UCL European Institute


French but not (Q)White: Defining Frenchness for the 21st Century: Prof. Mame-Fatou Niang

27 February 2024, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Mame-Fatou Niang

Join us for the fourth event in the [Black Europe] Speaker Series, as Prof. Mame-Fatou Niang (Carnegie Mellon University) explores 'Frenchness' in the 21st Century.

Event Information

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Helene Neveu-Kringelbach


Lecture Theatre 106
Roberts Building
Torrington Place

This talk is held jointly between UCL European Institute and the Centre for French and Francophone Research.

Race and racism do not exist in contemporary France where they supposedly lie lifeless, slain by the Republican sword that felled them in 1789. This talk will analyze France's refusal to consider race as a valid category of analysis, when it functions precisely as an instantaneous element of natural belonging to the national group for whites (irrespective of their citizenship status), and an indelible mark of foreignness, probationary acceptance, or impossible inclusion in the case of non-whites.

More specifically, this talk weights on what the refusal to “see” race has meant for France’s engagement with African countries and African citizens. Ultimately, by confronting the silences around race, racism and colonial memory, this lecture will propose keys to mend the Republic's broken promise of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Mame-Fatou Niang is an Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, the author of Identités Françaises (Brill, 2019), the co-author of Universalisme (Anamosa, 2022), and the founder and director of the Center for Black European Studies and the Atlantic. Mame-Fatou conducts research on economies of the living/living economy, Blackness in Contemporary France, and French Universalism.

She is an Artist-in-Residence at the Ateliers Médicis in Paris, working on a project entitled “Échoïques” (Sounds of Silence), a sound tapestry presented in June 2023 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

In 2015, Mame-Fatou co-directed “Mariannes Noires: Mosaïques Afropéennes” with Kaytie Nielsen, a sophomore in her French class. The film follows seven Afro-French women as they investigate the pieces of their mosaic identities, and unravel what it means to be Black and French, Black in France. In 2021, Mame-Fatou served as the Melodia Jones Distinguished Chair of French Studies at University at Buffalo.