The Relationship between Blackness and Europeanness

Last July, the ambassador of France in New York wrote a public letter to Trevor Noah, The Daily Show’s anchor. Referring to the French soccer team, mainly composed of Black athletes, Noah had jokingly declared that Africa had won the World Cup. In the letter, the ambassador insisted upon France’s unwillingness to refer to its citizens’ ethnic or racial background: “To us, there is no hyphenated identity (…). By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness,” implying thus that one could not claim to be Black or African and French. As Noah himself recalled in his humorous answer to the ambassador, such a statement sounded quite odd in the context of renewed and intensified narratives casting Blacks as external to Europe. Since 2015, a dominant narrative has emerged about the “refugee crisis” that presents it as an overwhelming and unexpected event for European nation-states. This narrative has amplified the prevailing association of migrants’ bodies with invasion and threat. It has reinforced the collective awareness of the geographical borders of Europe, but also of its bodily borders, stabilizing stereotypes and criminalizing public representations of Black subjects.

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