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The Biopolitics of Otherness: Undocumented Foreigners and Racial Discrimination in French

Public Debate
Author(s): Didier Fassin
Source: Anthropology Today, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 3-7
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
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The of otherness

Undocumented foreigners and racial discrimination in French public debate

DIDIER FASSIN The 'immigration debate' in France was marked in the independent administrative body to address this question.
DidierFassinis Professorat 1990s by two important events: the growth of the 'sans- As a result of this report, in March 2000, Prime Minister
sciencessocialesandat the papiers' movement which brought the issue of undocu- Lionel Jospin announced the appointment of a national
mented foreigners to the fore, and the admission of the Commission for the Study of Discrimination (Groupe d'?-
University ofParisNorth,and
Directorof theCentrefor existence of racial discrimination in various social con- tude des discriminations). The state thus recognized and
ResearchonPublicHealth texts. The significant issue here is less the phenomena in revealed the gap between the ideology promulgated in the
Issues.He hasconducted
researchinSenegal,Ecuador, themselves than their eruption into public space, and the name of the republican ideal and the reality reflected in the
Southern AfricaandFrance, consequences for French self-perception and for French daily lives of foreign residents and their families.
andhismaininterestis in the people's relationship to otherness. In sociological terms these two phenomena - sudden
of On the one hand, confronted with the social movement increased awareness of undocumented foreigners and
of undocumented foreigners and the support it received recognition of racial discrimination - are distinct, one
from community associations, intellectuals, artists and referring to the legal status of men and women moving
even elected officials, the French public became aware transnationally in the context of globalization (Kearney
I amgratefulto Miriam that those it had been accustomed to viewing as 'illegal 1995), the other linked with social representations and
Ticktinforhervaluablehelpin workers' were in reality often men and women who had
thetranslation practices vis-?-vis immigrants and their descendants
been settled legally in France for long periods of time. within a national framework (Bonilla-Silva 1997).
French,to Dalby,Pancho,
PessinandPlantuforagreeing These immigrants were a heterogeneous group, and had Nevertheless, at the level of individual experience they are
to reproduction of theirwork, entered into clandestinity for various reasons: they more closely connected than they might seem, since, for
andto ATrefereesforhelping included wives or children who had joined husbands or
meclarifymyperspective on example, the illegitimate status of undocumented for-
someof theissuesdiscussedin fathers, themselves legal residents for years, young people eigners nurtures the negative perception of immigrants in
thistext. who had come as children and been prosecuted for petty general and, reciprocally, racism provides an ideological
1. Fortheconsequences of crimes in adolescence, students who had had to abandon basis for restricting the legitimacy of transnational move-
thesans-papiers movement on their studies after failing exams, and asylum-seekers ments. More importantly, however, the two phenomena
intellectual andpoliticallife, whose claims had been rejected. In other words, this hith- have an anthropological trait in common which has passed
analysisof theissueas a erto distant and illegitimate Other' suddenly appeared to largely unnoticed in the heated debates that they have pro-
whole,seeD. Fassin,A. be humanly close and socially acceptable. Furthermore, voked in France. Albeit in different ways, both manifest an
MoriceandC. Quiminal (eds) the effects of the increasingly restrictive legislation and
1997. unprecedented form, at least in the French context, of man-
2. Publicization of racial administrative practices of the past 25 years brought to agement of immigrant populations.
discrimination is alsoa major light the extent to which the state and civil society were In the case of undocumented foreigners, as all other pos-
issuein theBritishandNorth responsible for the very production of this illegality.1 The sibilities of getting a residence permit were progressively
American debate,as shownby
M. Banton(1999).Foran 'sans-papiers' movement was widely supported, as a 1998 restrained by successive legislation, health and illness
approach to thephenomenon poll bears out: one in two French people, rising to two in have increasingly become the most legitimate ground for
in France,seeP. Bataille three young people, were of the opinion that all undocu- awarding legal status from the point of view of both the
(1998). mented foreigners should be given legal status. In a similar state authorities and lawyers and advocates of the immi-
3. WhileFoucaultdidnot
discussthethemeof spirit, the socialist government elected in June 1997 was grants' cause. In the same way, while civil and political
immigration explicitly,his prompted to issue a ministerial instruction defining criteria rights have been increasingly eroded by repeated modifi-
analysesarepertinent, from for legalization from which 80,000 immigrants subse- cations of the law and by unmonitored administrative
theadministration of the
quently benefited, and promulgated a new law on the entry practices, the widely recognized legal right to health care
suffering bodywhichis and residence of foreigners. has hardly been challenged, even by the most conservative
inscribed in thelogicof 'help
to live andallowto die'of On the other hand, French people's belief that France participants in the immigration debate. The suffering body
biopolitics(1976),to the was promoting an almost unique model of republican inte- has imposed its own legitimacy where other grounds for
handlingof theracialized body gration, bypassing both the communitarianism and the
whichis incorporated in his recognition were increasingly brought into question.
pieceonthe 'racewars' xenophobia which often characterized other countries' In the case of racial discrimination, the political change
(1997). policies, was confronted with evidence that discriminatory resulted from another form of bodily inscription. Until
4. Thecollectedworksof practices based on assumed racial differences were multi- very recently, as far as immigrants were concerned, the
shedlighton thisquestionin plying in French neighbourhoods, schools, factories, only differences that the French were prepared to
relationto societiesthatare courts, hospitals and night clubs, mostly targeting people acknowledge related to culture, either promoted or stig-
eithersociallyor of African origin. It became clear that inequalities had to matized; the only inequalities that they allowed them-
geographically distant,butare be analysed not simply in terms of the traditional cate- selves to examine derived from nationality, i.e. from a
totallysilenton theproduction
of thebodyin the gories of social class, profession, or even nationality, but legal definition of identity. All other distinctions, particu-
contemporary Westernworld. also from the point of view of origin, real or presumed, as larly those based on physical traits or biological character-
5. Thesestatisticsforthe identified through skin colour or foreign-sounding names. istics, were unanimously condemned, to the point of
Officially presented as an effort to avoid further stigma- defining the political boundary between the acceptable and
by theFrenchOfficeforthe-
Protection of Refugeesand tizing immigrants and their descendants, the denial of unacceptable, between legitimate political parties and the
StatelessPeople(OFPRA). these practices had long served to enforce a law of silence extreme right. Thus denied, racial discrimination was
Therisein 1998doesnot within both the political and the scientific spheres. assumed to be inexistent, in spite of all proofs to the con-
contradict thisanalysis,since
halfof theagreements concern However, during the 1990s a series of studies, investiga- trary. For the state and also for civil society, the current
childrenof refugeeswhohave tions, legal actions and public interventions by human recognition of a discrimination apparently based in
reachedtheageof majority, rights and anti-racist groups gradually began to expose this 'nature', unacceptable though it is, is thus a radical inno-
leadingLegoux(1999)to blind spot.2 In 1998, for the first time, an official report by vation. The racialized body has become the most illegiti-
estimatetherealnumber of
newrefugeesat2200. the High Council on Integration (Haut conseil ? l'int?gra- mate object of social differentiation, yet one whose
6. Theseunpublished tion) focused on the issue of racism through an account of existence can no longer be denied.
figureswereobtained fromthe discrimination in France and proposed the creation of an The two phenomena in fact correspond to two different

Departmental Directorate of political approaches to the immigrant body: the legiti- account by drawing new boundaries of legitimacy for
macy of the suffering body proposed in the name of a immigrants.
(DASS)of theSeine-Saint- common humanity is opposed to the illegitimacy of the
Denisd?partement, wherethe
statisticsweregathered as part racialized body, promulgated in the name of insurmount- Asylum and humanitariarism
of a research projectrunby D. able difference. In the first case, the Other comes from Two changes are particularly remarkable, both for the
Delettre(1999),andfromthe outside and the treatment of his/her body depends on the inverse relationship of their statistical trends and for the
Directorate of PublicLibertyat
theHomeOffice,where hospitality of the host country. In the second, the Other is underlying significance of these trends. These concern the
statisticsweregathered froma already inside and the treatment of his/her body calls into right to asylum and the humanitarian rationale.
poolof 38,000appealsto the question the social order. The body has become the site Over a period of ten years from the end of 1980s, the
Ministry. of inscription for the politics of immigration, defining number of foreigners granted political asylum in France
7. Infact,thisrightis
limitedby theknowledge of what we can call, using Foucauldian terminology,3 a decreased sixfold, gradually stabilizing at under 2000
andusagebyadministrative biopolitics of otherness. Analysis of this issue can pro- refugees per year. This decrease results from two distinct
officialsandsocialworkers vide a means to understand the unprecedented anthropo- but related changes: the number of claims submitted fell
withwhomimmigrants come
intocontact(Bourdillon, logical dimensions of the production of the body4 in by a third, and the proportion of claims accepted was
Lombrail, Antoniet al. 1991); contemporary societies. halved.5 The significant decrease in the number of
however,reminders of thelaw refugees obviously does not derive from a more peaceful
issuedbyboththestateand world in the 1990s; it essentially results from the intensifi-
community associations
contributed to greateraccessin cation of border officials' practice of driving back asylum
the 1990s. seekers, and from the strictness of administrators who
8. Theroleof physicians in assess the claims submitted. The prevailing attitude of
therecognition of therightof
sickforeigners to be treated, officials at the French Office for the Protection of
whatever theirlegalstatus,has Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA) is to view claims
beencrucial,butit is with suspicion; in fact, only one in ten applications for
remarkable thattheir
and political asylum is approved. The Geneva Convention is
professional organizations
unionshaveremained silenton thus applied in an increasingly restrictive manner, espe-
thesubject,which,hasbecome cially as France has introduced a ruling that restricts the
thecentralcauseof medical granting of political asylum to victims of state persecution:
associations intervening in
this interpretation of the treaty has allowed officials to
generalhumanitarian issues
(M?decins sansfronti?res, reject nearly all applications from Algerians as coming
M?decins dumonde,etc.)or from victims of Islamic terrorism (at least until the end of
morespecificallyfor CartoonbyThierry
Dalbyillustrating 'sarticleon
TaharBen-Jelloun the 1990s, when a specific right to 'territorial asylum' was
immigrants (Comede,Remede, racismin LeMonde,29-30March1998.
etc.).Nevertheless, thestriking created, although parsimoniously implemented).
phenomenon is therelative At the same time, another category of foreigners was
noveltyof thiscommitment The recognition of bodies being granted an increasing number of legal permits:
andthepublicsupportit has In France, as in most Western European countries, the
received. people with illnesses, or more specifically, people with
9. Infact,theproductive question of illegal immigration has become a critical life-threatening pathologies who are declared unable to
valueof theimmigrant body public policy issue. The creation of the Schengen space receive proper treatment in their home countries. Once
hasnotcompletely represented an attempt to bring a policy solution at the these two criteria (severe pathology and absence of thera-
disappeared. Itis maintained in
threemainforms:thepresence European level - but one whose limits are clearly revealed peutic alternative) have been confirmed by medical
of temporary andpermanent by the continuing influx of immigrants from the Balkans to experts, the patient receives a temporary legal permit, for-
agricultural workers; the the Italian coast and from Africa to Spanish beaches. The merly endorsed for 'humanitarian reasons' and now
development of active rhetoric surrounding this question has been clearly
informal(illegal)economiesin simply for 'medical care'. This status is doubly precarious,
sectorssuchas construction exposed in the public debate: on the one hand, the rich because it must be renewed every three to twelve months
andclothing;andmore countries cannot absorb 'the poverty of the earth', as and because it is frequently accompanied by a prohibition
recently,thecallfora highly former socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard put it; on against working. Although there are no national statistics
qualifiedworkforce the other hand, strict regulation of the undocumented is a available for this time period, local figures indicate that in
specificallyin thecomputer
industry. Ineachof these prerequisite for integration of the documented, justifying the d?partement with the largest number of claims for
cases,we cannevertheless the slogan 'zero illegal immigration' devised by Charles legalization, applications for this humanitarian permit
speakof a marginalization of Pasqua, former conservative Minister of the Interior. increased sevenfold over the course of the 1990s, reaching
theimmigrant workforce, Yet this apparently coherent argumentation has been 1000 per year; three-quarters of these were favourably
corresponding to a
'globalization frombelow' contradicted by the evidence that a rapidly growing assessed. At the national level, after the 1997-98 campaign
(Portes1999). number of undocumented foreigners do not correspond for legalization, 10 per cent of residence permits were
10.Theword'race' to the stereotype of the 'clandestine', but rather have a granted on medical grounds.6 This evolution reflects a
obviouslydoesnotdesignatea certain legitimate claim to legal status through the
biologicalorphysicalreality, political concern to respect the European Convention on
butrefersto a socialconstruct number of years they have spent in the host country, the Human Rights, transgressions of which have previously
basedon therecognition of a services they have provided, the family ties they have led to several rulings against the French state by the
foundation of differenceand developed, or the threats they would face if they should European Court of Justice.
produced in a historical return home. This evidence debunks the official rhetoric, The correlation between the marked decrease in political
contextof economicand indicating that the country is confronted not only with asylum and the increasing recognition of humanitarianism
politicaldomination. poverty from abroad, but also with the results of its own is not mere coincidence. Associations defending the rights
corresponding rhetoricrelate political processes, and that the boundary between docu- of immigrants and state immigration services alike are cur-
moreto thenational mented and undocumented is much less clear than was rently asking asylum-seekers whose claims have been
mythology thanto social previously maintained, since it is possible to lose or gain refused whether they might have a 'pathology to put for-
realities.As demonstrated by residence permits depending on changes in legislation.
G?rard Noiriel(1988),the ward', leading them to increasingly treat the humanitarian
stigmatization immigrants Thus, the question is less about who is legally present rationale 'as a priority' and political asylum 'by sub-
hasbeena permanent, albeit than who can legitimately claim legal status. In pub- sidiarity', as a senior official at the Ministry of the Interior
unrecognized, featureof
lishing the ministerial instruction of 24 June 1997, which has put it. Thus greater importance is ascribed to the suf-
the 19thcentury. specifies the various criteria for legalization of undocu- fering body than to the threatened body, and the right to life
12.Cf. SocialistPrime mented migrants, and in proposing the law of 11 May is being displaced from the political to the humanitarian
MinisterLaurent Fabius' 1998 which defines the conditions of entry and residence arena. It is more acceptable for the state to turn down an
famousphraseaboutthe for foreigners, the French government took this shift into asylum claim, declaring it unfounded, than to reject a med-

NationalFrontleader:'MrLe between manipulation, which appears when medical
Penasksgoodquestionsto records are falsified, and somatization, evident when
material conditions provoke an illness, is often all the
governments of boththeright lui DoNwfc more difficult to discern, as immigrants live in precarious
??*/ foufs ^?'??
andtheleftthrewthemselves situations productive of psychological as well as physical
intoa legislativecompetition effects: depressive syndromes and gastric ulcers are
thataimedto setincreasingly
restrictive common pathologies. The everyday life of undocumented
policies.Thiscontributed to foreigners thus often becomes a social experience of suf-
the 'immigration ;>-.
question' fering, where the pathos expresses the harshness of cir-
beingplacedatthecentreof cumstances and simultaneously serves as a resource to
13.Thefiguresaretaken justify one's existence. The narrative relationship to one's
fromtwoarticlesin LeMonde, own history and body, created by the repetition of self-
dated16March2000and10 justifying accounts to state authorities, generates a
August2000.According to the
authors of thestudy,the pathetic self-image (Fassin, 2000b). The undocumented
percentage of peoplewhocall foreigner perceives him/herself as a victim reduced to
themselves'non-racist' - 29% soliciting compassion.
- is 'thelowestsincethe
Unskilled immigrants have long been considered a nec-
creationof thispoll'. 'Seeingtheway he'sstandingupto ourbeating,maybehe is a genuine
14.Drawingonthe ' an articleonpolice essary complement to the native workforce, required for
asylumseeker. CartoonbyPessinaccompanying
population projections made violenceagainstasylumseekers,LeMonde,23 December1998. the economic development of rich countries. Their bodies
by theHighCommission on were instruments in the service of the host country and
Population in 1980andonthe ical opinion recommending a temporary legal permit for their labour conferred upon them a legitimacy that the law
polemicaldiscussions that
appeared fiveyearslaterin the health reasons. But this should not simply be seen as cynical often only confirmed a posteriori, as their work permit
generalandscientificpress,le pragmatism aimed at keeping France out of the European actually constituted their legal documentation (Weil
Bras(1997)questioned the courtroom: it also demonstrates the existence of shared 1991). In this context, the sick or injured body was sus-
ideological premisesforequal
treatment of theforeign moral principles that recognize the biological truth inscribed pect in the eyes of both doctors and the state, to the extent
population andthepopulation on the body as the ultimate source of legitimacy (Fassin, that a specific pathological condition was created - 'sin-
of foreignorigin,producing 2000a). Bodily integrity threatened by ascertained illness is istrosis', an intermediary form between simulation and
dramatic demographic not only seen as legitimate, in contrast to bodily integrity hysteria (Sayad 1999). Today, as industry's need for
extrapolations (entitled'Will
we stillbe Frenchin 30 confronted with potential violence, but ultimately provides unskilled labour has diminished considerably, immigrants
years?').Inherhostile the basis for the right to live legally on French soil. swell the ranks of the unemployed and are three times
response,despitecriticizing his more likely than nationals to have no job. In a context
methodological andrhetorical where their productive bodies have become useless -
moves,Tribalat Rights and pathos
to addressthecentralpointof However, this right would make no sense if it were not even undesirable - because of real or supposed competi-
hisargument, combined with access to health care. French law gives for-
whichis about tion in the workforce, it is the suffering body that society
relianceon a biological is prepared to recognize.9 Far from evoking distrust or
eigners access to medical allowances nearly identical to
definitionof immigration.
15.JacquesChirac,notyet those offered to nationals, provided they are permanent suspicion, illnesses or accidents seem to be the only
atthetimepresident of theand legal residents. Those who do not have legal status source of legitimacy to which many undocumented immi-
Republic,commented onthe
benefit from state medical insurance (Aide m?dicale Etat) grants can lay claim.
annoyance of Africanfamilies'
and have free access to medical care, including examina- When economic transformations in the Western world
'odours'in Frenchinnercities;
thisshockeda portionof the tions and prescriptions. The main restriction is for those have made immigrants into 'workers without work, that is,
Frenchpublic,becausethe who have lived in France for less than three years, whose deprived of the only activity left for them', as Hannah
cultural practicesthatwere access is limited to hospital care. The legislative remodel- Arendt (1958) phrases it, the body expresses no more than
denounced (theirtable what Giorgio Agamben calls 'bare life' - existence
manners) evokedphysical ling of the social security system, introduced on 1 January
characteristics 2000 to bring in 'universal medical coverage' (CMU), has
atthesametime reduced to its physical expression or, in this case, the
(andthusrepresented an resulted in modified arrangements, but retains free treat- recognition of the human being through its pathology. The
ordinary formof racism). ment for undocumented foreigners. Thus, the right to biopolitics of otherness must here be understood as an
health care appears to be the most extensive of all rights
of thisdisciplinein extreme reduction of the social to the biological: the body
France,TobieNathan,pleaded given to immigrants, whatever their legal status: it is more appears to be the ultimate refuge of a common humanity.
for 'ghettosso thata family comprehensive than any civil or political right, greater
wouldneverhaveto abandon than all other social rights (Marshall 1965).7 Not even the The racialization of difference
its culturalsystem'and
denounced most restrictive legislation, such as the Pasqua laws of
childrenof African The 'idea of race' can also be seen as a reduction of the
parentsraisedin Franceas 1993 and the Debr? laws of 1997, has actually called this social to the biological, but in an inverse sense (Banton
'janissaries whitenedin right into question. 1977). It challenges the notion of a common humanity by
republican schools'(Fassin
The privileged status assigned to the body in legaliza- differentiating among people at the deepest level of their
tion procedures and in access to health care has affected being, looking for the marks of origins.10 Racial discrimi-
Agamben, G. 1997.Homo immigrants' consciousness of their identity. In legit- nation is founded on an insurmountable difference,
sacer:Lepouvoirsouverain because it is inscribed in the body, indeed even in the
et la vienue.Paris:Seuil. imizing illness to the point where it becomes the only jus-
tification for their presence in France, society condemns genes (Simpson 2000). Twentieth-century France gave
m?tisses.Paris:Payot. many undocumented foreigners to exist officially only as less credence to racial discourse than did many other
Arendt,H. 1958.Thehuman people who are ill. It is in this sense that we can speak of European and North American countries, despite the fact
condition. Chicago: the embodiment of a social condition of immigrant that certain French intellectuals and doctors were attracted
University of Chicago
Press. (Fassin, 2001). Having become a resource for undocu- to racial theories associated with eugenics, and that in cer-
Banton,M. 1977.Theideaof mented foreigners in their struggles with the administra- tain periods the French state developed conceptions of the
race.London:Tavistock tion, the suffering body is placed before physicians who nation which employed biological referents (Wiewiorka
? 1999.Reporting onrace.
must then decide whether or not to grant legal status: the 1993). Any suggestion that difference or inequality is
Anthropology Today (3): immigrant searches in his/her history and his/her symp-
15 founded on biology has been considered illegitimate and
1-3. toms for something that will help obtain the hoped-for even illegal, since it can be prosecuted under the 1881 law
Bataille,P. 1998.Leracisme legal authorization, at the risk of hearing the doctor say prohibiting the 'incitement to acts of discrimination, hate
au travail.Paris:La
D?couverte. that the pathology offered is not 'serious enough' to back or violence on the basis of origin or racial or religious affil-
Benthall,J. 1997. up the claim.8 In this social interaction, where the immi- iation'. In this respect, French republican ideology is
Repercussions fromthe grant must offer proof of his/her illness, the distinction grounded in the universalism of natural law (Amselle

EgliseSaint-Bernard. proportions of immigrants and their families. Thus,
Anthropology Today13(4): although restrictive policies were efficiently reducing
flows from abroad (between the 1990 and 1999 censuses,
Bonilla-Silva,E. 1997.
Rethinking racism. the number of foreigners fell by 9%), the populations seen
American Sociological as outsiders paradoxically became more visible.
Review62:465-479. Meanwhile, practices of racial discrimination became
Bourdillon,F., Lombrail, P.,
more and more obvious on the labour market where
Antoni, al. 1991.La
sant?despopulations industry could ask for 'bleu-blanc-rouge' candidates
d'origine?trang?re en (meaning 'whites'), in access to private housing where
France.SocialScienceand black skin or Arabic names were common negative selec-
Medicine32 (11):1219-
1227. tion criteria (as proved by 'testing'), and in interactions
Delettre,D. 1999.Lemaintien with administrative bodies, especially within welfare serv-
des?trangers pourraison ices (Simon, 1998). According to the annual poll of the
m?dicalesurle territoire
National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, in
nationalede sant?publique. 2000,70% of French people found 'the presence of people
Fassin,D. 1999.L'indicible et of non-European origin disturbing'. And the 500 calls
Gimpens?: La 'question received each day by the hotline for victims of 'racial dis-
immigr?e' dansles
dusida.Sciences crimination', opened in 2000, indicate that this opinion
politiques F^VJCH-o
socialeset sant?17(4):5- poll does translate into fact.13It would certainly be incor-
36. 1 ' rect to assume that racism is a novelty for France: collec-
? 2000a.Politiques duvivant Sorry,butmyclientswouldn'tlikethecolourofyourtie... Cartoonby
PanchofromLeMonde,7 April1999. tive violence against foreigners, whether Italians at the end
et politiques de la vie.Pour
uneanthropologie de la of the 19th century or Algerians in the 1960s, shows how
sant?.Anthropologie et 1990): the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and far xenophobia could go. Two new elements must never-
soci?t?s24 (1):95-116. Citizen serves as a totem protecting against attempts to theless be taken into account. First, discrimination is
? 2000b.Lasupplique:
et impose ethnic divisions on social groups. Marceau Long, directed not so much against foreigners as against people
constructions identitaires president of the High Council for Integration, expresses seen as illegitimate members of French society, whatever
dansles demandes de this in locating France's choices with respect to immi- their nationality (the majority of them are French and born
secours.Annales.Histoire, in France): racism can thus no longer be hidden behind a
sciencessociales55 (5): grants and their descendants (the word Minorities' is ban-
953-981. ished from public discourse) within a 'logic of equality' legal definition. Second, discrimination has begun to be
? 2000c.Lespolitiques de which is true to Trance's very essence'.1 ' Officially then, recognized for what it is both by the perpetrators and by
l'ethnopsychiatrie: La the state has had a strategy to avoid the communitarian and the victims (on this point, there is a striking contrast
psych?africaine des between the youth of the 'second generation' and their par-
aux racialized policies of other Western countries, which serve
banlieuesparisiennes. as a convenient foil for France's own policies. ents): whether supported or denounced, racialization of
L'Homme 153:231-250. society has become a public reality.
? 2001.Unedoublepeine:La This recent shift is significant in that it clearly identifies
conditionsocialede Origin' as a new frontier
maladedusida. However, this fa?ade of a Trance of integration' the object of discrimination. If racism was previously seen
L'Homme, 158 (Schnapper, 1991) began to crumble in the 1980s, and the as the rejection of foreigners, the discovery of internal
(forthcoming). process intensified in the 1990s under the weight of the boundaries dividing a French community which finds it
?, Morice,A. andQuiminal,
C. (eds).1997.Us loisde political and social racialization of French society. increasingly difficult to perceive itself as national contrasts
Lasoci?t? Politically there was the remarkable increase in electoral with the official discourse prevailing until the 1990s.
fran?aise? l'?preuve des support for the extreme right party, the National Front, Nationality no longer suffices to define the basis for exclu-
sans-papiers. Paris:La whose leitmotif is Trance for the French' - a unique post- sion of the Other: the concrete criteria according to which a
D?couverte. landlord refuses housing, an employer rejects a job applica-
M. 1976.Histoirede World War II phenomenon. Their support rose to one in
la sexualit?,tomeI: La six voters at the national level and one in two or three in tion, a policeman decides to check for identity papers, or a
volont?de savoir.Paris: some cities, with electoral victories in a few municipali- nightclub owner chooses who enters his establishment, must
Gallimard. ties. However, it would be wrong to attribute the rise of be considered. These are phenomenological criteria that tend
? 1997.7/fautd?fendre la
soci?t?'.Coursau Coll?ge racism in political life only to the extreme right, since at primarily toward appearance, particularly skin colour, and
de France1976.Paris: the end of the 1970s, in a period when labour immigration, mainly target people not identified as European, specifically
HautesEtudes-Gallimard- which had been abruptly halted, was giving way to perma-
Seuil. nent settlement, the Communist Party was the first to sug-
(eds).1998.Laproduction gest that immigrants' right to employment, housing and
ducorps:Approches social services were unfounded. Furthermore, during the
et <Js& Amt***
anthropologiques 1980s, when the National Front succeeded in exploiting ?^ <M?oj
Amsterdam: P**^,.
Editionsdesarchives popular frustrations, the other political parties, including o*4*
contemporaines. the Socialists,12 followed its lead in questioning whether
Heller,A. 1996.Has foreigners might be the source of socio-economic difficul-
biopoliticschangedthe ties (Schain 1996). While the political discourse did not
conceptof thepolitical?
Somefurther thoughts explicitly refer to race, which remains a prohibited term,
aboutbiopolitics.InHeller, the populations targeted by this rhetoric and these laws
A. andS. Puntscher were increasingly those designated explicitly as 'unassim-
Riekmann (eds)Biopolitics:
Thepoliticsof thebody, ilable' and whose children are often distinguished as
raceandnature,3-15. 'Beurs' (youth of Arab origin). In fact, there has been a
Avebury: Aldershot. growing lexical confusion, leading to the designation of
Kearney, M. 1995.Thelocal French people born in France as 'Maghr?bins', 'Africans',
anthropology of 'foreigners' or 'immigrants', revealing how skin colour
globalization and and supposed origin have overwhelmed the legal defini-
transnationalism. Annual tion of the Other.
Reviewof Anthropology 24:
On the social front, during the same period, the phe-
Le Bras,H. 1997.Dix ansde nomenon of segregation on the basis of nationality or eth- borders'.InJune2000,58 would-be-immigrants
Openingof European
perspectives de la nicity was increasing: on the outskirts of large cities, the fromChinasuffocatedin thesealedlorryin whichtheywerebeing
population ?trang?re. low-cost housing developments today concentrate high smuggledintoBritain.CartoonbyPlantu,LeMonde,20 June2000.

Population1: 103-134. those coming from North and sub-Saharan Africa. The affected children of foreign families, 92% of them
Legoux,L. 1999.Lesp?pites underlying division of the world is no longer French vs non- African. The denial of racial discrimination thus seems to
d'orde l'OFPRA.Plein reach its highest level where it is most tangible; that is, at
Droit44: 7-10. French, nor even French-origin vs non-French-origin, but
Lochak,D. 1997.Les European-origin vs non-European-origin. the site of biological inscription itself.
politiquesde l'immigration Scientific debate is not spared the effects of this change, In fact, everything we know about the social determi-
auprismede la l?gislation which bear on social realities as much as on scientific nants of health indicate that the racial discrimination
surles ?trangers. InFassin,
means of accounting for them. One of the most virulent which has been identified in diverse spheres of activity
D., A. MoriceandC.
Quiminal(eds)Lesloisde intellectual controversies of the 1990s occurred between produces inequalities in life expectancy (Wilkinson,
Ginhospitalit?, 29-45.Paris: two researchers at the National Institute of Demographic 1996). Republican universalism finds here its deepest con-
LaD?couverte. Studies (INED) with respect to statistics about the foreign tradiction - in the recognition that a difference read on the
Marshall, T.H.1965.Class,
citizenship andsocial population: beyond the technical problems of definition body can produce an inequality in terms of sickness and
development. NewYork: and calculation, what was at stake was the scientific rele- death. In the terms of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's famous
Doubleday. vance of and the political justification for taking into discourse on inequality, the recognition that a 'natural or
Noiriel,G. 1988.Lecreuset account 'origin' in addition to nationality.14 Introducing physical' difference, socially constructed as racial dis-
l'immigration XIXe-XXe statistical distinctions based on this criterion - using the crimination, can be at the origin of the most unacceptable
- -
si?cles.Paris:Seuil. category 'Fran?ais de souche' (of French stock) was tan- 'political' or 'moral' inequality of all inequality of life
Portes,A. 1999.La tamount to legitimizing a more profound difference than -
expectancy would probably be the most radical invalida-
mondialisation parle bas: that which is established using legal status: it is only to rec- tion of the human rights rhetoric so deeply bound to the
L'?mergence des
communaut?s ognize a social reality, argued one; it officializes a racial- French self-perception.
transnationales. Actesde la ized discourse, replied the other.
recherche en sciences A two-sided biopolitics
Rousseau, J.J.1971.Discours The avatars of racial discrimination According to Agnes Heller (1996), biopolitics is 'inti-
surl Origineet les One might ask at this point, is this difference 'racial', or is mately linked to the question of identity polities'. I have
fondements de l'in?galit? it possible to make a more socially acceptable argument tried to show that it also implies necessarily a politics of
parmiles hommes. Paris: otherness. Based on the recognition of 'difference of
that it is 'cultural'? Is the distinction between European
Garnier-Flammarion. 1st
edition1754. and non-European populations - or more often and more bodies' which have race, sex, ethnicity and genes as their
Sayad,A. 1999.Ladouble implicitly, between populations of European and non- foundation, biopolitics, as she interprets it, is 'ultimately
absence:Des illusionsde
European origin - not at heart a cultural incompatibility defending the Body itself, its nature, integrity and health'.
l'?migr?auxsouffrances de
Seuil:Paris. more than a biological unassimilability?15 Indeed, this By renouncing 'membership in a common political body',
Schain,M.A.1996.The argument has often served to keep discrimination free biopolitics thus exemplifies a retreat from, and even a nega-
racialization of immigration from the suspicion of racism (Taguieff, 1991). French tion of 'politics' in the Arendtian sense of the recognition
policy:Biopoliticsand public policy has for a long time maintained an ambiguity of human diversity from a universal perspective. However,
policy-making. InHeller,
on the subject of immigrant/immigrant-origin populations, examination of French immigration politics in the 1990s
A. andS. Puntscher
Riekmann (eds)Biopolitics: promoting, on the one hand, a rhetoric of equality and uni- allows for a less pessimistic and more nuanced reading.
Thepoliticsof thebody, versalism, and on the other, special modes of treatment for The contemporary biopolitics of otherness in France
raceandnature,157-177. these populations' problems, such as housing or health. rests on one major foundation: the recognition of the body
Avebury,Aldershot. as the ultimate site of political legitimacy. But this recog-
Schnapper, D. 1991.La To take an example from the medical arena, ethnopsy-
Francede l'int?gration: chiatry, funded entirely by public money, gives specific nition takes two parallel paths. On the one hand, the suf-
Sociologiede la nationen treatment to both psychological disorders and cases of fering body manifests itself as the ultimate (but not
Sim?ant,J. 1998.Lacausedes
social deviance referred for diagnosis and treatment by unique) resource, supplanting all other social justifications
sans-papiers. Paris:Presses doctors, social workers, even judges, when the patients or for immigrants to be granted legal status and residing in a
de la Fondation nationalede the delinquents happen to be of non-European origin and basic right to keep oneself alive as long as possible. This is
sciencespolitiques. when this origin is presumed to be a source of particular a minimalist vision, but one which tends toward a uni-
Simon,P. 1998.La versal horizon. On the other hand, the racialized body
discrimination: Contexte difficulties in interpretation and handling. Cultural singu-
institutionnel et perception larity, advocated by those in favour of this type of therapy, extends from the foreigner to the national and introduces
parles immigr?s. Hommes has in fact an essentially ethnic and even racial substrate internal frontiers founded on physical difference. This is a
et migrations1211:49-67.
which, along with the failure to take into account the social discriminatory concept, which creates hierarchies between
Simpson,B. 2000.Imagined
geneticcommunities: dimension of immigrant experiences, results in a form of people. In the first case, the reduction in political asylum
Ethnicityandessentialism 'naturalization' of culture, explicitly considered as an is a corollary of the rise in the humanitarian rationale: the
in thetwenty-first century. hereditary characteristic of the individual.16 More gener- recognition of the suffering body imposes a legitimate
Anthropology Today16 (3): order defining citizenship on purely physiopathological
3-6. ally, one can say that all extreme thinking about differ-
Taguieff,P.A. 1991.Les ence, whether it be in the name of biology or culture, rests grounds. In the second, threats to human diversity lead to
m?tamorphoses on an essentialist presupposition of otherness. a response by civil society and the state, reminding us of
id?ologiques duracismeet The ambiguity of public action on the matter is best shared political values: the recognition of the racialized
la crisede Gantiracisme. In
P.A.Taguieff(ed.),Faceau illustrated by the following paradox. While the sociolog- body as principle of an illegitimate order allows for a
racisme,vol. 2, 13-63. ical reality of the racialized body has recently been the measure of return to politics through the denunciation of
Paris:LaD?couverte. object of increasing recognition and denunciation, the con- this principle by the victims and their supporters.
Tribalat, M. 1997.Une - as measured by That is to say, despite common perceptions, biopolitics
r??criturede sequences of racism on the body itself
surprenante - does not proceed by one logic. It demonstrates a tension,
l'histoire.Population1: morbidity and mortality have resisted evaluation (Fassin
137-148. 1999). Without instruments to measure discrimination or inscribed in the body, between the supreme universality of
Weil,P. 1991.LaFranceet research to understand it, it is presumed to be non-existent. life (which allows a sans-papiers with AIDS to be recog-
ses ?trangers: L'aventure nized by the state in the name of his/her pathology) and the
None of the numerous official and scientific reports on the
l'immigration de 1938? health situation in France presents data referring to this exaltation of difference, for which biology offers an
nosjours.Paris:Gallimard. issue. In the case of AIDS, public health institutions apparently insurmountable foundation (allowing each
Wieviorka, M. 1993.La waited until 1999, 18 years after the beginning of the epi- person to perceive a natural source of inequality in the
d?mocratie ? l'?preuve:
Nationalisme, populisme, demic, to publish the first report revealing the profound physical characteristics of others). If we can recognize, in
ethnicit?.Paris:La inequalities between French and foreigners in terms of an unusual form, the eternal anthropological theme of the
D?couverte. incidence of the disease, earliness of detection and access unity and diversity of the human condition, the questions
Wilkinson,R. 1996.Unhealthy to treatment. In the case of lead-poisoning caused by poor raised here certainly call for a renewed commitment from
London: living conditions, official figures never mention the fact social scientists to the critique of the contemporary foun-
Routledge. that, in the Paris region, all cases of severe intoxication dations of politics #