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Title: Foreign Affairs, Family Matters: Gender and Acculturation in Paris, 1914-1940
Authors: Barton, Nimisha
Advisors: Nord, Philip G.
Canaday, Margot
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Acculturation
Public Policy
Subjects: European history
Gender studies
Ethnic studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation depicts a lively, melting-pot neighborhood in working-class Paris between the world wars, when the rate of immigration to France surpassed even that of the United States. It investigates how modern nation-states integrate immigrant men and women on fundamentally different terms and how gender politics shape the integration process. To date, the study of immigration in both France and the US has served as a window onto restrictive public policies and exclusivist public debates. Meanwhile, social histories of immigrant groups depict monocultural communities in which women feature simply as occasional faces in a foreign-born crowd. In both veins of scholarship, categories of race, ethnicity and nationality take precedence despite the fact that a significant number of immigrant women and families settled in interwar France during a period of acute population crisis. This project is the first to address the importance of gender, family and reproduction in immigration and integration processes against this historical backdrop. The dramatic "crisis of depopulation" that gripped France at the end of the nineteenth century and sharpened considerably after the First World War ironically opened up a rare moment of national inclusion for immigrants. Faced with the alarming reality of falling birthrates, a variety of state and social actors welcomed foreign-born men and women to interwar France. Employers, labor recruiters, social workers, and local and state officials enacted populationist policies on behalf of immigrant wives and mothers, often at the expense of foreign husbands. For their own part, immigrant women turned the state's benevolent paternalism to their advantage, lobbying persistently - and successfully - for generous welfare provisions. By contrast, immigrant bachelors and husbands found state officials less receptive to their demands. Thus, while the state integrated foreigners, it did so through the twin logics of disciplinary paternalism and supportive maternalism geared towards immigrant men and women, respectively. Although interaction with state representatives significantly shaped working-class immigrant existence, the foreign-born spent most of their lives on the fringes of officialdom, in neighborhoods throughout France that were growing increasingly multicultural between the wars. Immigrant women in particular joined in a lively apartment-house and neighborhood culture that bound French and foreign locals together. Though they often served as the connective tissue of neighborhood life, their role has received no attention in the literature to date. Over time, they adopted patterns of employment, marriage, fertility, and childrearing indistinguishable to those of their French neighbors. Thus, a particularly female form of mutual aid and neighborhood association functioned as foreign women's primary path to acculturation. To capture this multi-faceted story, I draw on municipal statistics, laws, naturalization dossiers, census reports, police files, court cases and social service records as well as interwar fiction, memoirs and films. Through this unique combination of materials, I uncover supportive state policies directed towards women while underscoring immigrant women's own agency in acculturation processes at state and local levels. I also show that immigrant men, although incorporated into the nation via the familial form, received a comparatively cooler welcome from state and social actors. In the process, this project contributes to the transnational literatures on immigration, gender and sexuality, and the welfare state.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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