From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- For a specific analysis of the population of France, see Demographics of France. For a more precise analysis on the nationality and identity of France, see French citizenship and identity and French nationality law. For information about French-speaking people around the world, see French language or Francophonie..
|French nationality/French speaking/French ancestry claimed|
|French citizens||French speakers||French ancestry/ethnic origin claimed|
|United States of America||85,010||1,600,000  (including creoles and local dialects such as Cajun)||8,309,666 not including 2,349,684 of French Canadian ancestry |
 The problematic definition of the "French people"
The French people (French: les Français), etymologically derives from the word Franks (which means "free"), a Germanic tribe which overran Roman Gaul at the end times of the Roman Empire.
In defining the French people, one must first distinguish between the legal sense of the term and the ethno-cultural sense. In a legal sense, the French people are the sovereign people of France, composed of all French citizens, regardless of ethnic origins or religious opinions. The French people therefore comprise all French citizens, including the French overseas departments and territories. Henceforth, members from any ethnic group can be included in the French people, as long as they have French nationality, whether by jus soli ("right of territory") or by naturalization.
The second sense is not necessarily equivalent to the concept of Français de souche or "indigenous" French, which is often used by the traditional discourse of extreme-right groups such as the Front National (FN). French ethnicity, being that of a large and diverse nation-state, is relatively complex and heterogeneous. Following Smith's definition of ethnicity, members of the French ethnic group are united by common ties of language, culture and a sense of common ancestry. It would be unfounded to class a French national, with no knowledge of the French language, no French ancestry nor any shared cultural traits with its fellow citizens as pertaining to the French ethnicity. Identity is also an important factor: A French citizen must identify as French and as sharing these common bonds with other members of this ethnic group. Finally, there is the question of political allegiance to the French Republic. Since the French Revolution, French national identity has been forged on the basis of citizenship creating an identitarian structure similar to that of the United States. Successive waves of immigrants during the 20th century were thus rapidly assimilated into French culture. Racial and cultural tensions persist among minority groups who, nevertheless, still identify as pertaining to France, sharing some bonds which transcend citizenship.
The complexity of what it means to be French has led to multiple definitions of this concept, from narrow legal ones, to attempts to classify the French on the basis of their ancestry:
According to Dominique Schnapper, member of the Constitutional Council of France, "The classical conception of the nation is that of an entity which, opposed to the ethnic group, affirms itself as an open community, the will to live together expressing itself by the acceptation of the rules of an unified public domain which transcends all particularisms" This definition is problematic for a number of reasons:
- The concept of an open community based entirely on citizenship and common values contradicts the state endorsement of one official language, culture and identity. French centralism effectively forbids multiculturalism in France and, to a large extent, imposes French identity and "ethnicity" on immigrant communities and minority groups.
- A definition of French people based entirely on citizenship would exclude those of French ancestry, language and culture who for one reason or another do not have French citizenship.
- In the same way, it would forcibly include those French citizens (for example, in French overseas territories such as New Caledonia) who do not consider themselves as French and have their own language, culture and heritage which is unrelated to metropolitan France.
- Conflicting identities are a feature of French society. Many French citizens, particularly among the North African community, identify with their ethnic background and the country of their parents as much or even more so than they do with France. It is common for French Maghrebis to refer to the country of their origin as their "bled" (country in Arabic), to which hundreds of thousands return to over the summer vacations. Support for Algerian, Moroccan or Tunisian football teams during matches against France is also common among French youths of North African extraction. In this sense, it would make sense to make a sociological distinction betweem the concepts of citizenship and ethnicity in France.
Many English-language sources, among them the U.S. Department of State, define the "French people" as an ethnic group, consisting of a "Celtic and Latin" majority, with "Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, and Basque minorities". Celtic and Latin could be viewed as the original "ethnic French" population originating in what today is considered metropolitan France. However, this definition is contested for a variety of reasons:
- Lumping all the indigenous French together into Gallo-Romans does not take into account ethnic cleavages within the French state (Occitans, Bretons, etc...). Many of these peoples did not speak French as a mother tongue until the beginning of the 20th century.
- Consequently, it is unacceptable to define an ethnic group solely by the fact that its members are white, western European and indigenous to the geographical region that is now France. Especially when, in many cases, there is little or no significant cultural difference between them and French citizens whose parents or grandparents were immigrants.
- The list of minorities stemming from 20th century immigration is simplistic and incomplete. Large minorities in France include the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Armenian and Greek, which are not mentioned in this definition. It is also simplistic to consider "North Africans" an ethnic minority. These can be divided into Moroccans, Tunisians, and Algerians but also, and perhaps more importantly, into Imazighen (Berbers) and Arabs (or Arab speakers) as well as into Muslim and Jewish North Africans.
- This definition, which implies (without overtly stating) the existence of an indigenous French people as opposed to immigrant minorities, is offensive to some French citizens and contrary to the principles of the French Republic and the definition of French citizenship At the same time, it must be admitted that the definition used is careful in not calling the indigenous majority "ethnic French". The possible inclusion of the Basques (a separate people originating in the Southwestern border with Spain) among the list of otherwise immigrant minorities also helps in purposely blurring the distinction between citizens of foreign and indigenous origin.
In past years, the debate on social discrimination has been more and more important, sometimes mixing itself with ethnic issues, in particular concerning the so-called "second-generation immigrants", who are French citizens born in France to immigrant parents (whom themselves may either be foreigner or French) France has exhibited a high rate of immigration from Europe, Africa and Asia throughout the 20th century, explaining that a large minority of the French population has various ethnic ascendencies. According to Michèle Tribalat, researcher at INED, it is very difficult to estimate the number of French immigrants or those born to immigrants, because of the absence of official statistics. Only three attempts have been made: in 1927, 1942 and 1986. According to this 2004 study, among about 14 million people of foreign ascendency (immigrants or with at least one parent or grandparent who is an immigrant), 5.2 million are from South-European ascendency (Italy, Spain, Portugal), and 3 million come from the Maghreb. Henceforth, 23% of French citizens have at least one immigrant parent or grandparent. No recognized studies have been done covering wider timescales since mass immigration started in the 20th century.
Abroad, the French language is spoken in different countries, in particular the former French colonies. However, speaking the French language is completely distinct from being French: one can speak French without being French. Henceforth, francophonie must not be mistaken with French citizenship. For example, many French-speaking people living in Switzerland (Romandy) are not from France, are often not Catholic (in fact they welcomed religiously persecuted Huguenots), are very proud of their own identity, and therefore may not consider themselves "French". Native Anglophone Blacks in the island of Saint-Martin hold the French nationality even though they do not speak the language, while their neighbouring Francophone Haitian immigrants may be able to speak some French yet remain foreigners. Furthermore, although most French people speak the French language as their native tongue, there have been periods of history when large groups of French citizens had other first languages (local dialects, German in Alsace, etc). Large numbers of people of French ancestry outside Europe speak other first languages, particularly English throughout most of North America, Spanish in southern South America and Afrikaans in South Africa.
The United States Census Bureau and Statistics Canada collect claims of French ancestry and ethnic origin among U.S. and Canadian citizens, asking those individuals completing long form census questionnaires to define themselves. The questions asked in the United States and Canada were not identical, and the data collected may not be commensurable. However, this may not be sufficient in defining these people as an ethnic group, as some may not be necessarily "readily distinguishable" from other U.S. or Canadian citizens. Note that the data is extrapolated, from a very large sample, to produce national figures.
Other countries' census figures for persons of French ancestry are also available in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and other European countries, although French emigration is relatively low. French-cultural areas and enclaves exist for the Navarre region, Spain, the Aosta province, Italy, the Saar lander, Germany, and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. However, the countries of Greece, Romania, Portugal, The Netherlands, The Philippines and New Zealand has records of ethnic French descendants.
For information regarding the French Jewish community, either a religious denomination or an ethno-cultural identity, please read the main article: History of the Jews in France.
- Main article: History of France
The term "French" (coming from the Franks) must not be mistaken with the modern concept of French citizenship, which is a heritage of the 1789 French Revolution: to be French, according to the first article of the Constitution, is to be a citizen of France, regardless of one's origin, race, or religion (sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion). According to its principles, France has devoted herself the destiny of a proposition nation, a generic territory where people are bounded only by the French language and the assumed willingness to live together, as defined by Ernest Renan's "plébiscite de tous les jours" ("daily referendum" about the willingness to live together). Countries with different notions of national identity, such as the USA or Japan, may judge this as an "identity denial." Persistent difficulties with French citizens with origins in Maghreb and West Africa is seen by some as signs of racism and discrimination, while others interpret it as the inevitable friction between sizable minorities and the majority culture. There is increasing dissatisfaction with, and within, growing cultural enclaves (communautarisme). The 2005 French riots that happened in difficult suburbs (les quartiers sensibles) were an example of such tensions that may be interpreted as ethnic conflict.
 History of Gaul
In the pre-Roman era, all of Gaul (an area of Western Europe that encompassed all of what is known today as France, Belgium, part of Germany and Switzerland, and Northern Italy) was inhabited by a variety of peoples who were known collectively as the Gaulish tribes. Their ancestors were Celtic immigrants who came from Central Europe in the 7th century BC, and dominated native peoples (for the majority Ligures).
Gaul was conquered in 58-51 BC by the Roman legions under the command of General Julius Caesar (except the south-east which had already been conquered about one century earlier). The area then became part of the Roman Empire. Over the next five centuries the two cultures and peoples intermingled, creating a hybridized Gallo-Roman culture. The Gaulish language came to be supplanted by Vulgar Latin, which would later split into dialects that would develop into the French language. Today, the last redoubt of Celtic culture and language in France can be found in the northwestern region of Brittany, although this is not the result of a survival of Gaulish language but of a 5th century A.D. migration of Brythonic speaking Celts from Britain.
 The Franks
With the decline of the Roman Empire in Western Europe a third people entered the picture: the Franks, from which the word "French" derives. The Franks were a Germanic tribe who began filtering across the Rhine River from present-day Germany in the third century. By the early sixth century the Franks, led by the Merovingian king Clovis I and his sons, had consolidated their hold on much of modern-day France, the country to which they gave their name. The other major Germanic people to arrive in France were the Normans, Viking raiders from modern Denmark and Norway, who occupied the northern region known today as Normandy in the 9th century. The Vikings eventually intermarried with the local people, converting to Christianity in the process. It was the Normans who, two centuries later, would go on to conquer England. Eventually, though, the independent duchy of Normandy was incorporated back into the French kingdom in the Middle Ages.
 15th to 18th century: the kingdom of France
In the roughly 900 years after the Norman invasions France had a fairly settled population. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, France experienced relatively low levels of emigration to the Americas, with the exception of the Huguenots. However, significant emigration of mainly Roman Catholic French populations led to the settlement of the provinces of Acadia, Canada and Louisiana, both (at the time) French possessions, as well as colonies in the West Indies, Mascarene islands and Africa.
In the early 1800s, a small migration of French and western Swiss known as Walsers, named for the Swiss canton of Valais, emigrated by official invitation of the Hapsburgs to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the nations of Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. The Walsers were mainly wine vintners who introduced a superior wine-growing industry, notably to boost wine production for the Tokay region in Hungary, and their families became culturally "Magyarized" within a generation in their adopted country.
 19th to 21st century: the creation of the French nation-state
The French nation-state appeared following the 1789 French Revolution and Napoleon's empire. It replaced the ancient kingdom of France, ruled by the divine right of kings. According to historian Eric Hobsbawm, "the French language has been essential to the concept of "France", although in 1789 50% of the French people didn't speak it at all, and only 12 to 13% spoke it "fairly" - in fact, even in oïl language zones, out of a central region, it was not usually spoken except in cities, and, even there, not always in the faubourgs [approximatively translatable by "suburbs"]. In the North as in the South of France, almost nobody spoke French. If the French language at least disposed of a state of which it could become the "national language", the only base of the Italian unification was the Italian language, which gathered the educated elite of the peninsula's writers and readers, although it has been calculated that at the moment of the Unity (1860) 2,5% of the population only used this language for its daily needs. Because this little group was, at the real sense of the term, one, and therefore potentially the Italian people. Nobody else could claim it [being the Italian people]." Hobsbawm highlighted the role of conscription, invented by Napoleon, and of the 1880s public instruction laws, which allowed mixing of the various groups of France into a nationalist mold which created the French citizen and his consciousness of membership to a common nation, while the various regional languages of France were progressively eradicated.
The 1870 Franco-Prussian War, which led to the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, was instrumental in bolstering patriotic feelings; until World War I (1914-1918), French politicians never completely lost sight of the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region, which played a major role in the definition of the French nation, and therefore of the French people. During the Dreyfus Affair, anti-semitism became apparent. Charles Maurras, a royalist intellectual member of the far-right anti-parliamentarist Action Française party, invented the neologism of the anti-France, which was one of the first attempts at contesting the republican definition of the French people as composed of all French citizens regardless of their ethnic origins or religious beliefs. Charles Maurras' expression of the anti-France opposed the Catholic French people to four "confederate states" incarning the Other: Jews, freemasons, Protestants and, last but not least, the métèques ("metic").
France's population dynamics began to change in the middle of the 19th century, as France joined the Industrial Revolution. The pace of industrial growth attracted millions of European immigrants over the next century, with especially large numbers arriving from Poland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. In the period from 1915 to 1950, just as many immigrants came from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Russia, Scandinavia and Yugoslavia. A small "French" descent group arrived from Argentina and Chile in the 1970s, but they are culturally Latin American instead of European. Small but significant numbers of Frenchmen in the North and Northeast regions have relatives in Germany and Great Britain. French law made it easy for thousands of colons, ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and East Africa, India and Indochina to live in mainland France. In the 1970's, over 30,000 French colons left Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as the Pol Pot government confiscated their farms and land properties.
In the 1960s, a second wave of immigration came to France, which needed it for reconstruction purposes and for cheaper labour after the devastation brought on by World War II. French entrepreneurs went to Maghreb countries looking for cheap labour, thus encouraging work-immigration to France. Their settlement was officialized with Jacques Chirac's family regrouping act of 1976 (regroupement familial). Since then, immigration has became more varied, although France stopped being a major immigration country compared to other European countries. The large impact of North African and Arab immigration is the greatest and has brought racial, socio-cultural and religious questions to a country seen as homogenously white European and Christian for thousands of years.
 Populations with French ancestry
There is a sizeable population claiming ethnic French ancestry in the Western Hemisphere. The Canadian province of Quebec is the center of French life on the Western side of the Atlantic, however French settlement begin further east, in Acadia. Quebec is home to vibrant French-language arts, media, and learning. There are sizeable French-Canadian communities scattered throughout the other provinces of Canada, particularly in Ontario and New Brunswick.
The United States is home to millions of people of French descent, particularly in Louisiana, New England and parts of the Midwest. The French community in Louisiana consists of the Creoles, the descendants of the French settlers who arrived when Louisiana was a French colony, and the Cajuns, the descendants of Acadian refugees from the Great Upheaval. In New England, the vast majority of French immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries came not from France, but from over the border in Quebec, the Quebec diaspora. These French Canadians arrived to work in the timber mills and textile plants that appeared throughout the region as it industrialized. Today, nearly 25% of the population of New Hampshire is of French ancestry, the highest of any state.
It is worth noting that the English and Dutch colonies of pre-Revolutionary America attracted large numbers of French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. In the Dutch colony that later became New York and northeastern New Jersey, these French Huguenots, nearly identical in religion to the Dutch Reformed Church, assimilated almost completely into the Dutch community. However, large it may have been at one time, it has lost all identity of its French origin, often with the translation of names (examples: de la Montagne > Vandenberg by translation; de Vaux > DeVos or Devoe by phonetic respelling). Huguenots appeared in all of the English colonies and likewise assimilated. Even though this mass settlement approached the size of the settlement of the French settlement of Quebec, it has assimilated into the English-speaking mainstream to a much greater extent than other French colonial groups, and has left few traces of cultural influence. New Rochelle, New York is named after La Rochelle, France, one of the sources of Huguenot emigration to the Dutch colony; and New Paltz, New York, is one of the few non-urban settlements of Huguenots that did not undergo massive recycling of buildings in the usual redevelopment of such older, larger cities as New York City or New Rochelle.
Elsewhere in the Americas, the majority of the French descended population in South America can be found in Argentina, Brazil and Chile (In Chile alone - where the French immigration was smaller than in Argentina, but steady through its history. There is also a fairly large French population in Mexico.- the following family names can easily be found: Pinochet, Subercaseaux, Bachelet, Blanlot, Beauchef, Chonchol, Letelier, Prajoux, Droguett, Fouillioux, DuVauchelle, Letelier, LaFourcade, Constant, Hameau, Vache, Hugo, LeCerf, Sardin, Tricot, Viaux, Blaise, Blanchait, Goulart, Hiriart, Chamot, Capdeville, DuBois, Ravinet,Rosselot, Chaigneaux, Daguerre, De L'Aire, Marchant, Moenne-Loccoz, Fontaine, Duhart, Bonvallet, Brunet, Lemoine, Morandais, Zalaquet, Perrot, Parot, Droguett, DesOrmeaux, Bairrolhet, Larroulet, Cathalifaud, Deformes, Crozier, and others. In Colombia, it can be found: Béthencourt, Béthancourt, Bétencourt, Bétancourt. In Argentina: Lanusse, Liniers, and more. In Brazil: Belfort, Bittencourt, Bitencourt, Brunet, Burnier, Calvert, Deschamps, DuBois, Dumont, Guinle, Lambert, Martin, Piquet, and others).
Apart from Quebecois, Acadians, Cajuns, and Métis other populations of French ancestry outside metropolitan France include the Caldoches of New Caledonia and the so-called Zoreilles and Petits-blancs of various Indian Ocean islands.
In Europe large numbers of Huguenots are known to have settled in the United Kingdom and in Protestant areas of Germany, (especially the city of Berlin). Many people in this two countries still bear French names, even though their culture and identity are now completely assimilated.
 Nationality, citizenship, ethnicity
According to Dominique Schnapper, "The classical conception of the nation is that of an entity which, opposed to the ethnic group, affirms itself as an open community, the will to live together expressing itself by the acceptation of the rules of an unified public domain which transcends all particularisms" This conception of the nation as being composed by a "will to live together", supported by the classic lecture of Ernest Renan in 1882, has been opposed by the French far-right, in particular the nationalist Front National ("National Front" - FN) party, which claims that there is such a thing as a "French ethnic group".
Since the beginning of the Third Republic (1871-1940), the state has not categorized people according to their alleged ethnic origins. Hence, in contrast to the US census, French people are not asked to define their ethnic appartenance, whichever it may be. The usage of ethnic and racial categorization is avoided to prevent any case of discrimination, same regulations apply to religious membership data cannot be compiled under the French Census. This classic French republican non-essentialist conception of nationality is officialized by the French Constitution, according to whom "French" is a nationality, and not a specific ethnicity.
 Nationality and citizenship
Despite this official discourse of universality, French nationality has not meant automatic citizenship. Some categories of French people have been excluded, through out the years, from full citizenship:
- Women: until the Liberation, they were deprived of the right to vote. The provisional government of General de Gaulle accorded them this right by the April 21, 1944 prescription. However, women still suffer from under-representation in the political class and from lesser wages at equal functions. The June 6, 2000 law on parity attempted to address this question.
- Military: for a long time, it was named the Grande muette ("The Big Mute") in reference to its prohibition from interfering in political life. During a large part of the Third Republic (1871-1940), the Army was in its majority anti-republican (and thus counterrevolutionary). The Dreyfus Affair and the May 16, 1877 crisis, which almost led to a monarchist coup d'état by MacMahon, are examples of this anti-republican spirit. Therefore, they would only gain the right to vote with the August 17, 1945 prescription: the contribution of De Gaulle to the interior French Resistance reconciled the Army with the Republic. Nevertheless, militaries do not benefit from the whole of public liberties, as the July 13, 1972 law on the general statute of militaries specify.
- Young people: the July 1974 law voted at the instigation of president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing reduced to 18 years the coming of age, which thus made of these teenagers full citizens.
- Naturalized foreigners. Since the January 9, 1973 law, foreigners who have acquired French nationality don't have to wait anymore five years after their naturalization to be able to vote.
- Inhabitants of the colonies. The May 7, 1946 law meant that soldiers from the "Empire" (such as the tirailleurs) killed during World War I and World War II weren't citizens.
It must also be noted that France was one of the first countries to implement denaturalization laws. Philosopher Giorgio Agamben has pointed out this fact that the 1915 French law which permitted denaturalization with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy" origins was one of the first example of such legislation, which Nazi Germany later implemented with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.
Furthermore, some authors who have insisted on the "crisis of the nation-state" allege that nationality and citizenship are becoming separate concepts. They show as example "international", "supranational citizenship" or "world citizenship" (membership to transnational organizations, such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace NGOs). This would indicate a path toward a "postnational citizenship".
Beside this, modern citizenship is linked to civic participation (also called positive freedom), which implies voting, demonstrations, petitions, activism, etc. Therefore, social exclusion may lead to deprivation of citizenship. This has led various authors (Philippe Van Parijs, Jean-Marc Ferry, Alain Caillé, André Gorz) to theorize a guaranteed minimum income which would impede exclusion from citizenship.
 Multiculturalism vs. universalism
In France, the conception of citizenship teeters between universalism and multiculturalism, especially in recent years. French citizenship has been defined for a long time by three factors: integration, individual adherence, and the primacy of the soil (jus soli). Political integration (which includes but is not limited to racial integration) is based on voluntary policies which aims at creating a common identity, and the interiorization by each individual of a common cultural and historic legacy. Since in France, the state preceded the nation, voluntary policies have taken an important place in the creation of this common cultural identity. On the other hand, the interiorization of a common legacy is a slow process, which B. Villalba compares to acculturation. According to him, "integration is therefore the result of a double will: the nation's will to create a common culture for all members of the nation, and the communities' will living in the nation to recognize the legitimacy of this common culture". Villalba warns against confusing recent processes of integration (related to the so-called "second generation immigrants", who are subject to discrimination), with older processes which have made modern France. Villalba thus shows that any democratic nation characterize itself by its project of transcending all forms of particular memberships (whether biological - or seen as such, ethnic, historic, economic, social, religious or cultural). The citizen thus emancipates himself from the particularisms of identity which characterize himself to attain a more "universal" dimension. He is a citizen, before being member of a community or of a social class Therefore, according to Villalba, "a democratic nation is, by definition, multicultural as it gathers various populations, which differs by their regional origins (Bretons, Corsicans or Lorrains...), their national origins (immigrant, son or grand-son of an immigrant), or religious origins (Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics or Atheists...)."
 Ernest Renan's What is a Nation? (1882)
Ernest Renan described this republican conception in his famous March 11, 1882 conference at the Sorbonne, Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? ("What is a nation?"). According to him, to belong to a nation is a subjective act which always has to be repeated, as it is not assured by objective criteria. A nation-state is not composed of a single homogeneous ethnic group (a community), but of a variety of individuals willing to live together. Ernest Renan's non-essentialist definition, which forms the basis of the French Republic, is diametrically opposed to the German ethnic conception of a nation, first formulated by Fichte. The German conception is usually qualified in France as an "exclusive" view of nationality, as it includes only the members of the corresponding ethnic group, while the Republican conception thinks itself as universalist, following the Enlightenment's ideals officialized by the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. While Ernest Renan's arguments were also concerned by the debate about the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region, he said that not only one referendum had to be made in order to ask the opinions of the Alsatian people, but a "daily referendum" should be made concerning all those citizens wanting to live in the French nation-state. This plébiscite de tous les jours might be compared to a social contract or even to the classic definition of consciousness as an act which repeats itself endlessly. Henceforth, contrary to the German definition of a nation based on objective criteria, such as the "race" or the "ethnic group", which may be defined by the existence of a common language, among others criteria, the people of France are defined by all the people living in the French nation-state and willing to do so, i.e. by its citizenship. This definition of the French nation-state contradicts the common opinion according to which the concept of the French people would identify themselves with the concept of one particular ethnic group, and thus explains the paradox to which is confronted by some attempts in identifying the "French ethnic group": the French conception of the nation is radically opposed (and was thought in opposition to) the German conception of the Volk ("ethnic group").
This universalist conception of citizenship and of the nation has influenced the French model of colonization. While the British empire preferred an indirect rule system, which did not mix together the colonized people with the colons, the French Republic theoretically chose an integration system and considered parts of its colonial empire as France itself, and its population as French people. The ruthless conquest of Algeria thus led to the integration of the territory as a Département of the French territory. This ideal also led to the ironic sentence which opened up history textbooks in France as in its colonies: "Our ancestors the Gauls...". However, this universal ideal, rooted in the 1789 French Revolution ("bringing liberty to the people"), suffered from the racism that impregnated colonialism. Thus, in Algeria, the Crémieux decrees at the end of the 19th century gave French citizenship to European Jews, while Arabs were regulated by the 1881 Indigenous Code. Liberal author Tocqueville himself considered that the British model was better adapted than the French one, and did not balk before the cruelties of General Bugeaud's conquest. He went as far as advocating racial segregation there .
This paradoxal tension between the universalist conception of the French nation and the racism inherent in colonization is most obvious in Ernest Renan himself, who goes as far as advocating a kind of eugenics. In a June 26, 1856 letter to Arthur de Gobineau, author of An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-55) and one of the first theoreticians of "scientific racism", he thus wrote:
"You have done here one of the most noteworthy book, full of vigour and spiritfull originality, but it is not made to be understood in France or rather it is to be misunderstood. The French spirit pays no attention to ethnographic considerations: France hardly believes to race... The fact of race is huge in its origins; but it always goes losing importance, and sometimes, as in France, it finally erases itself completely. Is that, in absolute, talking about decadence? Yes, surely if considering the stability of institutions, the originality of characters, a definite nobility which I, for my part, considers with the utmost importance in the whole of human things. But also how much compensations! Doubtlessly, if the noble elements blended in a people's blood would erase themselves completely, then it would be a vilifying equality, analogous as in certain states of Orient and, in some respects, China. But in reality a very little quantity of noble blood put in circulation in a people is enough to nobilize it, at least as to historical effects: this is how France, a nation so completely fell in commonless [roture], plays in reality in the world the role of a gentleman. By setting apart the utterly inferior races whose interference with the great races would lead only to poison the human species, I plan for the future an homogeneous humanity"
 Jus soli and jus sanguinis
During the Ancien Régime (before the 1789 French revolution), jus soli (or "right of territory") was predominant. Feudal law recognized personal allegeance to the sovereign, but the subjects of the sovereign were defined by their birthland. According to the September 3, 1791 Constitution, those who are born in France from a foreign father and have fixed their residency in France, or those who, after being born in foreign country from a French father, have come to France and have sworn their civil oath, become French citizens. Because of the war, distrust toward foreigners led to the obligation on the part of this last category to swear a civil oath in order to gain French nationality.
However, the Napoleonic Code would insist on jus sanguinis ("right of blood"). Paternity became the principal criteria of nationality, and therefore broke for the first time with the ancient tradition of jus soli, by breaking any residency condition toward children born abroad from French parents.
With the February 7, 1851 law, voted during the Second Republic (1848-1852), "double jus soli" was introduced in French legislation, combining birth origin with parternity. Thus, it gave French nationality to the child of a foreigner, if both are born in France, except if the year following his coming of age he reclaims a foreign nationality (thus prohibiting dual nationality). This 1851 law was in part passed because of conscription concerns. This system more or less remained the same until the 1993 reform of the Nationality Code, created by the January 9, 1973 law.
The 1993 reform, which defines the Nationality law, is deemed controversial by some. It commits young people born in France to foreign parents to sollicit French nationality between the ages of 16 and 21. This has been criticized, some arguing that the principle of equality before the law was not complied with, since French nationality was no longer given automatically at birth, as in the classic "double jus soli" law, but was to be requested when approaching adulthood. Henceforth, children born in France from French parents were differenciated from children born in France from foreign parents, creating a hiatus between these two categories.
The 1993 reform was prepared by the Pasqua laws. The first Pasqua law, in 1986, restricts residence conditions in France and facilitates expulsions. With this 1986 law, a child born in France from foreign parents can only acquire French nationality if he or she demonstrates his or her will to do so, at age 16, by proving that he or she has been schooled in France and has a sufficient command of the French language. This new policy is symbolized by the expulsion of 101 Malians by charter.
The second Pasqua law on "immigration control" makes regularisation of illegal aliens more difficult and, in general, residence conditions for foreigners much harder. Charles Pasqua, who said on May 11, 1987: "Some have reproached me of having used a plane, but, if necessary, I will use trains", declared to Le Monde on June 2, 1993: "France has been a country of immigration, it doesn't want to be one anymore. Our aim, taking into account the difficulties of the economic situation, is to tend toward 'zero immigration' ("immigration zéro")".
Therefore, modern French nationality law combines four factors: paternality or 'right of blood', birth origin, residency and the will expressed by a foreigner, or a person born in France to foreign parents, to become French.
 European citizenship
 Citizenship of foreigners
By definition, a "foreigner" is someone who does not have French nationality. Therefore, it is not a synonym of "immigrant", as a foreigner may be born in France. On the other hand, a Frenchman born abroad may be considered an immigrant (e.g. prime minister Dominique de Villepin who lived the majority of his life abroad). In most of the cases, however, a foreigner is an immigrant, and vice-versa. They either benefit from legal sojourn in France, which, after a residency of ten years, makes it possible to ask for naturalisation. If they do not, they are considered "illegal aliens". Some argue that this privation of nationality and citizenship does not square with their contribution to the national economic efforts, and thus to economic growth.
In any cases, rights of foreigners in France have improved over the last half-century:
- 1946: right to elect trade union representative (but not to be elected as a representative)
- 1968: right to become a trade-union delegate
- 1972: right to sit in works council and to be a delegate of the workers at the condition of "knowing how to read and write French"
- 1975: additional condition: "to be able to express oneself in French"; they may vote at prud'hommes elections ("industrial tribunal elections") but may not be elected; foreigners may also have administrative or leadership positions in tradeunions but under various conditions
- 1982: those conditions are suppressed, only the function of conseiller prud'hommal is reserved to those who have acquired French nationality. They may be elected in workers' representation functions (Auroux laws). They also may become administrators in public structures such as Social security banks (caisses de sécurité sociale), OPAC (which administrates HLMs), Ophlm...
- 1992: for European Union citizens, right to vote at the European elections, first exercised during the 1994 European elections, and at municipal elections (first exerced during the 2001 municipal elections).
 The National Front, multiculturalism and métissage culturel
This republican conception of the French nation-state has been challenged since the 1980s by the far-right Front National 's nationalist and xenophobic discourse of La France aux Français ("France to the French") or Les Français d'abord ("French first"). Their claims of an "ethnic French" group (Français de souche, which literally translated as "French with roots") have been adamantly refused by many other groups, which widely considered this party as racist. Alain de Benoist's Nouvelle Droite movement, quite famous in the 1980s but which has since lost influence, has embraced a kind of European "white supremacy" ideology. It should be noted that the expression Français de souche has no official validity in France although it is used in everyday language, something which has been designed as lepénisation des esprits ("lepenisation of the minds").
Indeed, the inflow of populations from other continents, who still can be physically and/or culturally distinguished from Europeans, sparked much controversies in France since the early 1980s, even though immigration inflow precisely began to decrease at this time. The rise of this racist discourse led to the creation of anti-racist NGOs, such as SOS Racisme, more or less founded on the model of anti-fascist organisations in the 1930s. However, while those earlier anti-fascists organisations were often anarchists or communists, SOS Racisme was supported in its growth by the Socialist Party. Demonstrations gathering large crowds against the National Front took place. The last such demonstration took place in a dramatic situation, after Jean-Marie Le Pen's relative victory at the first turn of the 2002 presidential election. Shocked and stunned, large crowds, including many young people, demonstrated every day in between the two turns, starting from April 21, 2002, which remains a dramatic date in popular consciousness.
Now, the interracial blending of some native French and newcomers stands as a vibrant and boasted feature of French culture, from popular music to movies and literature. Therefore, alongside mixing of populations, exists also a cultural blending (le métissage culturel) that is present in France. It may be compared to the traditional US conception of the melting-pot. The French culture might have been already blended in from other races and ethnicities, in cases of some biographical research on the possibility of African ancestry on a small number of famous French citizens. Author Alexandre Dumas, père possessed one-fourth black Haitian descent, and Empress Josephine Napoleon who was born and raised in the French West Indies from a plantation estate family.
For a long time, the only objection to such outcomes predictably came from the far-right schools of thought. In the past few years, other unexpected voices are however beginning to question what they interpret, as the new philosopher Alain Finkielkraut coined the term, as an "ideology of miscegenation" (une idéologie du métissage) that may come from what one other philosopher, Pascal Bruckner, defined as the "sob of the White man" (le sanglot de l'homme blanc). These critics have been dismissed with repugnance by the mainstream and their propagators have been labelled as new reactionaries (les nouveaux réactionnaires), however, racist and anti-immigration sentiment has recently been documented to be increasing in France according to one poll. Such critics, including Nicolas Sarkozy, a probable contender for the 2007 presidential election, takes example on the United States' conception of multiculturalism to claim that France has consistently denied the existence of ethnic groups within their borders and have refused to grant them collective rights.
President Jacques Chirac as well as the Socialist Party and other organizations have condemned these views, arguing that this refusal of the traditional universalist republican conception only favorizes communitarianism, which the Republic does not recognize since the dissolving of intermediate associations of persons during the Estates-General of 1789 (the population of the kingdom of France was then divided into the First Estate (nobles), the Second Estate (clergy), and the Third Estate (people)). For this reason, associations were forbidden until the Waldeck-Rousseau 1884 labor laws which permitted the creation of trade unions and the famous 1901 law on non-profit associations, which has been largely used by civil society in order to organizes itself. Hervé Le Bras, head of the INED demographic institute, also insists that "ethnicisation of social relations is not a 'natural' phenomenon, but an ideological one"
The French language, the mother tongue of the majority of French people, is a Romance language, one of the many derived from Latin. In addition to its Latinate base, the development of French was also influenced, in both grammar and vocabulary, by the Celtic tongues of pre-Roman Gaul, the Germanic tongues of the Franks and the Norsemen/Vikings who settled in Normandy. More recently, French has been heavily influenced by other global tongues, particularly English and Spanish.
French is not the only language spoken by the inhabitants of France. Regional languages are also spoken although many of these are endangered languages. Some of which, such as Occitan, Breton or Corsican, are undergoing language revival starting since the 1970s, supported by regionalist movements:
- Alsatian, a Low Alemannic German language spoken in Alsace
- Arpitan or Franco-provençal, Romance language of Alpine and South-Eastern France and its various dialects :
- Basque, a language isolate spoken in the Northern Basque Country of France, along the border with the Basque Country of Spain where it is also spoken.
- Breton, a Celtic language of Brittany
- Roussillonais dialect of Catalan, a Romance language spoken mostly in Roussillon, along the border with Spain.
- Corsican, a Romance language spoken in Corsica
- West Flemish, a Germanic language (Dutch dialect)
- Gallo, a Romance language of Brittany
- Norman, a Romance language of Normandy
- Occitan (Romance language) of Occitania, 1/3 southern part of France and its various dialects:
- Picard, a Romance language of Northern France and its various dialects :
- Chtimi or Chti
- Poitevin-Saintongeais, a Romance language of Western France
Other languages spoken in France or in French overseas territories include:
- Polynesian languages, (French Polynesia)
- Créole language, (French Antilles)
- Spanish, spoken among the Gypsy/Romani communities of Southern France, occasionally found in Sefardi Jewish communities and reintroduced by French-descent groups from South America.
- Other migrant languages: Arabic, Berber, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Wolof, Turkish, Hindustani, Armenian, etc.
 See also
- List of French people
- Demographics of France
- Languages of France
- French Canadian
- Superdupont, a parody of Superman and French chauvinism
- French people in Britain
- ^ INSEE
- ^ a b c Maison des français de l'étranger, French citizens registrations in French consulates, 2000 www.mfe.org pdf file
- ^ U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 U.S. Census 
- ^ a b US Census bureau 2000, French ancestry claims exclude Basque, Cajun and Francophone Canadian ancestry claims pdf file, p.4 definitions p.222 (pdf file)
- ^ a b Statistics Canada, Canada 2001 Census. Ethnic Origins (see sample longform census for details)  Many respondents may have interpreted the question differently and the numerous single responses for "Canadian" may not give an accurate account for several groups, see also List of Canadians by ethnicity.
- ^ 2000 federal census 
- ^ Statbel 2004 
- ^ As of 2004, the population of the Région Wallonne was 3,380,498 per Statbel, of which 83,483 in the germanophone Ost-Kantone. Language censuses have been officially banned in Belgium since the linguistic frontier was fixed on 1 September 1963. See Taalgrens (nl) or Facilités linguistiques (fr).
- ^ Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Anuario Estadístico de España 2006 
- ^ a b Dominique Schnapper, " La conception de la nation ", "Citoyenneté et société", Cahiers Francais, n° 281, mai-juin 1997
- ^ (English)/(French) See for example Laurent Mouloud, "The Anger of the Suburbs", transl. November 6, 2005, accessible on www.humaniteinenglish.com (in French, "La colère des banlieues", L'Humanité, November 5, 2005. Retrieved on May 3, 2006.
- ^ Michèle Tribalat's study (INED)
- ^ Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 : programme, myth, reality (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990; ISBN 0-521-43961-2) chapter II "The popular protonationalism", pp.80-81 French edition (Gallimard, 1992). According to Hobsbawm, the base source for this subject is Ferdinand Brunot (ed.), Histoire de la langue française, Paris, 1927-1943, 13 volumes, in particular the tome IX. He also refers to Michel de Certeau, Dominique Julia, Judith Revel, Une politique de la langue: la Révolution française et les patois: l'enquête de l'abbé Grégoire, Paris, 1975. For the problem of the transformation of a minority official language into a mass national language during and after the French Revolution, see Renée Balibar, L'Institution du français: essai sur le co-linguisme des Carolingiens à la République, Paris, 1985 (also Le co-linguisme, PUF, Que sais-je?, 1994, but out of print) ("The Institution of the French language: essay on colinguism from the Carolingian to the Republic"). Finally, Hobsbawm refers to Renée Balibar and Dominique Laporte, Le Français national: politique et pratique de la langue nationale sous la Révolution, Paris, 1974.
- ^ (French) Loi n° 2000-493 du 6 juin 2000 tendant à favoriser l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives. French Senate (June 6, 2000). Retrieved on May 2, 2006.
- ^ a b c d e f (French) B. Villalba. Chapitre 2 - Les incertitudes de la citoyenneté. Catholic University of Lille, Law Department. Retrieved on May 3, 2006.
- ^ See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press (1998), ISBN 0-8047-3218-3.
- ^ (French) P. Hassenteufel, "Exclusion sociale et citoyenneté", "Citoyenneté et société", Cahiers Francais, n° 281, mai-juin 1997), quoted by B. Villalba of the Catholic University of Lille, op.cit.
- ^ See Eric Hobsbawm, op.cit.
- ^ Even the biological conception of sex may be questioned: see gender theory
- ^ It may be interesting to refer to Michel Foucault's description of the discourse of "race struggle", as he shows that this medieval discourse - held by such people as Edward Coke or John Lilburne in Great Britain, and, in France, by Nicolas Fréret, Boulainvilliers, and then Sieyès, Augustin Thierry and Cournot -, tended to identify the French noble classes to a Northern and foreign race, while the "people" was considered as an aborigine - and "inferior" races. This historical discourse of "race struggle", as isolated by Foucault, was not based on a biological conception of race, as would be latter racialism (aka "scientific racism")
- ^ See John Locke's definition of consciousness and of identity. Consciousness is an act accompanying all thoughts (I am conscious that I am thinking this or that...), and which therefore doubles all thoughts. Personal identity is composed by the repeated consciousness, and thus extends so far in time (both in the past & in the future) as I am conscious of it (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Chapter XXVII "Of Identity and Diversity", available here)
- ^ See e.g. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), second part on "Imperialism"
- ^ (English) Olivier LeCour Grandmaison. "Torture in Algeria: Past Acts That Haunt France - Liberty, Equality and Colony", Le Monde diplomatique, June 2001.
- ^ Ernest Renan's June 26, 1856 letter to Arthur de Gobineau, quoted by Jacques Morel in Calendrier des crimes de la France outre-mer, L’esprit frappeur, 2001 (Morel gives as source: Ernest Renan, Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? et autres textes politiques, chosen and presented by Joël Roman, Presses Pocket, 1992, p 221.
- ^ This ten-years clause is threatened by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's law proposition on immigration"
- ^ See Michèle Tribalat, study at the INED already quoted. See also Demographics in France.
- ^ Dumas, père, Alexandre (1852-1854). Mes Mémoires. Cadot.
- ^ "One in three French 'are racist'", BBC News, March 22, 2006. Retrieved on May 3, 2006.
- ^ (French) "L’illusion ethnique", L'Humanité, April 15, 1999. Retrieved on May 3, 2006.