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Jennifer Anne Boittin

Associate professor
Pennsylvania State University
Writing Intimacy: Privacy, Mobility, Gender and Rights in the French Empire, 1914-1945
01 October 2016 -
30 June 2017

Jennifer Anne Boittin is an associate professor of French, Francophone Studies and History at the Pennsylvania State University. She specializes in French colonial history with a particular emphasis upon the intersections between race, gender and class. Her book, Colonial Metropolis, explores the connections between migrant West African, Malagasy and Antillean men and women, and their French feminist counterparts in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, arguing that together they redefined Paris as a colonial space in which they militantly advocated for their rights.

Research interests

European history; women in Empire; French colonial history (with a particular interest in sub-Saharan Africa, the French Caribbean, North Africa and French Indochina); black and African diaspora; anti-imperialism; race, gender and sexuality; feminism and masculinity.

Writing Intimacy: Privacy, Mobility, Gender and Rights in the French Empire, 1914-1945

This project deploys women’s voices, preserved in archives, memoirs and newspapers, to shed new light on the multiple and at times unexpected ways gender molded empire and imperial experiences in the first half of the twentieth century. Writing Intimacy studies how women traveling alone in French West Africa and French Indochina reacted after they realized that the French state was watching them and trying to control their movements. Specifically, this project argues that female educators, adventurers, novelists, journalists, political activists (feminists and anti-imperialists) and artists (a term administrators presumed was code for prostitute) used the invasion of their intimacy to reinforce their independence. First, they rejected colonial hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, class and nation to live the far messier lives that better suited them. Second, they reinterpreted what it meant to be "French" and a "woman" overseas and, in so doing, found ways to persuade administrators to support their financial, civil and social rights and to respect their right to privacy.

Key publications

Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Feminism and Anti-Imperialism in Interwar Paris,The University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2010.

«‘Are You Trying to Play a French Woman?’ La Mère Patrie and the Female Body in French West Africa»Signs, vol. 40, n° 4, summer 2015.

With Tyler Stovall (éd.), Intersections of Race and Gender in French History, in French Historical Studies, Special issue, vol. 33, n° 3, Summer 2010.

«Black in France: The Language and Politics of Race during the Late Third Republic»French Politics, Culture & Society, vol. 27, n° 2, Summer 2009.



Workshop organized by J. Boittin (Paris IAS) and R. Rogers (Paris Descartes University)
19 Jun 2017 09:30 -
20 Jun 2017 12:30,
Paris :
Working the Empire. Gendered conversations and circulations
11 May 2017 10:00 -
11 May 2017 17:00,
Lyon :
(Im)mobilités de femmes dans l'AOF et l'Indochine, 1919-1946
20 Mar 2017 10:00 -
20 Mar 2017 12:00,
Bordeaux :
Se faire respecter en tant que femme française : vie privée, circulations, genre et droits dans l'empire français, 1914-1946
10 Mar 2017 11:00 -
10 Mar 2017 12:45,
Ann Arbor :
Total Liberation from the Yoke of Slavery: Race and Anti-Imperialism in Interwar France
20 Feb 2017 14:00 -
20 Feb 2017 16:30,
Paris :
Les masculinités noires du Paris de l’entre-deux guerre
06 Jan 2017 10:50 -
06 Jan 2017 11:20,
Denver :
The Intimate Bureaucracy of the Interwar French Empire
09 Dec 2016 14:00 -
09 Dec 2016 16:00,
Paris :
Gendering Imperial Citizenship in the Late Third Republic
08 Dec 2016 10:00 -
08 Dec 2016 13:00,
Paris :
L'intimité et la vie privée sous l'égide de la surveillance : Les femmes face à l'administration coloniale en AOF, 1919-1946
Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region