were Jewish during the ‘Dirty War’ from 1976-83[4].

Bielinsky makes clever use of his characters in order to represent Argentine national identity in a new light. Although he depicts his characters as deceitful, suspicious and untrustworthy it is never done to portray Argentineans in a harsh light. On the contrary, it is Argentinean society, reflected through Juan and his hopeful ending which encapsulates the goodness of Argentina and it’s society. However, as in every society, an ill prevails in the form of con artists and thieves, be it on a small level or a large financial institutional level. Argentina has experienced great change over the last 30 years and naturally their psyche and perspective will have been altered.


[1] http://www.cacerolazo.com

[3] FALICOV, T, The Cinematic Tango: contemporary Argentine film, Wallflower Press, 2007

[4] http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Terrorism/Argentina_STATUS.html


FALICOV, T, The Cinematic Tango: contemporary Argentine film, Wallflower Press, 2007

REIN, R, Argentine Jews or Jewish Argentines?: essays on ethnicity, identity, and diaspora, Brill, 2010

SHAW, D, Contemporary Latin American cinema: breaking into the global market, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007

Nueve Reinas, 2000, Bielinsky, F, Argentina. Buena Vista International (film)




By Shane Cassidy

Violence in Mexican film and literature


By Shane Cassidy

Violence in text, like violence in our world, is multifaceted. It functions at different levels, is perpetuated by different motivations, and is experienced in a variety of ways[1]

Over the last 30 years Mexico has suffered various inflictions of violence upon its society. Economic and social violence, in the form of a reduction in the social contract between the state and its citizens, combined with the massive and rapid rise of the drug culture and resulting violence has left a lasting mark on Mexican consciousness. The portrayal of violence In Juan Pablo Villalobos’ novel, Fiesta en la Madriguera, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film, Amores Perros, is complex and diverse and facilitates an insight into two very different aspects of Mexican society. Villalobos highlights how continued exposure to violence desensitizes people or society and the ease with which the abhorrent can be normalised. Inarritu’s commentary on present day Mexico also illustrates how such prolonged exposure leads to the audience reacting worse to the animals being hurt in his film rather than the people.

Fiesta en la Madriguera centers around a young boy, Tochtli, who lives in a mansion and the bizarre and violent world he inhabits in Mexico. He lives with his father, Yolcaut, who is a major drug baron and through Tochtlis naive, matter-of-fact narrative we gain an insight into the paranoid and violent world of the Mexican drug trade. By electing to have a child narrator, Villalobos presents the audience with a non moralizing view on the drugs trade in Mexico but it also allows for no ambiguity as to the severity of the world that they inhabit and impact it has had on Tochtli. The portrayal of violence through the young narrator allows for Villalobos to illustrate the crushing effect that not only violence but the exposure to violence can have on a young, impressionable mind. Although not obviously a novel on Mexican drug culture, it is clear that drug culture violence which is so pervasive in Mexican society has heavily informed the novel. In a non-moralizing approach, Villalobos succeeds in highlighting the corruption and numbing of Tochtlis feelings towards violence. In the novel we see Tochtli ponder nonchalantly about how many bullets it would take to kill a man;

Una de las cosas que he aprendido con Yolcaut es que a veces las personas no se convierten en cadáveres con un balazo. A veces necesitan tres balazos o hasta catorce. Todo depende de dónde les des los balazos[2]

As Elizabeth Baines argues, a child’s innocent, unbiased mind acts almost like a camera for the reader[3]. Although Tochtli doesn’t understand the seriousness of these topics, we are left in no doubt as to the severity of the actions of the adults in the novel. It makes the violence and things Tochtli says impact even more as he is so young.

Amores Perros is a violent triptych of stories reflecting love and loss in contemporary Mexico City. The first story revolves around Octavio and his attempts to get his Susana, his brother’s wife, to run away with him. The second story revolves around an upper class executive who has just left his wife for a younger, famous model. The final story centers on El Chivo and his attempts to reconcile with is daughter while also working as a hired gun. These three stories are all connected by a car crash and the characters lives are intertwined stories about the different strata of life in Mexico City. In each story the characters condition is represented in the parallel lives of their dogs who also become victims to its extreme violence.

The dogs serve as crucial narrative to the violence in the film and act as a metaphor for the brutality and bestiality of the city. The dogs are used throughout the film as an escape from economic, social and emotional deprivation and yet ironically they are so often the ones that suffer such savage violence. Octavio’s desperation for a new life has allowed him to reconcile the fact that he is constantly endangering his only source of income and potential escape in order to make enough money to run away with Susana. Valeria’s dog suffers a traumatic ordeal, trapped under the floorboards and reflects Valeria’s own sense of being trapped within the apartment, within her disfigured body and even trapped within her ‘perfect’ body before the accident. In the case of El Chivo, when he discovers that all his dogs have met with a bloody and vicious end, he renounces his life as a gun for hire. Throughout the film, El Chivo rescues stray dogs and gives them shelter while continuing to kill people. It is only upon witnessing the gory scene of his dead dogs that El Chivo realises that the actions of the dog mirror his own murderous behavior and he resolves to change.

Both texts emphasize the evident neglect and isolation of the working class and their desperate measures to survive as a result. Octavio has had to resort to the brutality of dog fighting merely to make money and as he dreams of a better future although he never elaborates on what that future will entail. Octavio’s brother, Ramiro, also affected by the economic situation, is a violent and abusive partner to Susana and who works in a Supermarket where his increasing frustration leads him to commit robberies and hold ups of chemists. His violent nature against his wife reflects his frustration with his life and the lack of any real social opportunities and his failure to provide a living, as the man, for his family. Ramiro’s pride must be severely punctured by the fact that his family are living with his mother and brother and hismachismo leads him to assert his superiority and dominance over his wife , who becomes a victim of domestic violence[4].

The stories of El Chivo and Maru and Octavio and Susana convey the utter polarization which has developed in Mexico in recent years due to excessive economic restrictions imposed by the IMF, NAFTA and all the other side effects of economic globalization overseen by massive multinational corporations and banks[5]. Although this economic hardship and the social impact is prevalent throughout all three of the stories and at every level of society, there is no political engagement from any of the characters. Instead, the struggle against imperialist oppression is limited solely to violence and the role of El Chivu and this is through his previous life as a guerrilla. Violence is seen as the only tool to act against this hardship and even El Chivo has surrendered in his struggle, disillusioned, and has instead become a gun for hire.

This disillusionment is prevalent in both the novel and the film, where the characters are motivated by money to commit acts of savage violence. Octavio is willing to inflict suffering and pain on his dog for economic gain. El Chivo is hired by a man to kill his business partner due to financial greed and El Chivo initially agrees to it, only for the car crash he witnesses to act as a catalyst for change in him. In the novel, Yolcaut and his associates are engaged in the drugs underworld for money and the vast the amounts which can be earned.

In Amores Perros, the depiction of violence is gruesome, bloody and visceral. The visual viciousness of the dog fighting which is captured is staggeringly effective. It is an uncompromising and realistic portrayal of the often violent, daily lives of the characters. In Fiesta en la Madriguera, violence is not limited solely to physical violence, as we see from Tochtlis use of highly violent and aggressive language which pervades his daily mindset. Tochtli’s interests include samurais, the guillotine and safaris in Africa. It is a history of violence and we can see how the violent world in which Tochtli resides has influenced him. In Chapter 3 alone, Tochtli repeats words like “cadaver”, “muerte”, “cortar”, “maricas”. However, the lack of words can also equally reflect the sense of the danger in Tochtlis society and how saying too much or the wrong thing will have dangerous and fatal consequences. So although we are not presented directly with the violence we can still sense it and the atmosphere created is one of great danger and constant impending violence. Muteness is a common theme throughout the novel and it also represents a form of escape and avoidance. In Chapter 3, Tochtli himself elects to remain in mute which doubtlessly reflects the trauma that he has endured. It can also be argued that when Tochtli speaks he unknowingly utters such heavy, wounding words that in his muteness or silence, an escape from this spoken violence is possible.

The sense of a circle of violence dominates the novel. The visit of an American drugs partner is implicit rather than explicit violence. Though nothing of a violent nature occurs an atmosphere is created of a constant foreboding violence in the air. Even Alotl, who provides him with a more maternal perspective and from when he meets her he no longer curses, presents him with a violent samurai film to watch. After the film, Yolcaut shows him the gun room and declares that “Tú un día vas a tener que hacer lo mismo por mí”[6]. That he is exposed to such violence is harrowing and sobering and also there is a tragic element in that we are very aware throughout the novel of this unbreakable circle of violence and that this amiable character in all likelihoods will grow to emulate his father. That Tochtli is deprived of his mother is telling in that throughout the novel he complains of experiencing stomach pains. That the world he encapsulates may very likely have been the reason for this deprivation is telling through this pain. Physical pain suffered by Tochtli is one of the repercussions which is inadvertently due to the violent lifestyle chosen by Yolcaut. It is this corruption of innocence which seems so tragic and so influential. This also serves as an allegory for Mexican society and how so many are exposed to such violence on a daily and often hourly basis, given recent statistics on drug killings in Mexico, and the impact it has on their consciousness[7].

The representation of violence trough the text and the film aid in the understanding of the deep psychological impact it has had on wider Mexican society. By using their respective stories as a microcosm for a much larger sociological problem, the audience is able to grasp the harsh realities of violence in the characters lives. Villalobos employs the use of a child narrator while Inarritu used dogs as an allegorical approach to dealing with this troubling subject. Both are innocent victims who are corrupted and placed in awful situations by their owners. The final result being a sense of loss, devastation and the realisation of how unnecessary the violence being inflicted upon the characters is while at the same time it exposes the socio-economic and cultural factors which have contributed to this harsh vision of modern day, violent Mexican City life.


La question noire : une essai sur l’émergence d’une conscience noire au 21e siècle

By Shane Cassidy

Discussion sur les groupes minoritaires de la France conduit inévitablement à des remarques sur la maghrébins et musulmans. Cela dit, il existe un autre groupe qui est souvent négligé. Les Noirs en France. La population noire a lutté pendant longtemps pour obtenir une reconnaissance dans la société française et au cours des 10 dernières années, ils ont lentement commencé à réussir. En France, un principe central du républicanisme, c’est que la seule identité légitime dans la sphère publique est la citoyenneté. Pour cette raison, aucun origines ethniques sont officiellement reconnues dans la République française comme tous les citoyens sont reconnus comme étant les mêmes. Mais la même que quoi exactement?

Les noirs ont eu une longue histoire mouvementée en France. Les travailleurs immigrés qui viennent en France apportent avec eux une culture spécifique. Ils ont leurs coutumes, leurs traditions, leur religion, leur langue, leur musique, leur cuisine, leur façon de s’habiller. Mais maintenant il ya des deuxième et troisième générations qui émergent et qui se considèrent comme tout à fait français. Leur présence dans le sport et les aires culturelles et, dans une moindre mesure dans les arts, est incontestable. Cependant, dans le sphère de la politique et la représentation publique, ils restent très a la périphérie. Il est inégale et injuste que les noirs français vivent dans une démocratie ouverte devrait être restreints dans leur représentations. En plus, beaucoup des noirs ont du mal a s’intégrer dans la société française. Par ailleurs, les partis politiques française ont exploité la situation vulnérable de cet peuple dans la société pour promouvoir leurs idéaux du républicanisme et parvenir a une position de pouvoir.

A la suite de cela, et aussi la discrimination que ces noirs ont connue, un certain nombre d’organisations de base ont été crées pour aider les immigrants a améliorer leurs vies et a améliorer le processus d’intégration. En 2005 le Conseil Représentative des Associations Noirs en France ( CRAN) a été lancé pour améliorer la situation. Leur tache a été de mettre en évidence le sort de cet question noir et aussi d’atteindre un meilleur niveau de compréhension sur les noirs français et d’éviter le racisme. Si la France est vraiment un pays de liberté, égalité, fraternité, alors pourquoi y t-il tant d’organisations qui existent pour lutter contre le racisme et discrimination ?

Je veux explorer comment la question noire a réussi à devenir une question importante au cours des 10 dernières années et quels facteurs ont contribué d’alimenter cette question. Je veux examiner les effets que Le CRAN ont eu sur la société française et de déterminer ou, s’il est indiqué, est-ce qu’ils ont réussi a changer la mentalité ou de consensus concernant les noirs en France. Enfin, je veux voir dans quelle mesure, au pays des Droits de l’Homme, certains naissent moins libres et égaux que d’autres.

1 : Les Noirs en France

Les Noirs en France

Il est important de noter que les Noirs dans la société française peuvent être largement divisées en 2 groupes principaux, ceux de régions françaises d’outre-mer appelées DOM-TOM, qui étaient d’anciennes colonies de la France. Le second groupe est formé de ceux d’Afrique sub-saharienne qui ont émigré des anciennes colonies françaises comme le Sénégal et la Côte d’Ivoire. En outre, il y a ceux qui étaient d’anciens soldats, enrôlés pour combattre pour la France durant les deux guerres mondiales.C’est vraiment une lapalissade de dire que c’est difficile de trouver un point commun entre le fils musulman d’un immigré Africaine et un Guadeloupéen qui est catholique. En revanche, il existe un point commun entre eux et c’est le fait d’être noir. Il est clair que le profilage ethnique est une réalité en France et en 2009, la Justice Initiative de la Open Society  a produit une étude qui a montré que les noirs étaient 6 fois plus susceptibles d’être interpellé que les Blancs [1]. De plus, 31% des Noirs répondants ont déclaré avoir été arrêté entre deux et quatre fois par mois[2].  Cela crée un cadre pour les organisations de travailler au nom des droits des noirs tout en reconnaissant également qu’il existe des différences entre eux.

Le contexte historique

Pour mieux comprendre le développement socioculturel en France et les difficultés que les noirs rencontrent, il est important de comprendre certains événements historiques qui ont finalement conduit à cette émergence d’une conscience noire dans la France contemporaine. En 1789, l’introduction du slogan «Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité et les idées de républicanisme et de l’universalisme a favorisé et maintenu la conviction que tous les hommes sont égaux. Malgré que cette déclaration avait des valeurs nobles et admirables par contre, en même temps dans une des colonies françaises, San Domingue, c’était un cas distinct. La France refusait d’implémenter la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et a continué de suivre la Code Noir qui imposait des conditions cruelles et sévère sur les noirs. Par conséquent en 1804, les esclaves révoltés a réussi de gagner leur indépendance et de créer leur propres pays, Haïti. Sous la direction de Toussaint Louverture, c’était la première et seule fois que les esclaves révoltés ont réussi à créer leur propre pays et d’abolir l’escla[3]. En plus, dans l’histoire de la France ca été la première fois où la France a dû accepter que les Noirs étaient plus que des esclaves et cet événement a établi un précédent et en 1848 la France a finalement aboli l’esclavage[4].

A partir de 1870 jusqu’au milieu du XXe siècle, après la défaite de la guerre franco-prussienne, la 3ème République française a commencé de consolider sa pouvoir qu’elle a établi dans ses colonies dans l’Afrique-Occidentale française (AOF). Dans ces pays africains, la France a appliqué l’idée d’assimilation et c’était fondamental d’accepter que la culture, la langue et les coutumes françaises étaient meilleurs que ceux des Africains dans ses colonies. La 3ème République essayait dans les écoles, l’armée et les lieu de travail de renforcer les «valeurs» français et ses mesures ont allé jusqu’à les colonies françaises aussi. Vers 1889, la 3ème République a introduit le Code de la Nationalité française qui a favorisé les politiques d’assimilation. Il a placé la citoyenneté de la France au-dessus de toutes les autres loyautés régionales et c’était la première loi sur la nationalité française qui a imposé le double « jus soli » : c’est-à-dire celui qui est né en France et de parents nés en France est Français[5]. Les pratiques de la 3e République ont beaucoup contribué a la vision contemporaine des Noirs en France parce que cette idée d’assimilation et les idées de l’adoption de pratiques françaises ont diminué toutes les autres cultures à une position secondaire.

Sous le gouvernement Vichy, les Noirs ont été considères comme une « race guerrière » et pendant les deux guerres mondiales les Noirs ont été recrutés pour combattre pour la France. Bien connus comme les Tirailleurs Sénégalais, ils ont représentaient 15% des effectifs total français lors du premier conflit mondiale dont 200 000 soldats venue d’AOF[6]. Même si ils ont combattaient et mourraient pour la France, une image de personnes simples créée par le pouvoir d’éviter le progression des Noirs à émergée, notamment le tirailler sénégalais sur les célèbres boites de cacao jaunes avec le slogan « y a bon Banania »[7].

Figure 1: Le slogan publicitaire “y a bon Banania” lancée en 1915

Pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale les Tirailleurs Sénégalais se sont encore bataille contre les Nazies en métropole. En dépit du fait qu’ils ont fait une grande partie de la libération de la France, ils ont été traité affreusement mal par le gouvernement français qui a refusé de payer les Tirailleurs Sénégalais la même retraite que les soldats françaises. Dans une cas en particulier, les Tirailleurs Sénégalais ont regroupé pour réclamer le paiement et l’affaire a culminé dans une massacre de 24 Tirailleurs Sénégalais[8]. En plus que cela, General de Gaulle a participé dans la blanchiment de la libération de Paris en enlevant la plupart des soldats noirs pour la libération de Paris[9].

En 1958 la Ve République a créée une nouvelle constitution. Le premier article de la constitution clairement énoncé que  «La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’Égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de religion»[10]. Bien que les intentions de l’article soient admirables, cette article va à l’encontre du but parce qu’au lieu de créer un pays où tous les citoyens sont sur un pied d’égalité, l’article permet par inadvertance à la discrimination de prospérer.

Pendant la période de l’après-guerre à 1990, le nombre des noirs dans le pays a augmenté mais bien que la proportion n’ait pas grandi, les immigrés et leurs enfants françaises ont été nettement plus visibles. Comme l’économie s’est affaiblie après les trente glorieuses, les partis politiques comme le Front National ont été créés et un message plus à droite et xénophobe a été communiqué par son dirigeant Jean-Marie Le Pen qui parlait d’un problème d’immigration. Le problème pour beaucoup de noirs en France était que ni eux ni leurs parents ni étaient des immigrés. Beaucoup étaient venus des DOM-TOM, ils étaient français et leurs parents sont français aussi. Donc,  ils ont été considérés comme visiblement différent de ce qui était perçu comme «français». Être noir c’était être étranger, immigré, et pas français. Par conséquent, plusieurs groupes ont été fondée pour la promotion des droits des Noirs.

L’Émergence des groupes contre le racisme anti-noir

La traitement des Noirs par la France dans sa histoire présente une image d’une pouvoir coloniale. Étant donné c’est utile de se rendre compte que les Noirs Français sont Français aussi. Dans les années 1920 et 30, Aimé Césaire et Léon Damas, avec d’autres, ont crées le mouvement de la Négritude[11]. D’une part, ce mouvement a travaillé à la promotion de la culture et de l’identité noire, mais d’autre part ce mouvement a été limité à un groupe d’intellectuels et d’écrivains qui décrivaient ​​leurs expériences plutôt que d’un mouvement pour le représentation des noirs. Dans les années 1980 et 1990, le chômage entre les Noirs dans les banlieues a beaucoup augmenté. Ils se sont senti délaissés et leurs conditions de la vie a beaucoup diminué[12]. Une sentiment d’isolation a développée et les Noirs résidant dans les banlieues ont été plus exposés au chômage que les autres français. Par conséquent les organisations telles que SOS Racisme et Le Mouvement de l’immigration et des Banlieues ont lutté contre l’inégalité la discrimination des noirs.

Bien que les organisations ont commencé de lutter, le succès de groupes juifs à convaincre le gouvernement français en 1995 à admettre sa responsabilité dans l’adoption de la législation anti-juive en 1940 et la déportation des juifs pour être ensuite exterminés était très important pour les Noirs[13]. En outre, dans une moindre mesure, en 2000, des groupes représentatifs arméniens avaient réussi à obtenir du parlement français une reconnaissance de l’assassinat en masse des Arméniens par la Turquie entre 1915-1917 comme génocide[14]. Ces actions ont encouragé les groupes noirs à lutter pour plus de reconnaissance.  Alors en 1998, la commémoration du 150e anniversaire de l’abolition de l’esclavage était une indication que la France était prête, bien qu’à contrecœur, à faire face à son passé colonial. Ainsi, en 2001, Christiane Taubira, une politicienne noire de la Guyane française fait adopter une loi qui reconnaissait le rôle de la France dans le commerce des esclaves. Par conséquent, cinq ans plus tard, Le Président française Jacques Chirac a choisi le 10 mai 2006 comme la date. En reconnaissant l’esclavage comme un « crime contre l’humanité », l’idée d’une identité noire commençait à développer.

Le début du 21ème siècle a également vu l’émergence d’organisations représentant les intérêts des noirs. L’un de celles-ci est Collectif DOM qui a été créé en 2003 par Patrick Karam, dans le but de défendre les droits de ceux des Antilles Françaises, de Guyane, de Mayotte et de la Réunion. Ils ont attiré l’attention du public quand ils ont fait un procès à l’historien Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau pour avoir suggéré dans un de ses livres que la traite négrière n’était pas un génocide dans la mesure où les maîtres d’esclaves n’avaient jamais eu l’intention de tuer les esclaves[15]. Toutefois dans le deuxième chapitre je me concentrerai sur Le CRAN, une organisation contre la discrimination anti-noirs.

2 : L’Émergence d’une voix noire au 21e siècle

Les émeutes de 2005

En 2005, la France a connu des émeutes énormes, principalement dans les banlieues les plus pauvres où une forte minorité de Noirs résident. Ces émeutes, qui ont causé environ 200 millions d’euros de dégâts, ont provoqué un débat sur ​​la relation de France et les Noirs et leurs banlieues où ils vivent[16]. Il était clair qu’il y avait une grande déconnexion entre la vie politique et la réalité de ces zones urbaines les plus pauvres et la France a fourni une illustration intéressante de son traitement des Noirs après les émeutes. L’Assemblée nationale a essayé de rendre les rappeurs français responsables des émeutes. Ceux qui s’opposent au collecte des statistiques de la diversité n’avaient pas un problème de parler sur les Noirs ou les Arabes pendant les émeutes. Pendant et après les émeutes de 2005, des images de jeunes hommes noirs dans les émeutes ont été présentées dans les rapports de télévision et dans les journaux. Le ministre de l’Intérieur, Nicolas Sarkozy avec Gérard Larcher de l’UMP, entre autres, ont parlé de la polygamie dans les familles noires en raison des émeutes[17]. Alain Finkielkraut, l’écrivain français, à la suite des émeutes a parlé de son dégoût de la façon dont l’équipe de football française était devenue «Black, Black, Black» [18]. Bien que les Noirs n’aient pas été présentés d’une manière équitable, ils ont été maltraités dans les médias nationaux. Alors, comment est-il possible de parler du respect pour la société quand les Noirs se sentent complètement isolés de la société française. Donc, il était évident qu’il y avait une version particulière et trompeuse sur les Noirs qui prenait forme en France et que les Noirs ont besoin d’être équitablement représentés.


Initialement connu comme Cercle d’Action pour la Promotion de la Diversité (CAPDIV), il a changé son nom en le Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noirs (CRAN), qui a été fondée en 2005. L’émergence du CRAN n’était pas un événement isolé. En réalité, c’est la continuation de groupes noirs qui ont mis en forme l’identité noire en France[19]. Cependant, la signification de la création du CRAN, car il agit au nom de 120 associations, c’est ce qu’il a réussi à forcer la société française à reconnaître l’authenticité de leur message noir[20]. Le CRAN veut briser le tabou du mot « noir » parce que c’était un mot stigmatisé. C’était important pour le CRAN d’utiliser le mot «noir»  car il agissaient directement au nom des Noirs en France. «Black», «minorité visible», «issu de la diversité» tous ces mots étaient acceptables à dire, mais le mot «noir» était tabou. Mais les Noirs sont victimes de discrimination parce qu’ils sont noirs. Donc, il était fondamental que le CRAN reflété cette réalité. Cela a été le premier succès du CRAN. En légitimant le mot, il faut accepter qu’il y a des Noirs français aussi.

Les statistiques de la diversité

Le deuxième tabou pour le CRAN, c’est le tabou du nombre. Apparemment, les Noirs n’ont pas le droit de se compter en France. Le rassemblement des statistiques de la diversité est  une question qui provoque des divisions profondes et une langue très émotive quand il est débattu. SOS Racisme, un groupe dédié à la lutte contre le racisme, est fortement contre les statistiques de la diversité a déclaré que ceux qui soutiennent les statistiques « soutiennent que ce sera le retour aux politiques de Vichy en France »[21]. Fadela Amara, l’ancienne présidente de Ni Putes Ni Soumises, a également évoqué le souvenir du gouvernement de Vichy en disant : «Plus personne ne doit porter l’étoile jaune»[22]. L’une des seules institutions nationales à collecter des statistiques sur la diversité est la ‘Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur’[23]. Donc, cela signifie qu’il n’y a presque aucune institution qui rassemble des statistiques et les institutions qui les rassemblent le font pour les enquêtes sur le comportement criminel.

L’un des objectifs principaux du CRAN est la promotion du collecte des statistiques de la diversité. Selon le CRAN, pour lutter contre le racisme et la discrimination indirecte dont les Noirs sont régulièrement victimes, il est import de mieux connaitre le discrimination pour la combattre. Sans les informations utiles il n’existe aucun moyen pour exposer le niveau de discrimination qui existe en France. Selon une enquête menée en 2003 par TNS-Sofres, 71% des répondants croyaient que les personnes d’origine en africaine sont victimes de discrimination[24].Or, il y avait quelques problèmes avec cette enquête. Tout d’abord, tous les Noirs ne sont pas d’origines d’Afrique. Alors, la référence aux «Africains» était inappropriée. Deuxièmement, les Noirs ont été empêchés d’avoir leur propre voix. On n’a pas demandé aux Noirs spécifiquement s’ils avaient déjà connu le racisme personnelle. Ainsi, en Janvier 2007 Le CRAN a publié la première étude sur les statistiques de la diversité publiées en France. Il s’agit d’une avancée majeure et le sondage a constaté que 61% des personnes interrogées avaient été victimes de discrimination au cours des 12 mois précédents[25]. En plus de cela, l’enquête a révélé qu’il y a environ 1 850 000 personnes âgées de plus de 18 ans qui s’identifient comme «noir». Le succès de cette sondage a également révélé que la croyance que le rassemblement des statistiques ethniques est illégal n’est pas fondée. La loi Informatique et libertés de 1978 est souvent citée comme la preuve qu’il est illégal de rassembler des statistiques. La loi interdit le rassemblement des donnés sur les origines ethniques. Cependant cette loi est aussi accompagnée par une série de dispositions où il est légalement autorisée de rassembler des statistiques. Ces dispositions stipulent que le répondant doit donner son autorisation pour être interrogé et le sondage doit être anonyme[26].

La sphère politique

Pour améliorer la situation des Noirs, le CRAN publie des études avant chaque élection présidentielle et continue d’appeler pour un débat au sujet de la diversité dans la vie politique d’abord afin de mettre en évidence la discrimination et le racisme que les Noirs rencontrent en France et aussi pour montrer que les Noirs sont toujours sous-représentés dans la politique[27]. Il est devenu de plus en plus difficile pour les politiciens d’éviter les questions concernant les statistiques et leurs projets pour améliorer les conditions pour les Noirs. Le CRAN a encouragé et soutenu les tentatives du Président François Hollande pour supprimer le mot « race » de la Constitution Française car le CRAN estiment que la différence raciale n’existe pas.  En 2002, Christiane Taubira est devenue la première femme noire candidate aux élections présidentielles 2002 et bien qu’elle n’ait pas réussi, elle a reçu 2,32 % des voix[28]. En revanche, la même année Jean-Marie Le Pen a réussi de recueillir 16,8 % des voix et cela a montré les différences d’opinion qui existaient en France. Depuis 2002, la France a connu une augmentation du nombre de politiciens noirs. Il y a eu notamment Rama Yade au gouvernent de Nicolas Sarkozy et pour la première fois il y a trois ministres noirs dans le gouvernement actuel de François Hollande ; Christiane Taubira, Victorin Lurel et George Pau-Langevin.

Figure 2: Christiane Taubira, Victorin Lurel et George Pau-Langevin

De plus, le 18 novembre 2012, il a été annoncé que Harlem Désir avait été choisi pour diriger le parti socialiste en France. Il est devenu le premier homme noir à diriger un parti politique français[29]. Toutefois, le CRAN veut voir des résultats concrète parce qu’un ou deux politiciens noirs ne changeront rien. Sans introduire de législation, le gouvernement français risque de participer à une politique de tokenism.[30] Pendant cette période en 2007, à la suite de la publication de l’enquête du CRAN, pour la première fois  une provision a été proposée par la Commission des Lois de l’Assemblée Nationale pour introduire le rassemblement de données sur les origines diverses. Initialement, elle a été acceptée par l’Assemblée Nationale mais enfin elle a été rejetée en novembre 2007 par le Conseil Constitutionnel car c’était considéré comme contraire à l’Article 8 de la Loi Informatique et libertés de 1978.

Les Médias

Figure 3: La couverture du Nouvel Observateur

Au cours des 10 dernières années, les Noirs dans les médias ont commencé à obtenir de plus en plus une visibilité. Déjà établis dans le monde du sport et de la musique, maintenant il est possible de voir les Noirs présenter des émissions de télévision. En 2004, Audrey Pulvar est devenue la première femme noire présentatrice des informations à la télévision française  France 3[31]. Bien que la chaîne n’était pas la chaîne la plus regardée en France, c’était un moment historique. Après les émeutes en France il était plus pertinent que jamais que les Noirs soient mieux représentés. Par conséquent , en 2006, Harry Roselmack a également créé l’histoire en devenant le premier homme noir à présenter les nouvelles sur ​​TF1, une chaîne très regardée[32].  En 2006 également, Le Nouvel Observateur a publié une édition avec le titre « Nous les Noirs de France »[33]. C’était un précédent et pour la première fois, on a directement examiné la question des Noirs français et montré qu’ils sont noirs et français.

Le CRAN considère que les Noirs sont sous-représentées à la télévision française et il soutient les initiatives qui augmentent la conscience des Noirs dans les médias et en 2012, le CRAN a été l’un des plus grands supporters de Miss Black France, une alternative à Miss France, pour souligner le manque de femmes noires dans le concours Miss France. Depuis sa création, Le CRAN a fait campagne pour que la télévision reflète mieux la diversité de la société française mais malgré le succès d’Audrey Pulvar et de Harry Roselmack, c’étaient deux cas très exceptionnels; et les Noirs restaient pratiquement invisibles à la télévision française. En conséquence, en 2009, le Conseil Supérieur d’Audiovisuel (CSA) a publié sa première étude de la diversité à la télévision[34]. Pour éviter d’utiliser certains mots comme «noire» ou «blanche», le CSA a demandé aux répondants si les gens à la télévision ont été «perçu comme blanc» ou «perçu comme non blanc ». Les résultats de l’étude ont montré que la grande majorité des personnes représentées dans les publicités, émissions de télévision, le sport, la musique étaient tous «perçu comme blanc ». Chaque année depuis 2009, la CSA a publié leurs résultats et l’enquête de 2012 a révélé que la représentation des personnes «considérées comme non blanc» avait augmenté de 3%[35]. C’est un processus lent, mais il est en cours et ces jours-ci il est plus facile qu’avant de voir des Noirs à la télévision comme Arnaud Ngatcha et Karine le Marchand. En plus, à partir du 12 décembre 2012, Numéro 23, une nouvelle chaîne qui a l’ambition de représenter toutes les diversités commencera à émettre. En 2012, Omar Sy est devenu le premier acteur noir à gagner le César du meilleur acteur mais c’était une arme à double tranchant[36].  En gagnant le prix c’était certes une occasion très historique mais en même temps il a gagné le prix pour son interprétation d’un stéréotype des banlieues. On peut accepter l’argument que le film reflète la société et il y a des Noirs qui viennent des banlieues; par contre cela nous montre que les Noirs sont toujours perçus comme des jeunes hommes avec un frère qui vend des drogues. Pour mieux comprendre les Noirs français, il faut voir et accepter que les Noirs ne sont pas seulement les trafiquants de drogue et les pauvres. La communauté noire est riche et diverse et les médias doivent refléter cette réalité à la télévision et au cinéma. Cependant, comme nous le verrons dans le troisième chapitre, les progrès ont été très lents dans la vie politique française, au détriment des Noirs

3 : L’illusion de l’efficacité

Un pas en avant, deux pas en arrière

Dans ses efforts pour lutter contre le racisme, la France a adopté des lois qui tendent à éliminer le racisme et elle a aussi créé en 2004 la HALDE, une organisation indépendante engagée à la lutte contre la discrimination[37]. En plus de cela, en tant que membre de l’Union européenne la France a accepté la directive 2000/43/CE qui traite de la lutte contre le racisme en milieu de travail[38]. À la surface, la France fait face à la question et les exemples du chapitre précédent sont des exemples de progrès qui ont été réalisés. Comme c’est souvent le cas, cependant, la réalité de la situation est plus nuancé.  La criminalisation de la discrimination ne peut pas prévenir la discrimination  à l’embauche.

Un plafond de verre existe pour les Noirs qui sont victimes de discrimination et le marché du travail est très difficile[39]. Des études ont montré que la présence d’un nom marqué quant à l’origine peut être un obstacle à l’obtention d’un emploi[40]. Les employeurs hésitent à recruter des employés noirs et ils se débarrassent de toute responsabilité en utilisant des excuses faciles. On a dit à un candidat « Je veux bien vous prendre mais c’est au niveau de ma clientèle. Ma clientèle ne veut pas voir des noirs »[41]. En même temps le gouvernement se débarrasse de toute responsabilité en se référant aux lois anti-discrimination. En plus, même obtenir un poste ne garanti pas qu’on sera libre de racisme; un candidat a été informé par un patron «Que fais-tu là? Je ne veux pas de toi ici, je ferai tout pour me débarrasser de toi »[42]. Comment est-il possible alors de prouver que les lois anti-discrimination sont efficaces si il n’y a guère d’employés noirs pour les tester ? Il est inutile d’avoir des lois contre la discrimination si les Noirs ne peuvent même pas obtenir un emploi et la faiblesse gouvernementale facilite la discrimination.

Ces lois n’arrivent pas à la racine du problème de la discrimination, en particulier quand les initiales « BBR », bleu blanc rouge, sont utilisées comme une référence à la préférence des employeurs pour les travailleurs français de souche. En 2011, L’Oréal et Adecco, l’agence de l’emploi la plus grande du monde, ont été reconnus coupables de chercher à embaucher des vendeurs qui n’étaient que «BBR»[43].

En 2006, pour éviter cette situation, la loi  pour l’égalité des chances a introduit une mesure qui oblige les entreprises de plus de 50 salariés à procéder à l’anonymisation des CV[44].  Le problème avec cette mesure ce que ce n’est qu’une mesure provisoire et il faut que la Conseil d’Etat l’autoriser mais jusqu’à présent, la mesure n’a pas été légalement adopté. Néanmoins AXA, l’entreprise d’assurance la plus grande en Europe, a choisi de mettre en place la pratique de CV anonymes en 2005 malgré le fait qu’aussi récemment que 2011 Yazid Sabeg, le commissaire à la diversité et à l’égalité des chances, a dénoncé l’idée de CV anonymes obligatoires[45] .

Ce problème a acquis un poids économique majeur aussi et ce n’est pas seulement liés au monde du travail car beaucoup de Noirs habite dans les banlieues pauvres et par conséquent en 2011 Kamel Hamza, le président de l’ANELD (association nationale des élus locaux pour la diversité) a annoncé qu’ils ont reçu 50 millions d’euro du gouvernement du Qatar pour aider les entrepreneurs dans les banlieues. Clairement, la réticence de la France à aider ces régions pauvres a créé une situation où l’investissement extérieur a dû prendre la place de celui du gouvernement français. En conséquence, le Président François Hollande a dû accepter aussi de fournir 50 millions d’euros pour les régions les plus pauvres[46].

Le CRAN et l’avenir

Figure 4: Un jeune homme noir arrêté par la police

En 2007, la France a introduit des quotas d’expulsion des immigrés illégaux selon lesquels la police peut arrêter ceux qui sont perçus comme des immigrés. Théoriquement, tout le monde est potentiellement un immigré mais ce sont surtout les Noirs et les Maghrébins qui ont senti tout le poids de cette politique. Afin d’éviter le délit de faciès, le CRAN soutenaient l’idée de le récépissé du contrôle d’identité qui a été promis par Président François Hollande pendant les élections présidentielles[47]. De cette façon, un record de tous les arrêts excessifs peut être conservé et utilisé si nécessaire pour mettre en évidence un comportement discriminatoire[48]. En 2012 cependant, Manuel Valls, en parlant sur l’honnêteté morale des policiers a abandonné l’idée donc le CRAN doit retrouver une nouvelle approche[49].

De plus, le CRAN est en train de travailler sur la question des réparations en ce qui concerne l’esclavage[50].  Bien que beaucoup de travail ait été fait pour mettre en évidence la situation des Noirs pendant l’époque du esclavage, il reste toujours beaucoup à faire. Le CRAN maintient que les réparations doivent être payés pour que la France puisse vraiment se réconcilier avec son passé colonial.

Cette question demande une attention politique et Christiane Taubira a beaucoup accompli sur cette question, mais il est maintenant nécessaire que les autres politiciens prennent les rênes. Et c’est là où la France est exposée par son diversité déséquilibré. Malgré tous le progrès, seulement 3 des 577 membres de l’Assemblée nationale sont noirs. En fait, dans les élections de 2012 pas un seul membre noir a été élu par la droite[51]. Sans représentation adéquate le CRAN aura du mal à avoir un impact et donc l’augmentation des représentants politique doit continuer d’être une priorité.


Comme nous avons vu, le traitement historique de la France noire associé à des troubles économiques et civils a permis à une nouvelle conscience noire d’émerger en France autour de l’an 2000. La France noire est une élément intégrante et complexe de la France où ils ont joué un rôle très importante et actif dans l’histoire du pays.

Il est clair que certains progrès ont été réalisés mais ce n’est que la partie visible de l’iceberg. En réalité, il existe toujours un faille importante dans la société française. Le danger est que si les Noirs sont plus visibles dans les médias et la politique, le pays risque de se laisser aller à un sentiment de sécurité trompeur. Le cas de Barack Obama est un exemple parfait : un homme noir élu président des États-Unis suggère que les Etats-Unis ont réussi à surmonter leur problème avec le racisme, mais les statistiques montrent qu’il existe toujours d’énormes problèmes raciaux aux États-Unis[52].

Aujourd’hui la société française est plus consciente de sa communauté noire qu’auparavant. Grâce à des organisations comme le CRAN, on constate une plus grande prise de conscience de la lutte des Noirs car ils ont fait campagne sans relâche pour leurs propres droits. Bien que des progrès ait été réalisés, il y a encore un long chemin à parcourir. Il semble donc évident que les propositions comme les statistiques sur la diversité devraient être encouragées pour lutter contre la dure réalité sociale des Noirs. Au lieu de rejeter automatiquement ces idées, il faudrait laisser la place à un débat ouvert et franc sur la meilleure façon de traiter la question noire. Ce n’est pas simplement une affaire du racisme de l’extrême droite étant donné que certains dirigeants de gauche ont officiellement exprimé leur opposition contre les statistiques sur la diversité[53]. Il s’agit d’un problème plus profond, où la confiance de la France en sa constitution républicaine la laisse effectivement aveugle aux problèmes auxquels les Noirs sont confrontés. L’idéal républicain rejette l’idée de communautarisme, mais en refusant la proposition des statistiques il est très possible qu’un communautarisme sera créé. En plus, si la France continue de collecter des statistiques seulement sur la criminalité cela va créer une image déformé des Noirs en France.

Benedict Anderson avance que l’identité nationale est une communauté imaginée, créée par des gens[54]. On ne peut pas mesurer l’identité nationale et ce n’est pas un objet tangible, mais elle existe encore dans l’esprit de la population.  La France a donc la possibilité de rééquilibrer sa société en une société qui sera basée sur la reconnaissance mutuelle et où elle pourra surmonter les vieilles suspicions de communautarisme pour créer une société plus inclusive. La profonde méfiance en ce qui concerne les statistiques créer un sentiment d’isolement définitive d’isoler définitivement parmi les Noirs. Si la France ne veut plus subir de nouvelles émeutes il est donc crucial d’éviter les gestes purement symboliques comme les lois anti-discrimination et de traiter les problèmes au fond. Sinon, il y a un risque réel que le communautarisme tant redouté  de viendra une réalité.


[2] http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/french_20090630_0.pdf p.35

[3] Aimé Césaire, Toussaint Louverture : la Révolution française et la problème colonial, Paris, Présence africain, 1962, p. 261

[4] Frédéric Regent, La France et ses esclaves : de la colonisation aux abolitions, 120-1848, Paris, Grasset, 2007, p. 315

[6] Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard et Laurent Gervereau, Images et Colonies, Iconographie et propagandes coloniale sur l’Afrique Française de 1880 à1962, ParisBDIC édition, p 74

[7] Pap Ndiaye, La Condition Noire, Paris, Gallimard, 2009 p.156

[8] Pap Ndiaye, p.184

[9] Myron J Echenberg, Les Tirailleurs sénégalais en Afrique occidentale française, 1857-1960, Paris, CREPOS, 2009, p. 173

[10] http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/connaissance/constitution.asp

[11] http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/histoire/aime-cesaire/negritude.asp

[12] http://www.bip40.org/autour-du-bip40/emploi/immigration-emploi-et-chomage

[13] Suzanne Citron, L’histoire de France autrement, Paris, Ouvrières, 1992, p. 195

[14] Stéphane Dufoix, La politique des mémoires en France, Paris, Ed. de l’Eclat, 2006, p.85

[15] Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, Les traites négrières: Essai d’histoire globale, Paris, Gallimard, 2004

[16] http://lci.tf1.fr/economie/2005-12/emeutes-assureurs-confirment-200-millions-euros-degats-4877680.html

[19] Abdoulaye Gueye, Rompre le silence: l’émergence d’une voix noire collective en France, du Bois Review: recherche en sciences sociales sur la race 7, n ° 1 (2010):  p.82

[20] http://lecran.org/?cat=234

[21] http://www.sos-racisme.org/content/campagne-contre-la-statistique-ethnique

[22] http://www.liberation.fr/societe/0101555717-fadela-amara-opposee-aux-statistiques-ethniques

[23] http://www.police-nationale.interieur.gouv.fr/Organisation/Direction-Centrale-du-Renseignement-Interieur

[25] http://www.le-cran.fr/document-cran-associations-noires-de-france/1-la-premiere-enquete-statistique-sur-les-noirs-de-france—une–realisation-le-cran-tns-sofres.pdf

[26] http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006068624&dateTexte=20080609

[27] http://lecran.org/?p=2973

[28] http://dev.ulb.ac.be/cevipol/en/elections_france_presidentielles_2002.html

[29] http://www.lepoint.fr/politique/harlem-desir-nouveau-premier-secretaire-du-ps-18-10-2012-1518547_20.php

[30] Le terme anglais est utilisé par Pap Ndiaye, p.354

[31] http://www.liberation.fr/medias/0101163984-du-cran-a-l-ecran

[32] http://www.lemonde.fr/actualite-medias/article/2006/11/10/la-representation-des-minorites-progresse-dans-l-audiovisuel-francais-indique-le-csa_833278_3236.html

[33] http://www.grioo.com/info6640.html

[34] http://www.csa.fr/Etudes-et-publications/Les-observatoires/L-observatoire-de-la-diversite/Les-resultats-de-la-premiere-vague-du-barometre-de-la-diversite-a-la-television-Septembre-2009

[35] http://www.csa.be/system/documents_files/1712/original/Barom%C3%A8tre%202012.pdf?1332936426

[36] http://www.lemonde.fr/cinema/article/2012/02/25/des-cesars-2012-domines-par-the-artist_1648296_3476.html

[38] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?language=FR&reference=A6-2007-0278&type=REPORT

[39] François Durpraire, France blanche, colère noire, Paris, Jacob, 2006, p.92

[40] http://www.lexpress.fr/emploi-carriere/le-racisme-au-travail_494143.html

[41] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIDygPXsJ9w (6.03sec) Documentaire Le plafond de verre dirigé par Yamina Benguigui

[42] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_BZMquSvjo (3.46sec ), reportage télévisé par Euronews , 25/05/12

[44] http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000268539

[45] http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2009/11/03/relance-du-cv-anonyme-outil-de-lutte-contre-la-discrimination-a-l-embauche_1261942_3224.html

[47] http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2012/06/01/le-gouvernement-travaille-au-recepisse-pour-controle-d-identite_822904

[48] http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2009/12/10/01011-20091210FILWWW00563-controles-au-facies-proposition-du-cran.php

[49] http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2012/06/01/01016-20120601ARTFIG00604-controles-d-identite-la-grogne-policiere-s-amplifie.php

[50] http://www.le-cran.fr/reparations-cran-associations-noires-de-france_indexe_depeches_0_0_0.html

[51] http://www.francetv.fr/2012/la-diversite-fait-son-entree-a-lassemblee-151253

[53] http://www.liberation.fr/evenement/010194900-pas-d-ethnique-dans-les-statistiques

[54] Nous nous appuyons ici sur Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, pp. 48-49


Sources Primaires

Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London, Verso, 1996

Bancel, Nicolas, Blanchard, Pascal et Gervereau, Laurent, Images et Colonies, Iconographie et propagandes coloniale sur l’Afrique Française de 1880 à 1962, ParisBDIC édition, 1993

Blanchard, Pascal, La France Noire. Trois siècles de présences des Afriques, des Caraïbes, de l’océan Indien et d’Océanie, Paris, la Découverte, 2011

Césaire, Aimé, Toussaint Louverture : la Révolution Française et le problème colonial, Paris, Présence africaine, 1962

Citron, Suzanne, L’histoire de France autrement, Paris, Ouvrières, 1992

Dufoix, Stéphane, La politique des mémoires en France, Paris, Ed. de l’Eclat, 2006

Echenberg, Myron J, Les Tirailleurs sénégalais en Afrique occidentale française, 1857-1960, Paris, CREPOS, 2009

Lozès, Patrick, Les Noirs sont-ils des Français à part entière ?, Paris, éditions Larousse, 2009

Lozès, Patrick, Nous, les Noirs de France, Paris, éditions Danger public, 2007

Ndiaye, Pap,  La Condition Noire : Essai sur une minorité française, Paris, Gallimard, 2009

Regent, Frédéric, La France et ses esclaves : de la colonisation aux abolitions, 1620-1848, Paris, Grasset, 2007

Sources secondaires

  • Articles

Blum, Alain, Guérin-Pace, ‘From Measuring Integration to Fighting Discrimination : The Illusion of « Ethnic Statistics »’, French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 26, 2008, pp. 32–44

Gueye, Abdoulaye, ‘Rompre le silence: l’émergence d’une voix noire collective en France’, du Bois Review: recherche en sciences sociales sur la race, Volume no. 1, 2010,  pp.82-83

Simon, Patrick, ‘The Choice of Ignorance: The Debate on Ethnic and Racial Statistics in France’, French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 26, 2008, pp. 7-31

Tin, Louis-Georges, ‘Who is Afraid of Blacks in France ? The Black Question: The Name Taboo, the Number Taboo’, French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 26, 2008, pp. 32–44

  • Sites sur la Toile




























  • Presse

Le Figaro, 21/11/2005, ‘Les risques de a discrimination’

Le Figaro, 11/12/2012, ‘Mariage gay: Thuram compare aux Noirs’ 

Le Monde, 09/12/2005, ‘Discriminations : pourquoi les Noirs de France se rassemblent-ils ?

Le Monde, 10/11/2006, ‘La représentation des minorités progresse dans l’audiovisuel français, indique le CSA’

Le Monde, 13/10/2011, ‘Non aux statistiques ethniques, oui à la mesure des diversités’

Le Monde, 25/02/2012, ‘Omar Sy, César!’

Le Nouvel Observateur, 24/04/12, ‘Finkielkraut, les “noirs” et les “arabes”’

Le Nouvel Observateur, 27/09/2012, ‘Le concept de racisme anti-blanc nie la réalité de la situation”

Le Point, 18/10/2012, ‘Harlem Désir nouveau premier secrétaire du PS’

Libération, 26/11/2005, ‘En attendant la télé en couleur’

Libération, 27/11/2005, ‘Bleu Blancs Noirs’

Libération, 22/10/2008, ‘Du cran à l’écran’

Libération, 16/03/2009, ‘Fadela Amara opposée aux statistiques ethniques’

Libération, 20/07/2011, ‘Statistiques ethniques: «Il faut arrêter d’être hypocrite»’

Libération, 04/02/2012, ‘Noirs : des historiens mettent fin au black-out’

The Economist, 26/03/2009, ‘To count or not to count’

The Guardian, 24/02/2007, ‘French presidential candidates divided over race census’

The Guardian, 26/03/2011, ‘France’s minorities under fire’

  • Documentaires

Benguigui, Yamina, La Plafond de Verre, 2004

Noirs de France, France 5, 2012

Noirs de France ?, Toutes les France, 2011

  • Photos

Figure 1 : http://www.france-images.com/affiches-anciennes/449-y-a-bon-banania-1930.html

Figure 2 : http://www.bet.com/news/global/photos/world-lens/2012/06/world-lens-week-in-review-june-5.html#!060412-global-world-lens-france-cabinet-Christiane-Taubira-Victorin-Lurel-George-Pau-Langevin

Figure 3 : http://www.afribd.com/article.php?no=10489

Figure 4 : http://www.lunion.presse.fr/article/faits-divers/pour-lutter-contre-les-abus-de-verifications-didentite-un-controle-un-recu

Spanish society through literature and film

By Shane Cassidy


It is important when considering the works of the 3 artists that they are placed in socio-cultural context. 20th Century Spain witnessed a massive turn in its fortunes, beginning with the development in the early 1930’s of the left-leaning, progressive Republican government who wished to engage the people with the arts through their missiones pedagógicas[1]. The Spanish civil war of 1936-39 marked a break in the development of the arts and during the Franco regime, Spain practised a massive, sweeping censorship which inevitably limited artistic expression. Luis García Berlanga, Federico García Lorca and Ana María Matute all lived through tumultuous periods in Spains history where they came under the scrutiny of censorship under General Franco’s regime which would challenge their attempts at accurate, honest portrayals of the societies they lived in. What is prevalent not only in García Lorca’s play but the films of Berlanga and the short stories of Matute is that they all carry strong critiques of their society and have contributed massively to Spanish 20th century arts.

“Berlanga no es un comunista; es mucho peor, es un mal español”[2]

– General Franco

Of all the 3 works, cinema was the most heavily censored at the time and the above quote represents the regimes attitudes towards any art which was critical of Spanish society, or to put it more accurately, whatever art which most depicted a real picture of Spanish society. Satire is heavily dominant in both in the 1952 film ‘Bienvenido Mr. Marshall’ and ‘El Verdugo’ which was made in 1963. In ‘Bienvenido Mr. Marshall’, the scenes of Don Manolo and the Mayor making this grand speech of promises of prosperity are highly effective in satirising General Franco. The film is littered with allusions to the loss of political power, most noticeably in the same scene where the Mayor and Don Manolo are on the balcony, they constantly struggle with each other for the right to speak and as Justin Crumbaugh says they are “conflicted over the way in which to direct the very image of popular sameness”[3]. It is interesting to note that it is Manolo, a man who can be interpreted as the one representing commercial interests and life succeeds over the Mayor who represents political life and office.

What is prevalent in Berlangas work is his commentary of Spain as it experienced changes in its society. The struggle between modernism and traditionalism, the intrusion of a modern world into Franco’s carefully orchestrated one. During the making of ‘Bienvenido Mr Marshall’, the Spanish government was softening its stance on isolationism[4]. This can be seen in his portrayal of a society open to welcoming the Americans in return for financial assistance. Eleven years later in ‘El Verdugo’, a satirical film about a young man, José Luis, who takes the job as a State executioner with the hope that he will never have to actually perform an execution, once again comments on the changes in Spains position is evident with the inclusion of the tourists and the visit to the tourist area of Spain. This film was made at a time when Spain was experiencing what is known as “el miraglo Espanola” with the tourist boom[5]. His intentions were to paint a picture of a backward society which needed to evolve and progress.

Berlanga depicts, if not a sexually repressed society, then it is most certainly a sexually adverse one. In ‘El Verdugo’, the scene where José Luis and Carmen are dancing after their picnic illustrates perfectly the closed-minded view Spanish society took of public displays of affection when an older couple who are sitting on the grass beside them get up, turn off their radio which is playing the music and leave. As they pass the young couple they say “si querían bailar, que se traigan la música”. This scene is employed to show the backwardness of Spanish society and a clash between the old-fashioned views and the new is depicted. Similarly this can be seen in Lorcas play, ‘La casa de Bernarda Alba’, especially with the exchanges between Poncía and Adela and the attitudes towards men. Poncía retains the old-fashioned view that men need to satisfy sexual urges whereas women have none of their own. She says “los hombres necesitan estas cosas” to which Adela, always challenging conventions, replies “Se les perdona todo”[6].

Federico García Lorca was a member of the surrealists ‘Generation of 1927’ in which defiance and rebellion through the arts was the norm and progressive thought and frank observation of Spanish society was encouraged[7]. This can be seen through his work ‘La casa de Bernarda Alba’. A play centred on the house of a woman who is autocratic in her behaviour, Bernarda Alba, and her 5 unmarried daughters who are not permitted to leave the house. The play begins under a cloud of death, with the family in mourning for Bernardas previous husband. What’s most notable about the play is the total lack of male presence throughout it. She runs the house with a vice-like grip and is utterly dominating in a role which Lorca has unconventionally transformed her into. As Alfred Rodriguez describes it, Lorca has turned an “anomalous mother-figure into a solidly fixed masculine role”[8]. An atmospheric and claustrophobic setting is created by the fact that the set never changes, nobody can leave the house and therefore we feel exactly how the daughters feel. The impression is created that within this autocratic, dictatorship of a household it is not possible to live freely and the outside of the house represents freedom and liberty from such provisions. The strength of Bernardas rule is witnessed in Act 2 when, significantly Poncia asks “Puedo hablar?”[9]. The fact that a simple action like speaking requires permission represents the fear that Bernarda generated and the control she wielded. It is also ironic that such an untraditional character maintain and clings to traditions throughout the play; from observing the mourning period to wishing to maintain ‘honour’ and ‘decency’ in the wake of Adelas suicide by insisting “Ella, la hija menor de Bernarda Alba, ha muerto virgen.”[10]

Lorcas intentions were to examine the cultural clash between modern and traditional and this is most acute in the fact that the youngest daughter Adela is the most progressive and resistant to Bernarda and her rule. This can be witnessed towards the hugely dramatic end to Act 2 when la hija de la Librada is to be punished for sexual transgression and on one hand Adela says “No, no, para matarla no!” but on the contrary Bernarda attests “Y que pague la que pisotea su decencia”[11]. The idea that la hija de la Librada had a child out of wedlock doesn’t shock Adela and she doesn’t believe any ‘honour’ has been lost but for Bernarda it is the ultimate act of dishonour due to her distorted honour code. The attitude of modern versus tradition also prevails in Berlangas work where his comment on a backward Spanish society is evident in his films. ‘Bienvenido Mr. Marshall’ allows the audience to see this in the Mayors dream sequence where his idea of the United States is a comic, archaic and stereotypical view of a typical Western film not at all in-tune with how the USA of the 1950’s would have been.

Throughout Ana María Matute works, in her collection of short stories Historias de la Artamila, a very common theme of the loss of innocence re-appears over and over again. At the breakout of the Civil War in 1936, Matute was sent to live in the countryside and this heavily impacted upon her works. Matute utilised the disarming technique of writing from a childs perspective and therefore censors would have been less suspicious of the messages Matutes stories carried. Nevertheless her collection of works served to remind readers of that very loss of purity, of innocence which not only Matute lost as a child herself at the outbreak of the Civil War but also Spain lost . As a country, Spain lost that aspiration and hope it had developed during the Republican government from 1931-36. Throughout her works, she highlights the hypocrisy of society and their adverse reactions to ‘outsiders’.

All three artists wanted to hold a mirror up to Spanish society in order to highlight the hypocrisy which was clearly present. The ostracisation and stigmatisation of individuals or groups of people by society and their ignorance and fear of the unknown were themes which all three directly addressed. In Matutes ‘El Perro Perdido’, the dog which enters the village is immediately viewed with suspicion and disdain. The villagers immediately stigmatise the dog without reason and he is taken to be killed only for the cries of young Damián to be listened to. Anotonia María, the healer in the village declares “ese perro es un espíritu malo”[12]. The fear of the unknown stretches to societys treatment of the outsider as Antonia María also says of the dog “Eche al perro de casa…esta embrujado”[13]. It requires a large struggle from Damián to save the dog and even then it is begrudgingly allowed to live.

Equally so, in Berlangas ‘El Verdugo’, the position of the executioner is one which carries a lot of stigma and not only do Amadeo and José Luis experience it but Amadeos daughter Carmen also suffers it purely through association. In the scene where they go for a picnic, she expresses to José Luis her desire to runaway to “Francía” to start afresh. The position of state executioner is not a position which is highly coveted and the one performing it is always given a wide berth. Berlanga cleverly depicts this at the beginning of the film when the undertakers bring in a coffin and the guard on duty simply raises his hat to pay his respects and returns to eating his soup undeterred. However a moment later Amadeo, the executioner, asks the guard about a lift and the guard quickly becomes agitated and uncomfortable and when Amadeo leaves the guard pushes away the bowl of soup clearly indicating he has lost his appetite. In the same scene, Jose Luis is talking about the executioner to the other undertaker and he describes him in the following manner “La verdad es que parece una persona normal”. It is clear that society has a distorted idea of how an executioner should appear and through what José Luis says it is evident that the executioner is not a position with a great deal of respect or understanding.

Loss is a theme which permeates right throughout the artists works. La casa de Bernarda Alba opens with the loss of Bernardas husband and it serves as a metaphor for the rest of the film. Loss hangs over the family; it forbids them from leaving the house as they are in a period of mourning. The characters of Pepe Romano, although never seen, and Poncia add to the frustration of the women as they provide a hint of the liberty that outside brings them. The daughters, loss of freedom has also come at a cost of losing their sister Adela at the end of the play and Angustias has lost her fiancé.

In Berlangas ‘Bienvenido Mr. Marshall’, the villagers’ dreams of the Americans coming and making them all rich is ultimately not realised. Berlanga cleverly uses the characters of the Don Manolo, Don Cosme and the Mayor to highlight the impending fate of the townspeople as they all have dream sequences which all end fatally for them. Matute also uses the characters in her stories to highlight the sense of loss and unfairness. In her story ‘Pecado de Omision’, a recently orphaned boy called Lope goes to live with his rich uncle Emeterio in another village. Although family was very important at the time, Lope is treated badly and not welcomed. He is sent to the mountains to be a shepherd and his uncle says “hay que ganarse el carrusco”[14]. The character of Don Lorenzo is effectively used in the story to show the loss of potential when he attempts to explain to Emeterio that he is clever and that he could achieve something, “es que el chico vale…es listo. Muy listo.”[15]. The contrast between Lope and Manuel Enriquéz also harshly contrasts the fortunes of both boys. Lopes hands are rough and barely capable of holding a cigarette but Manuel Enriquéz has fine, slender hands which highlights the socio-economic gulf between the two boys. It is a tale of two hands and two worlds, what might have been for Lope but he was never given the opportunity.

Similarly, in Berlangas ‘El Verdugo’, the inclusion of the Germans in the story appears to play several functions. One is to highlight the development of Spain’s tourism industry, which was a double edged sword in itself as it helped to revive a floundering economy but also allowed liberal, left wing progressive attitudes to enter through tourism and therefore this was a lot harder for the Franco regime to control[16]. However the other purpose which these Germans play, it can be argued, is to serve as a constant reminder of the life Jose Luis could have had. In the picnic scene early in the film, Carmen expresses her wish to go to France, to which Jose Luis responds with “y porque no Allemana, así podríamos marchamos juntos”.  Later in the film he meets three blonde German girls who represent progressive, liberal Western women with their modern technology and uncovered hair. At the music show which Jose Luis and Carmen attend, it is his wife, symbolically, who again obstructs his passage to sit with or near the Germans. Finally, at the end of the film when Jose Luis comes aboard the boat and it is evident that he is a broken man, the party boat in the distance plays lively music and the German girls are getting on it to go for a party. It’s the tale of two boats but it could easily be the tale of two hands.

The intention of Berlanga is that José Luis is condemned by society as he is complicit in the government’s actions. Berlangas observation is of a man who allows himself to be led by others to ultimately dire consequences. José Luis first arrives in Mallorca to perform the execution he is met by members of La Guardia Civil and he is resistant and ultimately has to be coerced into going and the scene of him sitting on the back of the jeep gives the impression of a condemned man. Later when he is with his wife at the music show and again La Guardia Civil arrive in search of him, the impression as he gets into the boat and Caremen, his wife, shouts to him “ tranquilo, no te preocupes”, as if it will be their final meeting and once again he is led off. The most powerful scene aesthetically comes towards the end of the film when he is in the prison and he has to physically dragged through a long white room into the execution room to perform his duties while the man who is to be executed is far more composed. The white-washed walls of  the room in the prison are contrasted against the black clothes of the characters and the looming black door at the end of the room is reminiscent of both Lorca’s description of the room in his play; white walls contrasted against the black of the characters clothes. It is interesting to note that both José Luis and Adela wear white and green respectively and thus are made to stand out. They are both different.  Hugely symbolic is José Luis’ hat which he drops, thus signifying both his submission finally to the act and also when the guard returns to pick the hat up the hat itself and bring into the execution room. Clearly signifying that absolutely no part of Don Jose will be left behind, he is 100% complicit in the States actions and he is a condemned man.

All 3 artists sought to comment on Spanish society through their works and even with the obstacle of censorship their goal was to make the audience aware of the societies they lived and highlight the unfairness and inequality which was occurring. That it was done in such poetic, beautiful art only adds to its poignancy and the impact of their work on Spanish culture and the arts in general cannot be overstated. By using ‘small’ domestic issues to raise awareness of the larger scheme of things and the greater problems in society, all 3 were able to effectively portray their message without fear of losing their audience through their clever use of metaphor, satire and analogies.



[3] CRUMBAUGH, Justin, Destination Dictatorship: the spectacle of Spain’s tourist boom and the reinvention of difference, SUNY Press, 2009 (p. 9)

[4] MAXWELL, K, Spiegel, S, The New Spain: From Isolation to influence, Council on Foreign Relations Press, New York, 1994, (p. 83)

[6]RAMSDEN, H, La casa de Bernarda Alba, Federico García Lorca, Manchester University Press, 1983 (p.47)

[7] Romance Notes 21(1980-81) : Bernarda Alba, Creation as Defiance, Alfred Rodriguez, (p. 279)

[8] Romance Notes 21(1980-81) : Bernarda Alba, Creation as Defiance, Alfred Rodriguez, (p.280)

[9] RAMSEN, H, La casa de Bernarda Alba, Ferica García Lorca, Manchester University Press, 1983 (p.56)

[10] RAMSEN, H, La casa de Bernarda Alba, Ferica García Lorca,Manchester University Press, 1983(p.91)

[11] RAMSEN, H, La casa de Bernarda Alba, Ferica García Lorca, Manchester University Press, 1983 (p.65)



[16] http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2003/great-directors/berlanga/


CRUMBAUGH, Justin, Destination Dictatorship: the spectacle of Spain’s tourist boom and the reinvention of difference, SUNY Press, 2009

GARCÍA LORCA, Federico, La casa de Bernarda Alba, ed by H. Ramsden (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996).

MAXWELL, K, SPIEGEL, S, The New Spain: From Isolation to influence, Council on Foreign Relations Press, New York, 1994,

Kinder, Marsha, Blood Cinema: The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993)

El Verdugo. Dir. BERLANGA, José Luis García, Interlagar Films, 1962