PARTICULAR UNIVERSALISMS

Looking at France in the aftermath of the Algerian war of independence and decolonization, few would argue that the majority of North Africans have been excluded from the enjoyment of universalism once promised to them by Republican France. But, as well, few would explain this exclusion by indicting the principle of universalism itself or by denying that universalism exists first and foremost as a philosophical principle that might someday realize its true potential for consistency. The project aims at offering a different understanding of what universalism is, in part to explain 1) how North Africans have been denied access to it and 2) why this has not been perceived as a serious challenge to French republican principles. Universalism is looked at as a material practice: embodied (racially), organized socially in public spaces (schools, hospitals, courts) and symbolized in art, architecture, urban space, and housing. The project shows by image making through digital photography, how a material approach to universalism in society makes it possible to understand (by literally seeing) the deep connections between universalism and exclusion, and how that these connections could be obscured by a continuing politically deceptive belief in universalism as first and foremost a principle of philosophy.