Contested Memories in Contemporary France and Their Reflection in Rap Music


  • Alexandra Preitschopf University of Klagenfurt


France, rap music, remembrance, colonialism, Algerian War, Middle East conflict


France’s colonial past and its aftermath remain an “open wound” to this day. After a long period of silence, painful issues such as the role of France in the transatlantic slave trade, colonial crimes in Africa, and the Algerian War have more and more become part of public consciousness in France. Interestingly, many French rap musicians who are the children or grandchildren of immigrants from former French colonies frequently use their songs to remind France of its colonial past. However, their messages sometimes compete with remembrance of the Holocaust. The singers’ condemnation of French colonialism becomes wrapped up in the Middle East conflict and Israel is portrayed as a new “colonial power.” By analyzing selected lyrics of recent French rap songs this article aims to explore the complex and sensitive intersection of post-colonial and Middle East politics and set the lyrics in the broader socio-political context of remembrance culture in France. The article argues that the musicians’ approaches to France’s troubled past are an important form of self-affirmation for their communities in the postcolonial context. By bringing up previously silenced topics, they contribute to a more diverse remembrance culture and contest narratives that have been predominant for a long time.

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2022.2