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Black Europeanism

Kersuze Simeon

The topic of discussion that I would like to address at the conference is primarily the concept of black Europeanism, through an examination of black European history and identity formation. The questions and conceptual frameworks to be examined are pertinent to historical studies of black Europeans in general; however, I will focus the various analyses of the presentation on black Europeans of African and Caribbean descent living in France. The presentation will investigate the demographics of blacks living in France (through lineage, generations in France, educational background, profession) to theorize on the perceptions that blacks have of themselves in terms of continental, national, and cultural identities.

In the presentation and representation of black European history one must a priori consider a number of base questions — some of which are already mentioned in the “potential research questions.” Namely, who is a black European? At what point does one become a black European as opposed to a Senegalese living in France, or a Franco-Congolese, i.e., one of French nationality and Congolese stock? Furthermore, how do Martinicans and Guadeloupeeans living in the metropolis and/or the Caribbean perceive themselves? Is their identity formation and perception general/uniform for all Guadeloupeeans and Martinicans, or does it become an individual choice? Finally, how do white Europeans view blacks in Europe? How do the Africans who are not or do not consider themselves Europeans view black Europeans? How do inhabitants of the French Département d’Outre-Mer who do not consider themselves French view and interact with black European relatives and neighbors? Can one be European when he/she was born and raised in the Caribbean (referring to Afro-Caribbean of the French Département D’Outre-Mer)?

These fundamental questions reveal the complexity of the concept of black Europeanism as well as the reality of blacks living in Europe. These questions challenge and help investigate the notions of identity and culture, of belonging and displacement, of native national identity and inherited identity and culture. Taking into consideration the various social, cultural, political, communal and individual elements that encircle black Europeanism, my presentation will examine the cultural and political connections between black Europeans and their African or Caribbean roots.

It will examine the past and present socio-political issues of Africa and the Caribbean — which are often in relation to governmental regulations and decisions in Europe and/or the United States — and the position of blacks in Europe on those various issues; notably, the issues of relevant education for black Europeans and the black Diaspora. Within the question of pertinent education, lies the importance of acquiring not only European languages, but also ancestral nation languages from Africa and the Caribbean. The analysis of the acquisition of European and African or Caribbean nation languages will also be examined on a broader level, that is on the dimension of cultural communication between black Europeans, white Europeans, Africans and Afro-Caribbeans.

The particular topic of identity formation and perception of black Europeans, through the investigation of relevant education and socio-political languages, is in accordance with my larger research interests. My greater research interest focuses on the historical trajectory of socio-political and literary movements of the black Diaspora, dating from the 19th to 20th century. The historical thread of my research emphasizes the role of education within the black Diaspora, particularly on the movements that were taking place throughout the world; notably, in Haiti, France, Ghana, the Congo, England, the United States. Education was/is a foundational element for self-reclamation and valorization, for nation-building and race-building. Hence, to speak of the identity as well as the presentation and representation of black Europeans, is to acknowledge the role of history and education, and the importance of socio-cultural and political dialogues between blacks in Europe, their ancestors in Africa and the black Diaspora.

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