One-Hundred Million No Longer: Learning to Be French in the Era of Decolonization, 1944-1992 Open Access

Dunn, John Kevin (2014)

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This study examines the ways in which schoolchildren in France were taught what it meant to be French in the "era of decolonization." The loss of the colonial empire was a crucial source of the instability of French national identity in the decades after the Second World War. This dissertation argues that schools in general and history education in particular were central to the French state's efforts to contend with this instability. While universal education's role in constructing national identity during the Third Republic (1870-1940) is well-established, few have interrogated education's role in re-constructing national identity at this later moment when Frenchness seemed profoundly in doubt.

Throughout the late-colonial period, history curricula for French pupils went to great lengths to accomplish a double move: placing imperialism in the republican tradition and persuading students to see themselves as imperial citizens. In the wake of colonial independence, textbooks adopted and proffered deterministic narratives of decolonization and modernization. Both narratives were instrumental in allowing French pupils to compartmentalize the events of the previous decades and to resurrect French grandeur in new guises. And yet, even within these discourses, textbook authors redeployed colonial tropes in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Postcolonial theory suggests that decolonization is a process that takes place in the societies of the colonizers as well as those of the colonized. This dissertation both examines the process by which that decolonization has been carried out and exposes just how much remains to be done.

Meanwhile, throughout the postwar period, educational reformers--such as those associated with Célestin Freinet's Modern School movement and with interculturalism--tried to imagine alternatives to apparently hegemonic discourses of national belonging. The surprising frequency with which these reformers acquired the outright support, or at least the benign neglect, of state officials confutes traditional narratives of the French educational system as a monolithic leviathan. The successes and failures of these reformers illuminate just what was "thinkable" or possible within their historical contexts, exposing the edifices and assumptions of state power along the way.

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Chapter 1. The Symbolic Violence of the Heroic Narrative: Colonial Conquest in Cours Élémentaire Textbooks, 1944-1985...30

Chapter 2. "We, at the School, Know Gutric Well": Writing National and Imperial Identities in Célestin Freinet's Écoles Modernes, 1953-1962...94

Chapter 3. The Founding Myths of Decolonization: Teaching the End of Empire in the Primary Schools of the Fifth Republic...149

Chapter 4. "France, With Its Modest Dimensions": Modernization and the Search for Great Power Status in a Constricted Age...201

Chapter 5. Decoupling Assimilation and Integration: The Discursive Failure of Intercultural Education Reform since the 1970s...262



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