Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Crisis and constitution: French antiracism and belonging in the new legal order of Europe
by Tejani, Riaz, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2011, 295; 3463333
Abstract (Summary)

On May 29, 2005 the European Constitution—a project decades in the making— failed when French voters rejected it in a nationwide, popular referendum. The new document was not a beginning of European “constitutionalism” but a compilation of international treaties and court decisions that had for decades already been interpreted juridically along constitutional lines. Given the de minimus technical changes made to existing E.U. law and the eighteen national ratifications prior to the French referendum, this dissertation asks simply ‘why then, and why there?’

The Treaty was the culmination of an effort to prevent international conflict of the kind that had produced two world wars. French statesmen were instrumental in initiating the campaign and crafting the final language and support for regional integration in France had been high at previous points in time. While the E.U had already institutionalized regional cooperation in politics and economy, the new document would “constitute” a society of shared values of the kind advocated by great minds from Habermas to Kristeva. For many students of comparative constitutional law, the project was one of the most democratic in history and the ‘Non’ outcome was earth shaking.

The prevailing narrative explained the ‘Non’ in terms of political economic fears. French voters, it was said, saw in Europe the image of the “Polish plumber”—a symbol of the invasion of cheap, foreign, unskilled labor. In this dissertation, I argue that this account was epiphenomenal. Spectral fears captured in the “Polish plumber” were part of a deeper insecurity about the meaning of citizenship in mid-decade France. Entering a context deeply preoccupied with the meaning of national belonging, the European Constitution failed to generate what I term constitutional belonging—a sense of solidarity individuals feel with one another and the State through a governing constitution.

In support of this account, I draw from nearly three years of ethnographic fieldwork in the French antiracism movement prior to the 2005 referendum. There, I participated with civil and human rights activists in meetings, debates, conferences, and demonstrations in the name of non-discrimination and an inclusive citizenship. Through those encounters, as well as through dozens of personal interviews with both regular members and leaders of the major organizations, I link the moment of failed European constitutionalism in France with a deeper crisis in national identity and belonging exacerbated by the growing presence and recognition of Islam in the self-conscious, secular republic.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Greenhouse, Carol J.
School: Princeton University
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, European Studies, International law
Keywords: Constitutionalism, Ethnography, European Union, France, Racism, Social movements
Publication Number: 3463333
ISBN: 978-1-124-73523-8
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