horse on three continents

The historian Marie-Pierre Ulloa studies the North Africans of California in their relationship with France. It sheds light on the way in which they negotiate their identity based on linguistic, religious, culinary and sporting elements. An original study on migrations and diasporas.

Published when the pandemic was about to announce the closure of the world to travel and elsewhere, this book, based on a sociology thesis supported atEHESS listens to the migratory experiences of 92 North Africans from California, met between 2012 and 2015. Marie-Pierre Ulloa questions their relationship to the space of origin, whether (generally) that of their place of birth or (more rarely) that of their parents.

The dialectic of identity and assimilation

Marie-Pierre Ulloa does not reduce individuals to their identity; she does not claim that maghrbinit or even their main source of identification. She recalls that the Maghreb reduced to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia is a French postcolonial construct (p. 27), which does not correspond to the broader Arab Maghreb. In English, we use more North Africaand these are national identifications or even the notion ofArabian (with sometimes Muslim) which predominate. The Maghreb is thus doubly absent from the United States: hollow space in individual memories, and collective representations of the host society, reduced to film Casablanca and couscous.

For Marie-Pierre Ulloa, the Maghreb is therefore not a given but a question, tirelessly asked. Constructing the object North African from California, she studies the way in which her respondents jump-define, re-appropriate or quite simply reject this label. By following them over several years, in their parties, their restaurants or their associations, she observes the way in which they negotiate and tinker with their identities, in practice and in their speeches, based on linguistic, religious, culinary or sporting elements.

Against the speeches, in the Maghreb or in France, which stigmatize the loss of values, which communitarianismshe finely analyzes, through individual and family trajectories, the dialectic of identity affirmation and assimilation to the host society, which occurs during the migratory process.

Political events, whether September 11, 2001 in the United States or the 2015 attacks in France, or the political speeches made by Presidents Obama and Trump during the investigation, also have an impact on the way in which North Africans are identified. and identify themselves (p. 329).

Thus, Marie-Pierre Ulloa shows both the strengthening of religious practices, both among certain Muslims and among certain Jews from the Maghreb, and the development of an atheist discourse among others. Practices of hybridization are permanent, as when within the Algerian American Association of North California, the expression of Algerian national sentiment is done through American codes, such as T-shirts. I love DZon the model of I love NYor through a collage based on the famous photograph of the 1945 American victory on the island of Iwo Jima, in which the American flag planted by the Marines is replaced by the Algerian flag (p. 276-277).

History, geography, cuisine

As Marie-Pierre Ulloa writes, her study is

the opportunity to approach research on migrations and diasporas from a new epistemological angle, going beyond reflection on the cultural particularities of an arriving culture versus a receiving culture. On the one hand, by questioning in particular the relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish Maghrebs, on the other hand, by shifting the dichotomy within the Muslim community between Arabs and Berbers and, finally, by going beyond the hermetic France-Maghreb duality in proposing a complex case of triangulation which plays on the differences in scale, between a region, a nation-state and a state belonging to a federation, Maghreb-France-California. (p.34)

These are two important aspects that I wish to develop here. The first is a result as much as a bias. While they have long been neglected by the postcolonial nationalisms of the three countries, Marie-Pierre Ulloa integrates her thinking into the Jewish part of Maghreb history. In doing so, like Braudel, the author takes the side not only of history, but of geography.

The presence of Jews in the Maghreb goes back more than two thousand years, reinforced by the arrival of those who were expelled from Spain at the turn of 1500. The Crémieux decree, which naturalized the Jews of Algeria as French in 1870, then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following decolonizations led to the departure in the 1960s of the majority of Jews from the Maghreb to France, Israel or the United States.

History has left indelible marks on the way in which everyone positions themselves in relation to the Maghreb: while being more nostalgic for the Maghreb than Muslims, Jews identify themselves less as Maghrbinsdistance themselves by telling themselves toNorth Africa (p. 150). But geography seems much more important here: Although the Maghrebs of France and the Maghreb and the Jewish Maghrebs have much in common, they are two microcosms that live in parallel in California. Their proximity remains in the beyond, in the implicit, not in the explicit. It is at the level of feeling, not that of recognition. (p. 145).

They therefore share the same nostalgia, not so much for the country as for the landscape: the same landscape that they all say they find in California. migrated to California, everyone continues to kiss each other rather than practicing hug American. Music sometimes brings them together (p. 239), especially film El GustoSonoma open-air project in 2013, documentary on the reunion of Algerian Muslim, Jewish and Christian musicians; but the first ones prefer to applaud Jamel Debbouze; the second, Gad Elmaleh (p. 147).

These migrants share a kitchen, without however sharing it. One anecdote is particularly illuminating: a Muslim Algerian organized the same meal, couscous, for two different groups of friends, one of Muslim Maghrebs, the other of Jewish and pied-noir Maghrebs, without ever mixing them:

The conviviality around a shared dish, couscous, which expresses the Maghrbi communal par excellence, and revives everyone's childhood memories, did not seem strong enough to him to neutralize the tensions that he anticipated between them, twenty years after the end of the Algerian War (p. 146).

Even if, in the United States, Jews are more numerous, with a social status often more valued than Muslims, Jewish and Muslim North Africans find themselves in the same minority or peripheral situation, the former compared to the Ashknazes, the latter compared to to the Arabs of the Mashreq (mainly for linguistic reasons).

We can see as one of the effects of this doubly minority character, in Californian society, the concomitant creation of community institutions: the Sephardic synagogue of Sunnyvale in 1990, the Algerian American Association of North California in 1992. Finally, they have languages ​​in common, dialectal Arabic and French, as well as an ambivalent relationship with France.

Love and resentment for France

The second originality of this study is not only to explore minority migration in relation to works centered on postcolonial Maghreb-French flows, but also to take into account, in the journey between Maghreb and California, the French third: what, from one point from a methodological point of view, Marie-Pierre Ulloa names the triangulation.

This title, his book contributes to the analysis of the reconfigurations of postcolonial relations in the era of globalization. The migration of North Africans to California is mediated by France, a former colonial metropolis, country of study, even birth of certain North Africans in California: there are few who do not have a biographical link with France.

Before it was supplanted by English, the French language was very often, to the detriment of Arabic or Berber, the hyphen (p. 234) between North Africans in California: this can be explained, in addition to the biographical link with France, by the generational factor, that of the social class (middle and upper) and the importance of the French-speaking professional network in California.

Migration forces choices in identity markers, particularly when passed on to children. Tariq, a Tunisian who studied in France, feeling that his French part definitely takes over his Tunisian part when he arrives in the United States, decides to marry a Tunisian (p. 181). Within families, initial bilingualism, bi-nationalism, biculturalism can be reduced and distributed among siblings, as is the case for Hocine and Krimo: America made him a European, and his brother, an Algerian. (pg. 228)

The study points to a paradox. The North Africans of California share a deep love for France, where they had hopes of social ascension: whether it is a matter of stigmatizing, as the other French people in Silicon Valley do, theassistantship of a social system that would block private initiatives (p. 134); or ambient racism and French intolerance to minority religious practices (p. 167).

However, many people, arriving in California where the Maghreb is unknown, base their social success on symbolic recourse to France. Medhi, a baker born and trained in France, bases his marketing entirely on Frenchness adapted to local taste. LAmerican dreams sometimes involves highlighting a French dream in the eyes of Americans, for whom being French-speaking and having passed through France means embodying France a little. So Ahmed, an Algerian in France, becomes French in California for his future wife.

conversely, it is former GIs who passed through Tunisia during the war who ask Robert Robaire, a Jewish restaurateur born in Tunisia, renowned for his entirely French à la carte restaurant, to take couscous out of the intimate circles in which he kept it, to offer it to all his customers . His feeling of hierarchy between North African and French cuisines had until now prohibited him from doing so. Political project on the Euro-Maghreb coasts, the notion of MediterraneanMediterranean cuisine, takes on a full meaning on the other side of the world.

New routes

We immerse ourselves with pleasure in this dense book, written with elegance. We also come away with questions. If the Maghreb is a historically intersemiotic space, where the Berber, the Roman, the French, the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim, the Eastern and the Western, etc., crossed paths, in all senses of the term, including in the Crusadesas Fethi Benslama writes cited by Marie-Pierre Ulloa, why not have included the Pieds Noirs in this study, who appear implicitly in many passages?

They would, it is true, have tipped the balance even more in the direction of a necessary link between Maghreb migration and France. On this point, to what extent does the generational or social factor play in this attachment to French??

Generally speaking, little is known about the pre-migratory past of the North Africans of California, and the choice of a thematic plan, however relevant it may be, sometimes prevents us from understanding the social trajectories of individuals. For example, we guess that the Maghrbins of the Maghreb come from a more privileged environment than the Maghrbins of France, but this is not explicit.

These reservations aside, The New American Dream is a beautiful study, full of nuances, which opens the search for new paths, decentered, on the migratory experience and postcolonial relationships.