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Past and present, colony and metropolis. By Jim House.

Dr James (Jim) House is a Senior Lecturer in French at Leeds University. With co-author Neil MacMaster (UEA, Norwich) he has published Paris 1961: Algerians, State Terror, and Memory (Oxford University Press, 2006). This book also received a French translation in 2008 (Tallandier publishers). Our thanks goes to Professor Margaret Majumdar for her help. Past and present, colony and metropolis. Recent months in France have seen a number of prominent and disturbing cases of alleged police violence against racialized minorities. In circumstances such as these, historians are often asked by journalists and civil society groups to assess how and to what extent the colonial past influences the present, notably here with regard to postcolonial minorities, policing, socio-ethnic segregation, and racism. In discussing these themes, my article will argue that we often need to be cautious when claims are made for a strong similarity (if not identical situation) between past and present, an assumption that seems often to inform many of the questions I receive. It is precisely the historian’s role to examine the ‘space’ that exists between what may indeed be similar yet which is not identical between past and present. Rather like with debates on the usefulness or not of the […]

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