Department of French and Francophone Studies
“Activism for Others”: French Feminist and Anti-Imperialist Pamphletary Culture, 1914-1939
My dissertation explores the political pamphlet’s role in interwar French activism. In four case studies, I question the political and ethical stakes surrounding what I call “activism for others,” defined here as the practice of advocating for the civil and social rights of individuals outside of one’s own gender, race, and/or social class. Using archival documents to follow the trajectories of feminist and anti-imperialist pamphlets and tracts, my dissertation provides a complex picture of the ways in which both objects and ideas circulated throughout the French empire from 1914 to 1939. Furthermore, this particular genre, integral to the very founding of the French Republic in 1789, provided a textual space within which feminists and anti-imperialists could build a case for their own and others’ citizenship. However, I argue that by circumscribing their activism within the French republican model, pamphleteers often reproduced harmful racialized and gendered language. Ultimately, the goal of my dissertation is to understand such problematic elements in “activism for others” so that today’s activists and allies might better understand the historicity of the movements with which they engage.