Journal of Romance Studies

On Sartre’s critique of assimilation

Journal of Romance Studies (2006), 6, (1-2), 49–60.

Abstract

This article proposes a critical reading of Sartre’s critique of the politics of assimilation as found in several of his anti-colonialist texts. In the first instance, the essay shows that in his criticisms Sartre never questions some of the highly problematic ideological assumptions of the assimilation debate. In the second part, it is argued that Sartre’s Manichaean view of the colonized and the colonizers prevents him from appreciating the complex negotiations undertaken by the colonized in their resistance to Western hegemony. This latter point is illustrated by the case of the Indochinese intellectuals whose highly intricate response to French colonial rule shows that the discourse of assimilation and the related concern over natives’ alienation may reflect more the French’s own self-image than the predicament of the colonized.

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Ha, Marie-Paule