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Evlyn Gould (University of Oregon)
Turning Points in Multicultural Affairs: From Dreyfus to the European Union
The Dreyfus Affair or the accusation, trials and rehabilitation of one French Jewish officer wrongly accused of treason, concerns us today as a European Affair. A watershed event in end-of-the-century France because of its reassembling of traditional social and political divisions, the Affair produced a new emphasis on "cultural" values by substituting questions ofheritage, of ancestry, and of rooted ness for questions of race, and by encouraging affective public response to the tribulations of the Jewish officer (Winock, 1990; Levinas, 1976). This same affective confusing of clear political lines in favor of "cultural" positions can also be fruitfully associated with the post-1989 multicultural affairs of today's European Union. Although immigrant racism and rhetorical uses of the signifier "culture" today may not be reducible to responses to anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus years, there is, between them, an ideological symmetry.
To demonstrate this symmetry, I propose to explore in this paper the spousal of similar affective, even irrational, cultural affinities both during the time of the Dreyfus Affair and in the post-1989 multicultural affairs of today's European citizen by highlighting the emergence in each setting of powerful new civic roles. The "intellectual" who promotes universal values in the tradition of the French Revolution finds its parallel in the "Europeanist" who also proposes abstractions: an unwieldy expanding Union; an identity called "European." The "nationalist" who invokes the spirit and sentiments of the "people" to defy universal abstractions finds its parallel in today's "Eurosceptics" whose efforts to renew our memories of history seek to contest the supposed newness of EU ideologies. Between them, quotation mark "Arabs," whether marginalized or celebrated, take the place of the "Jews" in that they as individuals are deprived of voice and subjective agency while their "otherness" circulates ambiguously as a question of religious difference, of "nation," or of culture.
exploration of these civic personalities and their shifting political
dimensions from one century to the next will undertake to compare three
pairs of end-of-the-century or "turning- century" thinkers:
Emile Zola under the sway of the Dreyfus Affair and Immanuel Wallerstein
post-1989; Maurice Barres and Etienne Balibar; Bernard Lazare and Alain
Finkielkraut. In these comparisons, responses to the idea of French identity
endangered by decadence and the new mobility of the 1890s (Winock 1990)
will inform responses to the idea of a European identity endangered in
the 1990s by the collapse of the wall and with it, a secure sense of Europe
as West (Delanty 1990).
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