Date of this Version
World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes–either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded. Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris and of how both were denied certain rights lauded by the Third Republic such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive. This compelling book maps the intellectual and physical locales that the disenfranchised residents of Paris frequented, revealing where their stories intersected and how the personal and local became political and transnational. With a focus on art, culture, and politics, this study reveals how both groups considered themselves inhabitants of a colonial metropolis and uncovers the strategies they used to colonize the city. Together, through the politics of anti-imperialism, communism, feminism, and masculinity, these urbanites connected performances of colonial and feminine tropes, such as Josephine Baker’s, to contestations of the colonial system.